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Americans and Germans Were Slow To See the Nazi Danger
Rising Menace: Despite the obvious writing on the wall, many American and German Jews failed to adequately recognize the devastating threat posed by Nazism.
In the very early 1920s, when Adolf Hitler was still only a local rabble rouser in Munich, two men from Munich’s American consulate made a point of observing his rallies: Robert Murphy, the young acting consul, and Paul Drey, a German employee who was a member of a distinguished Bavarian Jewish family.
“Do you think these agitators will ever get far?” Murphy asked his colleague.
“Of course not!” Drey replied. “The German people are much too intelligent to be taken in by such scamps.”
Since the recent publication of my book “Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power,” many people have asked me why American diplomats and journalists were often slow to recognize the threat that Hitler represented. It’s a legitimate question, requiring more than a simple answer. But an equally legitimate question is why many German and American Jews were often just as slow in waking up to the Nazi danger.
Or slower. In fact, some Americans living in Germany were more alarmed by what they were witnessing than German Jews appeared to be. In late 1932, as Hitler was close to taking power, Edgar Ansel Mowrer, the Chicago Daily News correspondent who was one of the most perceptive observers on the scene, attended a dinner at the home of a prominent Jewish banker. All the other guests were also Jewish bankers, and Mowrer was startled to hear that some of them had given money to the Nazis at the urging of non-Jewish German industrialists.