When Martha Dodd met Rudolf Diels in Hitler’s Berlin, she was immediately smitten by the “cruel, broken beauty” of the Gestapo chief.
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Dodd liked calling him “dearie” in public and got a special thrill from the fact that everyone else was terrified at the sight of him.
Not politically biased, she also bedded Boris Winogradov, a spy for the NKVD, the Soviet secret police.
A flirtatious, lively blonde, Dodd was 24 years old when her scholarly father, William Dodd, was appointed America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. Quickly dumping her banker husband, she packed her bags and became an eyewitness to the early days of the Third Reich.
Dodd launched herself into diplomatic life with alacrity, and had affairs with everyone from Hitler’s close confidante Putzi Hanfstaengl to flying ace Ernst Udet, who took her falcon hunting with Hermann Goring. Other conquests included novelist Thomas Wolfe and Max Delbruck, a biophysicist who won the Nobel Prize.
More importantly, she made sure her father’s diaries saw the light of day.
I spoke with Erik Larson, author of “In the Garden of the Beasts,” on the following topics:
1. Ambassador Dodd
2. Diplomatic Circles
3. Sex and Torture
4. Warnings Ignored
5. Night of the Long Knives
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)