1938: Hitler’s Gamble by Giles MacDonogh - review by David Stafford

David Stafford

A Year of Troubles

1938: Hitler’s Gamble


Constable & Robinson 416pp £20

When I was ten years old and a budding philatelist with an album to be filled, my father gave me the collection he had made in the 1930s. He had specialised in airmail stamps, which at the time formed a sub-genre all of their own. It was only much later that I wondered how he had found them. The answer lay in a small bundle of envelopes tucked into the back flap of his album. Carrying airmail stamps of their own, they came from a Jewish dealer in Vienna. 

By this time I was familiar with the history of that dark decade, so probed a bit further. The postmarks began in late 1936 and ended abruptly in April 1938 – a month after the Nazi takeover of Austria. What, I wondered, had happened to my father’s dealer? Ten years ago, still curious and on holiday in Vienna, I visited its Jewish Documentation Centre and enquired if they had any record of him. Five minutes later the archivist returned. ‘No record of deportation’, she said, with an air of finality. I like to imagine that he escaped, perhaps to set up business again in New York or Tel

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