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Julia Boyd, Travellers in the Third Reich

The Tourist’s Third Reich

Julia Boyd, Travellers in the Third Reich, The Rise of Fascism through the Eyes of Everyday People, Elliott and Thompson, 2017, pp. 456.

Despite a misleading title and sub-title, Julia Boyd’s book is actually about travellers in Germany in the entire period 1918-45 and is, of course, about the rise of National Socialism rather than about some vague and generic “fascism”. Having said that, it is fascinating and based on the primarily on the testament of 181 people, mostly recorded in letters and diaries. It covers many kinds of visit including those for the Oberammergau passion plays and the two Olympic events of 1936. The writers are mainly American and British, but there is a great variety including the testament of two Chinese students who found themselves stuck there for the duration of the war.

The overwhelming theme, which carries salutary and important lessons, is that the majority of this testament was determined to see the Third Reich as harmless, “normal” or benign. It is amusing – as well as rather shocking – to learn that Thomas Cook gave Germany a hard and positive sell throughout the period and had customers signed up for September 1939.

Lincoln Allison

(This note appeared in the What Are You Reading column of Times Higher Education in 2019)