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Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power by [Nagorski, Andrew]
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Product Description


“Andrew Nagorski has written an entertaining chronicle…‘Hitlerland’ brings back to life some early delusions about Hitler’s rise that now seem unthinkable. Any reader trying to puzzle out today’s world will be unsettled by the reminder of how easy it is to get things wrong.” --The Economist

“riveting….this is a book that is full of things I never knew, and I found all of them interesting. It should be on everybody’s ‘must read’ list who is interested in history.”--The Daily Beast, Michael Korda

"Hitlerland is a bit of guilty pleasure... fascinating."-Washington Post

"Compulsively readable and deeply researched"-The Weekly Standard

"A compelling work for World War II history buffs or anyone who wants to understand how such devastating evil emerged while the world seemingly watched"– Library Journal

"An engrossing study of the times made more fascinating and incredible in retrospect...contextually rich...[a] well marshaled study."– Kirkus

“Andrew Nagorski, a deft storyteller, has plumbed the dispatches, diaries, letters, and interviews of American journalists, diplomats and others who were present in Berlin to write a fascinating account of a fateful era.”

-Henry Kissinger

“Andrew Nagorski once again turns his perceptive, seasoned foreign correspondent's eye to a dramatic historical subject. This eye-opening account of the Americans in 1920s and 1930s Berlin offers a totally new perspective on a subject we thought we already knew. “

-Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag: A History

"Andrew Nagorski’s Hitlerland is a fresh, compelling portrait of Nazi Germany, as seen through the eyes of a fascinating array of Americans who lived and worked there during Hitler’s rise to power. The extraordinary saga of Putzi Hanfstaengl, a Harvard graduate who became Hitler’s court jester, is just one of the many page-turning stories that makes Hitlerland a book not to be missed."
-Lynne Olson, author of Citizens of London

“The rise of Hitler and the Nazi state, one of the most consequential and profound narratives in all of world politics, receives compelling new treatment in Andrew Nagorski’s outstanding Hitlerland. By illuminating the disparate experiences of the era’s preeminent American diplomats, journalists, intellectuals and others, Nagorski has created an engrossing, harrowing and vividly drawn mosaic of eyewitness accounts to one of history’s most phenomenal catastrophes.”
-Gordon M. Goldstein, author of Lessons In Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam

“At times deliciously gossipy, at times thoroughly chilling, Hitlerland offers countless novel insights into Germany’s evolution from struggling democracy in the 1920s to totalitarian dictatorship in the 1930s. The intimate portraits from Hitler down add an almost tangible sense of the foibles, ambitions, insecurities and perversities of the relatively small top Nazi elite whose actions plunged our world into a catastrophe from which we are yet fully to recover. The Americans themselves come alive as a group of intense, enterprising journalists and diplomats faced with the greatest challenge of their lives.”
-Misha Glenny, author of The Balkans 1804-1999

“This is an excellent, ably-written, in-depth, and well-illustrated treatment of a hitherto-overlooked aspect of the Third Reich: before, during , and even after its fall . . . a true gem . . . an entertaining read . . . ” (Military Advisor)

Product Description

Hitlerland is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Reading about the Nazis is not supposed to be fun, but Nagorski manages to make it so. Readers new to this story will find it fascinating” (The Washington Post).

Hitler’s rise to power, Germany’s march to the abyss, as seen through the eyes of Americans—diplomats, military officers, journalists, expats, visiting authors, Olympic athletes—who watched horrified and up close. “Engaging if chilling…a broader look at Americans who had a ringside seat to Hitler’s rise” (USA TODAY), Hitlerland offers a gripping narrative full of surprising twists—and a startlingly fresh perspective on this heavily dissected era.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 27641 KB
  • Print Length: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 13 2012)
  • Sold by: Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005GG0LAC
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #109,051 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa3eca018) out of 5 stars 148 reviews
248 of 260 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa43a8854) out of 5 stars A Well-written and Informative Book About the Rise of Nazi Germany Feb. 4 2012
By Lawrence H. Bulk - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Over the years I have read quite a few books about Germany between the wars, such as Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s by Otto Friedrich and Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-1941 by William L. Shirer. In addition I have read many books about Hitler and the Nazis and World War II, as well as three voluminous (and excellent) biographies (Toland, Fest, and Kershaw) of Hitler himself. Naturally I also read (when I was a junior in high school) The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by Shirer. (It cost $10.00 when first published and it took me a while to save up that much money but I did and I got the book.) In my opinion, it's still the best overall history of Nazi Germany ever written.

But these books are, of necessity, generalized and they are primarily concerned with political history, military history, and/or economic history.

