Erik Larson · 448 pages
Rating: (130.3K votes)
“No system which implies control by privilege seekers has ever ended in any other way than collapse.”
“The smell of peace is abroad, the air is cold, the skies are brittle, and the leaves have finally fallen. I wear a pony coat with skin like watered silk and muff of lamb. My fingers lie in depths of warmth. I have a jacket of silver sequins and heavy bracelets of rich corals. I wear about my neck a triple thread-like chain of lapis lazulis and pearls. On my face is softness and content like a veil of golden moonlight. And I have never in all my lives been so lonely.”
“Recalling his first impression of Hitler, Hanfstaengl wrote, "Hitler looked like a suburban hairdresser on his day off.”
“In Germany, Dodd had noticed, no one ever abused a dog, and as a consequence dogs were never fearful around men and were always plump and obviously well tended. "Only horses seem to be equally happy, never children or the youth," he wrote. ... He called it "horse happiness" and had noticed the same phenomenon in Nuremburg and Dresden. In part, he knew this happiness was fostered by German law, which forbade cruelty to animals and punished violators with prison.
"At a time when hundreds of men have been put to death without trial or any sort of evidence of guilt, and when the population literally trembles with fear, animals have rights guaranteed them which men and women cannot think of expecting."
He added, "One might easily wish he were a horse!”
“Let me explain how such a thing might occasionally happen,' Goebbels said. 'All during the twelve years of the Weimar Republic our people were virtually in jail. Now our party is in charge and they are free again. When a man has been in jail for twelve years and he is suddenly freed, in his joy he may do something irrational, perhaps even brutal. Is that not a possibility in your country also?'
Ebbutt, his voice even, noted a fundamental difference in how England might approach such a scenario. 'If it should happen,' he said, 'we would throw the man right back in jail.”
“American political discourse had framed the Jewish problem as an immigration problem. Germany's persecution of Jews raised the specter of a vast influx of Jewish refugees at a time when America was reeling from the Depression.”
“Germans grew reluctant to stay in communal ski lodges, fearing they might talk in their sleep. They postponed surgeries because of the lip-loosening effects of anesthetic. Dreams reflected the ambient anxiety. One German dreamed that an SA man came to his home and opened the door to his oven, which then repeated every negative remark the household had made against the government.”
“I wear a pony coat with skin like watered silk and muff of lamb. My fingers lie in depths of warmth. I have a jacket of silver sequins and heavy bracelets of rich corals. I wear about my neck a triple thread-like chain of lapis lazulis and pearls. On my face is softness and content like a veil of golden moonlight. And I have never in all my lives been so lonely.”
“Coordination' occurred with astonishing speed, even in sectors of life not directly targeted by specific laws, as Germans willingly placed themselves under the sway of Nazi rule, a phenomenon that became known as Selbtsgleichschaltung, or 'self-coordination.' Change came to Germany so quickly and across such a wide front that German citizens who left the country for business or travel returned to find everything around them altered, as if they were characters in a horror movie who come back to find that people who once were their friends, clients, patients, and customers have become different in ways hard to discern.”
“In traveling about the city that day, Dodd was struck anew by the “extraordinary” German penchant for Christmas display. He saw Christmas trees everywhere, in every public square and every window. “One might think,” he wrote, “the Germans believed in Jesus or practiced his teachings!”
“Like most people, I acquired my initial sense of the era from books and photographs that left me with the impression that the world of then had no color, only gradients of gray and black. My two main protagonists, however, encountered the fl esh-and-blood reality, while also managing the routine obligations of daily life. Every morning they moved through a city hung with immense banners of red, white, and black; they sat at the same outdoor cafés as did the lean, black-suited members of Hitler’s SS, and now and then they caught sight of Hitler himself, a smallish man in a large, open Mer-cedes. But they also walked each day past homes with balconies lush with red geraniums; they shopped in the city’s vast department stores, held tea parties, and breathed deep the spring fragrances of the Tier-garten, Berlin’s main park. They knew Goebbels and Göring as social acquaintances with whom they dined, danced, and joked—until, as their fi rst year reached its end, an event occurred that proved to be one of the most signifi cant in revealing the true character of Hitler and that laid the keystone for the decade to come. For both father and daughter it changed everything.”
