NPR: Tina Brown's Must-Reads

Refers to Book

Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast and Newsweek, tells us what she's been reading in a feature that Morning Edition likes to call "Word of Mouth." This month, Brown has been thinking about the contributions of journalists to global culture.

The Rise Of Hitler, As Seen By Americans Abroad

Brown's first pick is Andrew Nagorski's Hitlerland, a book about the rise of the Nazi regime told from the perspective of Americans, including foreign correspondents and diplomats, who lived in Berlin during the 1930s and early 1940s.

"What you get through their eyes is this kind of fascinating, gradual journey of what they're seeing — first of all, skepticism about Hitler, a sense that [they're] underestimating him, followed by a certain sense of ridicule about him, then a kind of grudging admiration for what he's doing for Germany, then of course a mounting fear of what's going to happen, followed by a sense of the most terrifying pervasive evil then [taking] over."

Brown highlights CBS reporter William L. Shirer, later the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, as one of the heroes of the book.

"He saw from the very beginning the real evil of Hitler," Brown says, "and attempted to warn people of the impending calamity that he saw."

Brown says Shirer was fascinated and puzzled to the end of his life by Hitler personally and wondered whether Nazism would have had the reach and the power it did without him.

"Eventually [Shirer] comes to the conclusion that it would not," Brown says, "that in fact it would have been a radical right-wing movement, but it wouldn't have been the calamity that it was."

At one point Shirer describes going to a Nuremberg rally and watching the frenzy of the crowds. He was struck by Hitler's lack of expression, something glassy in the man's eyes, and he writes that he expected something more powerful.

"For the life of me," Shirer writes, "I could not quite comprehend what hidden springs he undoubtedly unloosed in the hysterical mob which was greeting him so wildly."

Later, Brown says, Shirer "figured out ... the almost martial mysticism with which Hitler was able to organize, choreograph, theatrically create an atmosphere of music and bands and marching and flags, and it was really that sense of theater and organization that Hitler had, perhaps, to augment his own real basic unimpressive personality that ... helped to make him such a spellbinder."