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Travellers in The Third Reich

Julia Boyd
There have been quite a number of books examining what happened to the German political scene following the Great War but not many have dealt in depth with those who merely visited, or lived there for any time. Julia Boyd has done just that and her research has involved over 180 travellers to Germany, from Boy Scouts and schoolchildren to politicians and royalty, where it seems every facet of life has been investigated to some extent. This book records the comments, both spoken and written, of many of the people who visited Germany for one reason or another between the end of the Great War and the fall of Berlin in 1945. It is obvious that among the many visitors there were those who were impressed by what was going on and believed fascism to be a means towards an end, enthusiastically accepting everything that was happening. Some visitors were aware of what was happening but held the belief that all would be well in the end. Finally there were those who could see just what terrible things were being done in the name of the Third Reich and tried in one way or another to change the way in which the “new” Germany was viewed.

In order to appreciate what was happening in Germany the Introduction opens with a true predicament where, in 1936, a couple enjoying their honeymoon were presented with a problem involving the predicament of a Jewish parent with a young female who was disabled. The remainder of the chapter gives some indication of what sort of travellers visited Germany and their reasons for doing so ranging from those who were there for professional reasons to others who were looking for a holiday in an inviting country or had a liking for the German people and their leader. In a way, it is curious to read that the majority of those visitors were British or American.

Generally the chapters are arranged in chronological order commencing with the scene(s) encountered by the first travellers to visit after the end of the Great War and culminating with the few accounts of those still there for whatever reason toward the end of the second world war. Because the war had been waged outside the German borders, the landscape was largely unspoiled and hotels provided American travel agents with brochures in attempts to persuade people to visit. Yet there was still a feeling within the country that they only gave in because the English had starved them during the war, that being one of the comments made to Harry Franck an American travel writer. In fact, Quakers from England found considerable suffering and, with American Quakers, arranged assistance for those in need. Simple things such as transport by train in 1923 was found by Violet Bonham Carter to be grubby, crowded and exceedingly slow, taking most of a day to reach Berlin.

When the Armistice was signed, German leaders faced the possibility of complete collapse both inside and outside the country and factions of both right wing and left wing began to emerge with what appeared to be a majority of people ‘living in deadly fear of Bolshevism’. This was said to another American, Truman Smith, an officer in the American army. There are comments which have been recorded of Germans voicing opinions regarding the rate of exchange, homosexuality, naturists, and the shows performed in cabarets yet very little of politics. Needless to say, as the fascists grew more powerful, Germany became a stricter place to live in and as the book progresses the observations and comments tend to reflect this. There are accounts from those who believed in Hitler and all he was doing as well as others who not only commented but also made representation to their own governments regarding their concern and the author makes the point that some might have been providing intelligence in a manner which implied that they were spies for the want of a better word.

It may seem strange but certainly the British, among others, liked to send their children to school in Germany and travelling within the country was encouraged by travel agents such as Thomas Cook almost up to the outbreak of World War 2.

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For those interested in a different form of history related to Germany between the wars this is a book well worth reading. The travellers whose comments have been used are listed at the end along with end notes for all the chapters, a Bibliography and a list of the archives used by the author, thus providing further reading for those who wish to delve further into the background of all those involved. Although there are several photographs in the form of central plates indicating some aspects I feel there could have been more giving the reader a form of identification for some of those mentioned in the book.
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