“Perhaps, Herr Ditzen, it is less important where one lives than how one lives.”
“Messersmith wrote. “We must keep in mind, I believe, that when Hitler says anything he for the moment convinces himself that it is true. He is basically sincere; but he is at the same time a fanatic.” Messersmith urged skepticism regarding Hitler’s protestations. “I think for the moment he genuinely desires peace but it is a peace of his own kind and with an armed force constantly becoming more effective in reserve, in order to impose their will when it may become essential.”
“Mowrer and his family made it safely to Tokyo. His wife, Lillian, recalled her great sorrow at having to leave Berlin. “Nowhere have I had such lovely friends as in Germany,” she wrote. “Looking back on it all is like seeing someone you love go mad—and do horrible things.”
“I have always wondered what it would have been like for an outsider to have witnessed firsthand the gathering dark of Hitler’s rule. How did the city look, what did one hear, see, and smell, and how did diplomats and other visitors interpret the events occurring around them? Hindsight tells us that during that fragile time the course of history could so easily have been changed. Why, then, did no one change it? Why did it take so long to recognize the real danger posed by Hitler and his regime?”
“a new phrase was making the rounds in Berlin, to be deployed upon encountering a friend or acquaintance on the street, ideally with a sardonic lift of one eyebrow: “Lebst du noch?” Which meant, “Are you still among the living?”
“Dodd listened intently as Hitler portrayed Germany as a well-meaning, peace-seeking nation whose modest desire for equality of armaments was being opposed by other nations. 'It was not the address of a thinker,' Dodd wrote in his diary, 'but of an emotionalist claiming that Germany had in no way been responsible for the World War and that she was the victim of wicked enemies.”
“Dodd resigned himself to what he called “the delicate work of watching and carefully doing nothing.”
“MARTHA’S CHEERY VIEW of things was widely shared by outsiders visiting Germany and especially Berlin. The fact was that on most days in most neighborhoods the city looked and functioned as it always had.”
“No one wanted the job. What had seemed one of the least challenging tasks facing Franklin D. Roosevelt as newly elected president had, by June 1933, become one of the most intransigent. As ambas-sadorial posts went, Berlin should have been a plum—not London or Paris, surely, but still one of the great capitals of Europe, and at the center of a country going through revolutionary change under the leadership of its newly appointed chancellor, Adolf Hitler. Depending on one’s point of view, Germany was experiencing a great revival or a savage darkening. Upon Hitler’s ascent, the country had undergone a brutal spasm of state- condoned violence. Hitler’s brown- shirted paramilitary army, the Sturmabteilung, or SA—the Storm Troopers—had gone wild, arresting, beating, and in some cases murdering communists, socialists, and Jews. Storm Troopers established impromptu prisons and torture stations in basements, sheds, and other structures. Berlin alone had fi fty of these so- called bunkers. Tens of thousands of people were arrested and placed in “protective custody”— Schutzhaft—a risible euphemism. An esti-mated fi ve hundred to seven hundred prisoners died in custody; others endured “mock drownings and hangings,” according to a police affi davit. One prison near Tempelhof Airport became especially no-torious: Columbia House, not to be confused with a sleekly modern new building at the heart of Berlin called Columbus House. The up-heaval prompted one Jewish leader, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise of New York, to tell a friend, “the frontiers of civilization have been crossed.”
“There are no heroes here, at least not of the Schindler’s List variety, but there are glimmers of heroism and people who behave with unexpected grace.”
