‘Hitlerland’ by Andrew Nagorski

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Andrew Nagorski

Simon & Schuster, $28

Andrew Nagorski’s “Hitlerland” offers a contextually rich look at the buildup of Nazi power, revealing the feebleness of Americans’ assessment of the future danger.

In these seemingly casual impressions recorded in newspapers, letters, magazines, diaries and diplomatic reports, many Americans rooted in interwar Germany failed to see the menace in the increasingly inflammatory Nazi rhetoric, as Nagorski depicts in this well-marshaled study. On one hand, most well-clad Western observers were approving of the German sense of method and order; on the other, the Americans were appalled by the enormous discrepancy in wealth between rich and poor and the Weimar Republic’s reputation for sexual licentiousness.

Nagorski looks at the first wave of fawning observers, if not admirers, of the brash young agitator who engineered the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, including U.S. Envoy Alanson B. Houghton, an industrialist who threw grand parties and blamed America for Germany’s economic woes, and Karl Henry von Wiegland, reporter for Hearst, who described Hitler as a “man of the people.” Some of the more shameless hangers-on included Ernst Hanfstaengl, a half-American, Harvard-educated aristocrat who became enamored of Hitler and served as his publicist, and Charles Lindbergh, who shared aircraft secrets and a ringside box at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Few spoke out against Hitler’s virulently anti-Semitic message, and many sheepishly covered over their early lapses in later memoirs.

Nagorski will speak at sign copies of his new book at 7 p.m. March 22 at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.