There have also been some books written from Germans individuals' points of view, such as the two Saul Friedlander books Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939 and The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 as well as those by Victor Klemperer I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 and I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945: A Diary of the Nazi Years.

But these are told, obviously, from the German (Jewish) point of view. What about the American point of view?

While there were many Americans living and working in Germany during the Weimar Republic and after, other than "Berlin Diary," (one man's point of view) I had read no books about these other Americans' varied views about actual life there during the Republic and during its collapse and replacement by the Nazi dictatorship. Recently, Erik Larson wrote an excellent book In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin about the first US Ambassador to Nazi Germany, William Dodd and his family. This book is superb reading material (and I highly recommend it to you) but, concentrating on the Dodd family who came to Germany only in 1933, it does not go into much detail about the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during the 1920s.

Andrew Nagorski's new Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power is the first book I have ever seen which discusses MANY individual Americans' impressions of this rise and later consolidation. Though the book itself is written with the benefit of hindsight, the quotations from many people - including William L. Shirer, Howard K. Smith, other American correspondents and broadcasters, William Dodd, Truman Smith and his wife, and other American diplomats, many other "ordinary" Americans who happened either to be living there or just visiting, and even Ernst 'Putzi' Hanfstaengl and his wife, as well as a few other Nazi "insiders" - all of the quotations were written at the time, in other words, WITHOUT the benefit of hindsight.

These writings are taken from diaries, articles, and books (both published and unpublished).

It is the "you are there" feeling which makes this book so valuable. Essentially social history, it shows the day-by-day rise of the Nazis and their attainment and consolidation of power in what had been the most civilized country in the world, as viewed by Americans living there - some in high positions, but mostly ordinary people.

I'm certain that nothing like this has ever been written before.

None of the above would be of much use to the average reader if the writing itself were mediocre and pedantic. Fortunately, this is NOT the case. Andrew Nagorski is a writer who knows how to tell a story and who knows how to organize the varied (and often contradictory) published and unpublished writings of the actual authors, both their writings at the time as well as their writings after the fact (and sometimes they tried to 'clarify' - that is revise - what they had actually written and thought at the time). His writing is both very interesting and very informative.

Some Americans tried to ignore the situation altogether. Some were either "neutral" or pro-Nazi. And some were most definitely anti-Nazi. Some started off as one but. through observation and sometimes personal experiences, became the other. But all of their writings are extremely interesting and very valuable.

I personally thank Andrew Nagorski for undertaking this monumental effort. I had trouble putting the book down! I think anyone who is interested in this facet of 20th Century history will also find this book to be an excellent resource and good reading.

There is a voluminous and useful Notes section as well as an excellent Bibliography.

I give this book my highest recommendation.
68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3960114) out of 5 stars Not through hindsight Jan. 26 2012
By wogan - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
`Hiterland' explains the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party as it happened. The stories are from Americans living or visiting in Germany from the 1920's through 1941. We read not individual separate stories but a smooth recounting of historical events and the observations, quotes and comments by those who were there as the events unfolded. The time and moods range from a country undergoing what was close to a nervous breakdown to one that was out of control and headed down an abyss.

Some of the most fascinating are from a married couple, Putzi and Helene Hanfstaengel - he half German, half American, she an American who have Hitler visiting them as a friend, one who played with their son and at moments seemed like a boy, to a stunning what if moment when Helen takes a gun away from Hitler, afraid that he would shoot himself after the failed Beer Hall Putsch.
There were so many who underestimated the man and others such as Herbert Hoover who thought him insane. There are recollections of the poverty and tenements of Berlin and of the striking unreal cleanliness of German cities.
A few, such as Thomas Wolfe write of what they see and then has his books banned in Germany. Reporters like Howard K. Smith and William Shirer see with a horror where the Third Reich is going. There are other numerous, very personal observations, ones, a reader has most likely never read before, on the rise of Hitler, the Nazi Party and the descent of Germany into chaos.

We see Germany as these Americans saw it...their observations then - not through the benefit of hindsight. This is truly a fascinating glimpse into the history of Germany and the beginnings of WWII.
86 of 92 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa41c4f6c) out of 5 stars Insightful history of an era that's still poorly understood my most Feb. 2 2012
By Michael J. Edelman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Modern day readers of WWII era history often find themselves wondering how the world could have tolerated the rise of someone like Adolf HItler. Didn't people see the rise of the Nazi party coming? Isn't there something that could have been done to stop him? The answer might surprise those who grew up in the 21st Century.