“No realm was too petty: The Ministry of Posts ruled that henceforth when trying to spell a word over the telephone a caller could no longer say “D as in David,” because “David” was a Jewish name. The caller had to use “Dora.” “Samuel” became “Siegfried.” And so forth. “There has been nothing in social history more implacable, more heartless and more devastating than the present policy in Germany against the Jews,” Consul General Messersmith told Undersecretary Phillips in a long letter dated September 29, 1933. He wrote, “It is definitely the aim of the Government, no matter what it may say to the outside or in Germany, to eliminate the Jews from German life.”
“As before, Dodd believed Hitler was “perfectly sincere” about wanting peace. Now, however, the ambassador had realized, as had Messersmith before him, that Hitler’s real purpose was to buy time to allow Germany to rearm. Hitler wanted peace only to prepare for war. “In the back of his mind,” Dodd wrote, “is the old German idea of dominating Europe through warfare.”
“why were the State Department and President Roosevelt so hesitant to express in frank terms how they really felt about Hitler at a time when such expressions clearly could have had a powerful effect on his prestige in the world?”
“She had a brief affair with a novelist, W. L. River, whose Death of a Young Man had been published several years earlier. He called her Motsie and pledged himself to her in letters composed of stupendously long run-on sentences, in one case seventy-four lines of single-spaced typewriting. At the time this passed for experimental prose.
“I want nothing from life except you,” he wrote. “I want to be with you forever, to work and write for you, to live wherever you want to live, to love nothing, nobody but you, to love you with the passion of earth but also with the above earthly elements of more eternal, spiritual love.…”
He did not, however, get his wish.”
“Nowhere have I had such lovely friends as in Germany,” she wrote. “Looking back on it all is like seeing someone you love go mad—and do horrible things.”
“Once again no one in the U.S. government had made any public statement either supporting the trial or criticizing the Hitler regime. The question remained: what was everyone afraid of?”
“In part, he knew, this happiness was fostered by German law, which forbade cruelty to animals and punished violators with prison, and here Dodd found deepest irony. “At a time when hundreds of men have been put to death without trial or any sort of evidence of guilt, and when the population literally trembles with fear, animals have rights guaranteed them which men and women cannot think of expecting.” He added, “One might easily wish he were a horse!”
“The bells on the streetcars ring, buses clatter by honking their horns, stuffed full with people and more people; taxis and fancy private automobiles hum over the glassy asphalt,” he wrote. “The fragrance of heavy perfume floats by. Harlots smile from the artful pastels of fashionable women’s faces; so-called men stroll to and fro, monocles glinting; fake and precious stones sparkle.” Berlin was, he wrote, a “stone desert” filled with sin and corruption and inhabited by a populace “borne to the grave with a smile.”
“One can evade a danger that one recognizes,' wrote historian Friedrich Zipfel, 'but a police working in the dark becomes uncanny. Nowhere does one feel safe from it. While not omnipresent, it could appear, search arrest. The worried citizen no longer knows whom he ought to trust.”
“I always wanted to eat with a Negro,” Grandma said.
Yeah, well I always wanted to eat with a boney-assed old white woman,” Lula said. “So I guess this works out good.”
“Sometimes when a person be thinking about one thing it don't mean they is mad about another thing.”
“Garrett said, “Dude, here’s the killer—Dana told ’em he was you!” “Oh, nice.” “What a butthead, huh?” “And they probably believed him,” Roy said. “Not even for a minute.” “Was he alone?” Roy asked. “Anybody else get arrested?” Anybody like Beatrice Leep’s stepbrother? he wanted to say. “Nope. Just him,” Garrett said, “and guess what—he’s got a record!” “A record?” “A rap sheet, dude. Dana’s been busted before, is what the cops told my mom.” Again, Roy wasn’t exactly shocked by the news. “Busted for what?” “Shoplifting, breakin’ into Coke machines—stuff like that,” Garrett said. “One time he even knocked down a lady and swiped her purse. Mom made me promise not to tell. It’s supposed to be a secret, since Dana’s still a minor.”
“You can't miss what you don't remember ever having.”
“I realize that this is what being a parent means—facing the most horrible thing that could ever happen to you and yet thinking only of how it will hurt your child.”
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