Dispatch from the Third Reich
Excerpted from an August 1935 letter from an American friend of my grandmother named Gladys, who was travelling through Germany & Europe.
“But I suppose I should be talking about Germany, as we spent nearly a month there. We loved Germany, and found the people there the most cordial and sincere we met anywhere. They certainly know how to enjoy themselves too.
“Everywhere trains were crowded with Germans going about sightseeing – whole families together during the weekends. Companies of children travel much also, with just one or two chaperones. Hitler has organized all the children, from about eight years up, into clubs, something like boy and girl scout organizations, and these groups sometimes travel for weeks, staying at cheap camping places prepared especially for them.
“I don’t favor Hitler at all, because he is a tyrant and cruel to the Jews and any who oppose him – but just the same he has done much to unify Germany and create a more hopeful and enthusiastic spirit. The groups of children, as they march, sing very stirring songs, and so do the groups of marching Nazis, to be seen everywhere. Economically, Germany is improved. The young men are put to work in labor camps, or as soldiers, and you see no street beggars, as you do all over England.
“The only thing that scares me about Germany is the militarism, and yet it is very apparent that the German people don’t want war. What Hitler wants is another question, but I think he’d be afraid war might mean his downfall, as it did the Kaiser’s. What he seems to want is to make Germany strong, and give her her proper place among the nations – she has been an underdog for so long. The German young people have become very athletic, and have fine builds.
“We’ll hope they aren’t just going to become cannon fodder. Our general impression was that Hitler is very popular, but we learned from a German girl who returned from America to visit that most of her German friends and relatives are opposed to him, but of course are afraid to say so openly. One woman told our friend that her husband, who refused to join the Nazis, though he did nothing against them, was dragged from his bed one morning and beaten by the Nazis – in his own house – and then taken to jail. His wife learned nothing of him for two weeks, and didn’t know what had been done with him. Now he is free, but his job has been taken from him, and the family must live on the dole.”
This is the best book about the rise of Hitler’s Germany.