Germany after World War I was both the most exciting place in Europe- and the saddest. Crippled economically by war reparations it was paying to the victorious Allies, it was at the same time the center of the most existing new movements in art, literature and the theater. Berlin was, for many, the most exciting place in the world, and those who could afford to come, did. Surprisingly, it was also the most liberal of all European nations, and probably the single best place in Europe for a Jew to live. Americans were particularly welcome, as the Germans largely saw them as potential friends who they could ally with against what German saw as the existential threat posed by France. And American visitors were similarly charmed by the warm welcome they received, and were only too happy to help out politically and economically. During the days of the Weimar government, many US banks and companies made loans to German industries to help rebuild this potential ally.

Things were not so rosy in much of Germany. Workers, Farmers, and those without access to foreign capital were impoverished by both the burden of reparations and the hyperinflation that was a consequence of the Weimar Republic's attempt to print money in lieu of engineering actual economic growth. While the Weimar government had strong support among the upper classes, the hearts and minds of the masses were being increasingly attracted to two opposing philosophical camps: On one side, the Communists promised a new state, a dictatorship of the proletariat, in which all workers would share the wealth of the nation. On the other side, nationalists and militarists urged replacing the Weimar Repuiblic with the nationalistic, militaristic state that had been Germany under Bismark.

There were several parties and organizations on each side of this struggle, but the one that was gaining the most public support was the National Socialist Party, led by a man who many thought possessed of great charm, and an electrifying public speaker- Adolf Hitler. Hitler was not only a natural leader, he had formulated a political platform that combined the socialism and promise of wealth-sharing of the Communists with the nationalistic fervor of the militarists. He called his program national socialism, and he and his followers dressed in militaristic garb to emphasize the point.

It should be noted that this was not entirely Hitler's idea. He had himself watched the rise of Mussolini in Italy, where Il Duce had instituted his own particular brand of nationalistic socialism,- Fascism. (Mussolini himself had taken some inspiration from the American Progressive movement.) To Mussolini's nationalistic, socialist, philosophy, Hitler added his philosophy of racial purity, and created not just a militaristic, nationalistic socialism, but an entirely new German mythos.

All this was watched with fascination by the Americans who moved freely throughout Germany right up until German's declaration of war against the US. Many thought Hitler was, overall, a positive influence, someone who would get the country moving again. Yes, there was that nasty bit of antisemitism, they said, but that was just something to appeal to the masses. After all, Germany's champion tennis pro, Daniel Prenn, was a Jew, wasn't he? Yes, Hitler's SA were a bit... overzealous, but there's no real need for alarm. He couldn't really mean all those things he wrote about purifying the race. Anyways, many had rationalized, he did have a point about the Jews. Even FDR, in deciding not to withdraw from the Berlin Olympics in 1936, was influenced by the fact that his administration was perceived by many as being "too Jew friendly." Antisemitism was not an unpopular view in the America of the 1930s. And a great many Americans could trace their ancestry to Germany. Before WWII, there were great many German-American Bunds, and people celebrated their German heritage. WWI wasn't looked on a a German war so much as the "Kaiser's War."

Watching newsreels of the era, the modern day viewer cannot help but be puzzled by this- could that small, Chaplain-esque man in the newsreels really have been capable of electrifying crowds? NO less a figure than William Shirer wrote in his well known The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany how he himself was absolutely captivated by one of Hitler's speeches- only to find, when he bought a transcript the next day, that it was empty, and filled with banalities. Shirer was not the only American to witness Hitler's rise close up. German between the two world wars was filled with American reporters, military attaches, diplomatic personnel, businessmen, and ordinary citizens who found it exciting and stimulating to the point of becoming more than just passive viewers. As late as 1936 German and American army officers were participating in exercises at each other's war colleges, something that showed the Americans how Germany was planning to revolutionize mobile warfare, and showed the Germans how ill-prepared for war America was.

Many Americans found Hitler charming and exciting as well. One German-American couple in particular- Helen and "Putzi" Stanfnaegl- were seduced by the Hitler's rising power and influence in the German state, and found themselves in his inner circle. Putzi sold his interest in a business in order to finance the Nazi party newspaper. Helen, according to her own telling of the story, stopped Hitler from committing suicide after his failed Beer Hall Putsch. Another German-American, Frederick Kaltenbach, became the American voice of Nazi radio broadcasts.

