Summary

“Even now,” wrote Christopher Isherwood in hisBerlin Diaryof 1933, “I can’t altogether believe that any of this has really happened.” Three years later, W. E. B. DuBois described Germany as “silent, nervous, suppressed; it speaks in whispers.” In contrast, a young John F. Kennedy, in the journal he kept on a German tour in 1937, wrote, “The Germans really are too good—it makes people gang against them for protection.”

Drawing on such published and unpublished accounts from writers and public figures visiting Germany,Travels in the Reichcreates a chilling composite portrait of the reality of life under Hitler. Written in the moment by writers such as Virginia Woolf, Isak Dinesen, Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, William Shirer, Georges Simenon, and Albert Camus, the essays, letters, and articles gathered here offer fascinating insight into the range of responses to Nazi Germany. While some accounts betray a distressing naivete, overall what is striking is just how clearly many of the travelers understood the true situation—and the terrors to come.

Through the eyes of these visitors,Travels in the Reichoffers a new perspective on the quotidian—yet so often horrifying—details of German life under Nazism, in accounts as gripping and well-written as a novel, but bearing all the weight of historical witness.