Book Review: Hitlerland: American Eyewitness to the Nazi Rise to Power

Book Review: Hitlerland: American Eyewitness to the Nazi Rise to Power

Simon & Schuster’s Hitlerland: American Eyewitness to the Nazi Rise to Power

☆☆☆☆☆ Highly recommended

Andrew Nagorski’s Hitlerland: American Eyewitness to the Nazi Rise to Power fills a void for American journalistic perspective on Hitler’s Germany in the 1920s and ‘30s. Readers will recognize names such as William Shirer, Howard K. Smith, Richard Helms, and others whose roles as journalists, correspondents, and diplomats placed them in the heart of Berlin, Germany in the years following the First World War. Nagorski writes: “They served as America’s eyes and ears in Germany, and they helped produce the proverbial first draft of history. Like all first drafts, it isn’t always on the mark, but it offers highly unusual, very personal perspectives on Hitler’s rise and Germany’s march to the abyss.” He concludes: “… the Americans in Germany gradually eroded isolationist sentiments and prepared their countrymen psychologically for the years of bloodshed and struggle ahead. This was the real contribution of the Americans in Hitler’s Germany”[1]

Nagorski effectively weaves these American voices into historical context which we know escalated into the Holocaust and Hitler’s failed military leadership. Vivid narrative from this American contingent of writers shows us up close the infamous Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 through the 1933 elections to the 1936 Olympics to early victories on the Eastern Front. And myriad events in between.

The author’s collection and synthesis of eyewitness accounts as events unfolded in Berlin without the ‘rearview mirror’ of historical perspective and narrative makes Hitlerland an important work. This book will appeal to those fascinated with pre-war Berlin as well as scholars of Adolf Hitler and his early-war conquests before 1942. Nagorski’s Hitlerland is one book you’ll keep in your personal library for subsequent reference and re-reading.

[1] Andrew Nagorski, Hitlerland: American Eyewitness to the Nazi Rise to Power. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013) p. 327.

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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Book Reviews, WWII Germany


The Long Goodbye to the Greatest Generation

Photo from the National Archives

From the National Archives: ” GI’s at the Rainbow Corner Red Cross Club in Paris, France, whoop it up after buying the special edition of the Paris Post, which carried the banner headline, `JAPS QUIT.'” T3c. G. Lempeotis, August 10, 1945. 111-SC-210208. National Archives Identifier: 531309

As Christmas nears, I am moved to make mention of the declining number of World War II veterans who are alive and with us today. The National WWII Museum in New Orleans cites the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “They are dying quickly—according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, only 620,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2016.” [1] Illustrated another way, 620,000 represents just 3.875% of the 16 million Americans who served during that war. This low percentage is sobering and is projected to be 0.5% (80,000) in ten years. The percentages could be similar for those other nations that fought for the Allied and Axis Powers, depending on mortality rates and standards of living in those countries.

In the liner notes of his 1985 CD Scarecrow, John Mellencamp wrote: “There is nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands.” It is needless to paraphrase Mellencamp’s quote or explain its appropriateness here. The long goodbye accelerates as we “change hands” with the men and women of the Greatest Generation. If you still have a loved one among this group, hold them close this Christmas season.

[1] The National WWII Museum, Accessed 23 December 2016.

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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in World War II - General

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