Erik Larson’s narrative history is set in Berlin in 1933 and is told through the eyes of a visiting American family. Not just any family, but Ambassador Dodd and his wife and two children. The ambassador was a Professor of History from the University of Chicago who was soon called “an old fuddy duddy” because he would rather read than go to the numerous embassy parties. Martha, his grown daughter is quite a flirt and has rather an extensive love life with Americans, Germans, and Russians during her time in Berlin.
The insidious slow gathering away of freedoms by Hitler and his men eventually turned into the gathering of horror of the Third Reich. People were executed for improper salutes, and some just disappeared. SA ( Storm Troopers) encouraged neighbors to denounce neighbors, Jews were banned from government jobs, then restricted from jobs as doctors and lawyers.
Even Dr. Dodd as a respected historian was unable to see that something really insidious was right around the corner for Germany and the world. Maybe it was a blind eye or a reluctant eye . At first he thought rumors of German brutality and horror were exaggerations at worst and untrue at best. But slowly he discovered the rumors were not rumors at all. He became convinced that Hitler was not only bad for Germany, but bad for the world.
“Beneath the surface, however, Germany had undergone a rapid and sweeping revolution that reached deep into the fabric of daily life. It occurred quietly and largely out of easy view.” Larson
The reader is included in the “Night of Long Knives” where over 85 people are slaughtered as Hitler’s Gestapo and SS moved against the SA and it’s leader Rohn.
“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, then, did it take so long to recognize the real danger and evil posed by Hitler and his regime?” Larson
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke
“There were too few good men. Too few listened or spoke as Hitler slowly reduced rights and freedoms one by one across Germany. No one acted, and suddenly it was too late.” Lita Perna
A film starring Tom Hanks and Natalie Portman is scheduled for release in 2014.