Meeting the Nazis Behind the Names
Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goring, Adolf Hitler – have you ever thought about what it would have been like to meet one of the odious Nazis? What would you have thought about Hitler? Martha Dodd, the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Germany just before World War II, had that experience. Another Nazi, Putzi Hanfstaengl, who was also a friend to the Dodd family, arranged for Martha to meet his already notorious associate over lunch. Martha was a talented and descriptive writer, and she wrote about the meeting afterward. She said Hitler “seemed modest, middle class, rather dull and self-conscious – yet with this strange tenderness and appealing helplessness.” That is not my image of the German dictator from history! She found that his moustache was not as “ridiculous” as photographs made it seem. Then describing his eyes, she said they were “intense, unwavering, and hypnotic.” The hypnotic part is more in line with my thoughts on Hitler. How else could he have gotten so many people to do such horrible things!
You can read about Martha’s entire encounter with Hitler and her family’s other experiences with Nazis in Erik Larson’s book, In the Garden of Beasts. The book is extremely enlightening. You learn about the circumstances that allowed Hitler’s ascension. You also learn about the tumultuous politics involved, including the relationships between Nazis, such as Rudolf Diels, Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Goring. No one could be trusted!
In writing The War Song Series, I have done a lot of research about the American home front during World War II. Larson’s book gave me a new perspective on life in Germany before and during World War II. Read In the Garden of Beasts and meet the Nazis behind the infamous names. It is even rumored that a movie starring Tom Hanks and based on the book may be in the works!