Blond, petite and pretty, Martha Dodd was the daughter of the American ambassador to Germany during the rise of the Nazis. One of Hitler’s aides thought she’d make a good girlfriend for the Fuhrer.
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Ernst Hanfstaengl, head of Germany’s foreign press bureau in Berlin, set up the date. They went for tea at Hitler’s favorite hotel, the Kaiserhof, where, surrounded by bodyguards, the Fuhrer sat down at a table nearby.
When Martha was summoned for her meeting, Hitler rose and kissed her hand, murmuring something in German, which she failed to catch. She was captivated by his “startling and unforgettable” eyes, which she recalled were “pale blue in color” and “intense, unwavering, hypnotic.”
After she returned to her table, Hitler sent “curious, embarrassed stares” in her direction, but nothing more came of the encounter. Shrugging off any lingering disappointment, Martha had affairs with lots of Nazis, including Gestapo chief Rudolf Diels.
I spoke with Andrew Nagorski, author of “Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power,” on the following topics:
1. Americans in Germany
2. Excitement of Berlin
3. Early Alarms
4. Journalist Coverage
5. Red Flag Warnings
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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.)