Book Review – Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power – By Andrew Nagorski

Hitlerland is an amazing title for a book, and it was one of the lesser titles in a set of books I picked up one day that I hope to read. Still, it was one of the first that I wanted to actually read.


Hitlerland covers a period from 1922 to 1942, and follows American journalists, diplomats, and military attaches in Germany from that period. It attempts to display their feeling and ideas as they were at the time and generally not colored by hindsight, though many times the author will jump in with what the person said later, showing their changes in attitude and/or willingness to admit they made mistakes. Many different pieces of writing, letters, postcards, published and unpublished manuscripts, and more, are used in an attempt to show what these people were doing and how they were feeling during these historic decades.

And I believe it works well. The people are laid out in such a way that they can be judged, but really it’s more interesting to see where they are taken. Whether or not some of these people underestimated the Nazis, or wanted to aid them against the communists, or give the communists aid against them, is much less interesting than how they arrived at their conclusions.

There is a wide variety to be had with the book. Their varying jobs, from radio broadcaster, newspaper reporter, ambassador, diplomat, and military attache are fleshed out to an extent and serve to show how each one would act differently to gain different types of information and be treated differently by the Nazi government. The “story”, which is really a loose conglomeration of anecdotes about Nazi Germany, is well told and exciting. I quite enjoyed the book. It’s one of those with the pictures printed in the middle, though, so one has to be careful with them to not look too far or miss out at the end. (Someone should format the pictures better, maybe with corresponding page numbers). It is a fascinating look from a different perspective, and one often not considered, about the post-WWI German era. And like all sane books, Hitler is indeed condemned, though some of the figures in the book are late, or cautious, in doing so.

If I had any complaints other than formatting, (The hardback also comes with the uneven cut (deckled) sheets that just make it harder to read) it would be the ending is a bit lackluster. It ends rather abruptly after summarizing an amount of time that would’ve take twice the number of pages at least earlier in the book. There is the indication that nothing much happened in the later times.

It’s a good book, but one for those who know some about WWII coming in. It is by no means an introduction, except to the concepts of American correspondents in Berlin during the period leading up to and under Nazi rule. It’s like and introduction to an advanced course. So, if you’re interested, I’d recommend reading up on some other WWII and inter-war things first before diving in. But I believe you will enjoy if you are interested.

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