Wednesday 28 February 2018

Review: Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People

Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People by Julia Boyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

There are countless books on World War 2, from serious and weighty tomes, stories of daring do and detailed explanations of pivotal moments that changed the course of a continent. Whilst there has been lots of analysis about the failings of the post-World War 1 reparations and oppression by the victors led to the problems that Germany found itself in, there has been very little written about the way it was rapidly changing from the perceptive of holidaymakers and visitors to the country.

In Travellers in the Third Reich, Julia Boyd has documented the turmoil that Germany was in as seen through the eyes of the people that visited the country in the interwar period. Collecting together their stories and accounts we learn how the particular set of circumstances led to the political rise of an obscure Austrian, who had once been tried for treason. As Hitler gained in popularity, the twisted message that he was broadcasting became a cult movement. This fervent following he had at the huge rallies to hear his vitriolic speeches, scared some visitors and yet others from the British establishment were embracing this dystopia.

After gaining political power, it didn't take long for him to seize total control and begin to roll out the nationalist policies across the country. The people that were drawn to Germany at this time came from all walks of life and saw the way that it was changing, but there were glimpses of the persecution that was starting to happen across the country as the vision of the Aryan ideal was implemented. The Olympics were the point where the Third Reich could showcase itself on the world stage and athletes and visitors where shown a sanitised country. Those that managed to peer behind the scenes though, were startled and horrified by what they saw.

This book has stories from a diverse range of people, schoolchildren, musicians, tourist and the political classes that were in and travelling through Germany in the 1930's. At the time there was a certain amount of complacency as to what was happening there, but with hindsight it is easy to see the way things were going, the secret war preparations, buses that could be converted into armed troop carriers, arrests and the terrifying events that were unfolding if they had taken a few moments to look beyond the veneer. It is the human angle that makes this such a fascinating book, the family from Bournemouth on holiday who bump into Hitler whilst on a walk and take a snap, the couple who are moved to take the disabled child of a Jewish mother out of the country to give her a chance of life and two lads realising that they were cycling very close to the concentration camp of Dachau by accident. It is a fascinating book, full of detail on a country that stepped into the abyss and almost took the whole of Europe with it. There are echoes in here that have a resonance today and we would be wise to remember.

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  1. Great review. I read this in January and found it fascinating. I just wish Boyd had used more diverse sources. It really felt like the bulk of observations came from English-speaking journalists, diplomats, and socialites, many of them very well known (and already frequently written about). I did love when she found more unique perspectives, like from Chinese students study or travelling in Germany and from W.E.B Du Bois, the African-American scholar.

  2. It was fascinating. Not sure she would have had a lot more to choose from when it came to picking sources, but the Chinese perspective was quite enlightening