For every American who saw Hitler's rise as a good thing for Germany, there were a number who saw it as a threat- and yet many of them doubted he'd actually achieve his aims. Dorothy Thompson clearly saw Hitler's rise as a threat, but even she doubted that he would achieve his goal of a Nazi Germany. She was not alone in this belief. Few thought that Hitler and his gang of thugs were powerful enough to topple a strong leader like Hindenburg. Thompson's husband, Sinclair Lewis, was affected enough by what Dorothy had told him of German affairs that he was inspired to write "It Can't Happen Here," a novel about the rise of a dictator. But Lewis set his book in the US, not in German. Other Americans came over mildly supportive of the Nazis, only to be disillusioned by what they saw. Some, like the legendary broadcaster H. V. Kaltenborn, appeared to go to great lengths to convince themselves not to see the obvious. But even those reporters who clearly saw the horrors of the new Nazi state emerge kept a sort of conspiracy of silence, in order to be able to stay in German. The Associated Press' Louis Lochner later wrote: "Our orders from our bosses were to tell no untruth, but to report only as much of the truth, without distorting the picture, as would enable us to remain at our posts."

Andrew Nagorski has done an excellent job of stitching together a wide range of narratives from a great many sources to create a vivid picture of the American experience in Germany between the wars. The cast includes well known figures, like Shirer, Thompson, Hans Kaltenborn, Richard Helms, Howard K. Smith, Charles Lindburgh and Edward R. Murrow as well as a great many unknown diplomats, officers, businessmen, writers, and ordinary citizens who witnessed the rise of the Third Reich. Excellent and informative reading for anyone interested in the history of the 20th Century and the events that shaped the modern world.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa39605a0) out of 5 stars Riveting eyewitness accounts of the Rise of the Third Reich Feb. 27 2012
By Z Hayes - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I used to teach World History which included the WW II period, and was predictably excited to read this book. Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power provides interesting insights into a period of history that has been covered in a multitude of books, films, documentaries, etc. It is to the author's credit that his work is able to provide fresh insights in addition to already well-established facts.

Readers of Hitlerland will discover that many of the Americans who were in Germany during this period were relatively young and did not have much experience. They were in turns awed and horrified by what was unfolding around them. I was especially interested in the eyewitness accounts because even after reading so much on the subject, I needed to develop my understanding of how so many people in a civilized country such as Germany could have bought into Hitler's propaganda and vision, with such terrible consequences.

These eyewitness accounts as laid out in this book are more to do with the observations of Americans "during the run up to the war and the Holocaust." (p. 8) The accounts are riveting mainly because they all provide viewpoints by various people - newspeople, expatriates, diplomats, etc. It was a bit chilling to read American reporter Dorothy Thompson's observations after she interviewed Hitler for a feature for Cosmopolitan Magazine. She made the prediction (talk about prescience!) that Hitler's rise to power would result in his persecution of the weakest and wondered who "would come after him." (p. 85)

Historian William Dodd who was serving as US Ambassador to Berlin at the time of the Night of the Long Knives (where Hitler rid himself of his political rivals) expressed a sense of pessimism and frustration, "I can think of no country where the psychology is so abnormal as that which prevails here now." (p. 160)

A young American, Angus Thuermer, arrived in Germany in 1938, financed by his father who wished for him to learn German and then French. He later got a job with the Associated Press, and was a witness to Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass. He observed that the German public mostly watched the outbreak of anti-Semitic violence with general indifference - attributing this behavior to the fact that they either bought everything sold by Hitler and his cronies, or because they were too terrified. (p. 244)

Much more is covered in this book, and though a compelling work of non-fiction, it reads like an engaging narrative. I for one, was not able to put it down and read it within a day!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3960828) out of 5 stars Illuminating Feb. 12 2012
By Grandma - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
World War II has always had a fascination for me. I suppose that it must have something to do with sitting under the table on the porch listening to my Dad and all of the rest of the men in the family talk about their experiences in the war. As a result, I've read countless books, watched hundreds of hours of film & documentary, talked to many who served in the armies & navies of several nations. Nonetheless, nearly ninety years after Adolf Hitler's first appearance on the political scene there is much that we do not know. In Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power Andrew Nagorski brings us not just new perspective on Hitler's rise to power and the Germany that Hitler created, he often brings us new information, information that simply hasn't been generally known.

Using as the basis for his work the diaries of the many Americans who lived and worked in Germany during the years between the two Great Wars as well as interviews with those who still survive, all listed in an extensive Notes and Bibliography section, Nagorski fills in the details that have long been missing from the historical record in an easy to read style that will keep you turning pages from one discovery to the next. Did you know that were it not for an American woman, Hitler might very well have committed suicide long before he ever came to power? That Americans living and working in Germany were expected to "Heil Hitler" right along with everyone else and were often beaten up if they did not? Or that Hitler's right hand man, his propaganda chief for many years prior to the war, was a half-American graduate of Harvard University? (Neither did I.) And that is just the tip of the iceberg . . . .

Highly recommended.