Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism through the Eyes of Everyday People by Julia Boyd - review by Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead

Witnesses of the Persecution

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


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Even as the ink was drying on the Versailles Treaty in 1919, foreigners began to return to the Germany they had so loved: the country of Goethe and Schiller, of picturesque villages and romantic forests. True, Germany had been impoverished by the war and its inhabitants were stunned by their losses and a sense of betrayal, but the sexual and cultural freedoms of the new Weimar Republic were exciting for those who felt oppressed by the unforgiving social mores of the English-speaking world. And the fact that some at least shared the Germans’ view that the treaty’s terms were unfairly harsh – Germany’s debt to the Allies stood at £6.6 billion, equivalent to £280 billion in 2013 – added a piquancy to their travels. Some, as Julia Boyd shows in her meticulously researched account of how the rise of the Nazis was perceived by foreign visitors, came to help the country rebuild itself, others to put behind them their own grey and sad war years, others still to rekindle links to people and places that long predated the war.

Changes in Germany’s fortunes were not slow in coming. By the time the Allies signed the Treaty of Locarno in 1925, setting the country firmly on the road to rehabilitation, Berlin had become a modern, heady, liberating city, a magnet for writers and artists. Isherwood, Spender and Auden were only

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