New Titles. Biography. Memoirs. Spring 2019

Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics by Frederic Sports. Overlook Press. Paper. Adolf Hitler’s interest in art was as intense as his racism and Anti-Semitism.

The Story of Levis; Slavery, Freedom, and Islam in the Black Atlantic by  Reiss,et al. Oxford University Press. A finalist for a Brazilian Book Award. The author narrates the life of a Yoruba Muslim called Rufino.

The Lady Queen; The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily by Nancy Goldstone. Back Bay Books. Goldstone brings to life a remarkable woman, a captivating queen and actress in her medieval world.

Our Man; Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century by George Packer. Knopf. Although the force behind the Dayton Accords that ended the Balkan wars, Holbrooke was considered too self-absorbed and his career stalled.

In Extremis; The Life and Death of the War Correspondent, Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Killed in Syria in 2012, Hilsum is exemplary of the tendency for newspaper correspondents to become both our eyes and ears abroad.

Young Castro; The Making of a Revolutionary by Jonathan Hansen. Simon & Schuster. A portrait of the early years of Fidel Castro, how and unlikely young Cuban led his country in revolution and transfixed the world.

The Black Auxiliary; The Untold Story of eighteen African Americans Who Defied Jim Crow and Adolf Hitler to Compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Deborah Draper et al. Jesse Owens but other winners as well including a brother of Jackie Robinson.

Remembering Emmett Till by Dave Tell. University of Chicago Press. Travel through the Mississippi Delta and you will find a landscape dotted with memorials to important figures and events of the Civil Rights movement. The most moving are those devoted to the murder of Emmett Till.

Alfred Russel Wallace by Patrick Armstrong. Reaktion, Paper. Armstrong illuminates the various facets of Wallace’s long life from 1823 to the eve of World War I.

Tomato; A Global History by Clarissa Hyman. University of Chicago Press. The tomato is a relative newcomer outside of its ancestral home in Mesoamerica. Think about pizza without the tomato. A trusty sauce with French fries (Ketchup). Bolognese sauce for Italian cuisine.

Handel in London; The Making of a Genius by Jane Glover. Pegasus. Handel dazzled the Hanoverian Court. Then he went on to the Tudor court in London and Dublin where he premiered The Messiah.

Queen Victoria; Daughter, Wife, Mother, Widow by Lucy Worsley St. Martin’s She ruled Britain for sixty-four years and managed to put her name on her century.

The Race to Save the Romanovs; The Truth Behind the Secret Plans to Rescue the Russian Imperial Family by Helen Rappaport. Penguin, 2018.

            Czar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated his throne in March 1917, to be succeeded by the Provisional and then Revolutionary (Bolshevik) governments. In this eventful year, Nicholas, his family, and his entourage were imprisoned in several towns along the Trans-Siberian Railway. They were eventually taken out into the woods near their last prison in the town of Ekaterinburg, shot and then bayonetted by their guards under the supervision of a band of Bolsheviks.

            By 1917, European royalty were one large, unhappy family. Much of the royalty were cousins: or uncles, aunts, second cousins. They would show up for family reunions but not always enjoy each other’s company. Though occasionally those connections had been useful in keeping the peace in Europe.

But another political structure, republicanism, had arisen in Russia, Britain, Scandinavia, Greece, Spain, and elsewhere. It represented a challenge to the influence of these royals.  This complicated the diplomacy surrounding a rescue of the czar. Complicated also by the fact that since 1914 these countries were at war with each other.

This was the fate of the Russian royal family. Nicholas II, his German wife – Alexandra, and their five children – four sisters and their brother, Alexey who was heir to the Russian throne.  Alexandra’s concerns about her son’s health and the influence that Rasputin had over her generated critical public opinion. But also she was German and not popular with the Russian aristocracy.

 

            Those who have already read several books about the Romanovs will be surprised at how little time Helen Rappaport spends describing Rasputin’s influence on the royal couple. He was believed to have healing powers that would help with Prince Alexey’s health problems. Alexey had hemophilia.

Among many complaints Alexandra was blamed for the Czar’s ignoring Russia’s ills. Things were not going well. Nicholas had hoped that the war in Europe would bring some reprieve from the disorder of Moscow and St. Petersburg (Petrograd). But if anything, the strikes and workers’ protests and the mutinies within the Russian navy were complicating any political resolution and certainly any collective wisdom about what to do about the growing anarchy. Nicholas had reconciled himself to abdication, but he did not want to leave Russia.

The rest of Europe, however, was looking for a place that would provide a satisfactory exile. Britain was the most likely location. The British Government had long welcomed deposed monarchs and welcomed the idea of extending an invitation to Nicholas and his family. But the British royalty were less welcoming. Their being in the midst of World War I, the British thought they should consult with their ally, France. The latter was definitely uninterested. The Germans might have been willing to accept a dethroned Russian monarch, but they were presently at war with the Russians.

It would seem that no one wanted to compete for the role of saving the Czar’s family. Or bolstering the Provisional Government and the radicalism that arose in the Duma.  Or further spreading of the Russian Revolution elsewhere in Europe. Or using the Czar’s alleged funds “stashed away in European banks” to fund a return of the Russian autocracy.

Rappaport takes us back and forth on the Trans-Siberian railway, to the frozen harbors of the Barents, to the dusty plains of Russian Asia. Nicholas agreed to become a prisoner of the Provisional Government if it meant any guarantee about the safety of his family. Talk of a Crimean exile. Had Nicholas and Alexandria agreed early on to an exile that would have opened up other possibilities?  Murmansk and Archangel would have been likely ports for their departure.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 1918) ended the war between Germany and Russia but failed to mention the fate of the Czar. Though likely the Russian royal family would have been mortified with the idea of being rescued by the Germans. 

What triggered the “murder” as Helen Rappaport called it? Likely it was the growing success of the Bolsheviks and the fear that the Czar would escape and lead a counter-revolution. But can we pronounce with any certainty about the outcomes: what might have been done, but wasn’t.  

The Third Reich; A History of Nazi Germany by Thomas Childers. Simon & Schuster, 2018 paper.

Thomas Childers has introduced many of the politicos who competed with Adolf Hitler for control of the conservative movement in inter-war Germany. Childers has described Hitler’s consolidation of power within the National Socialist German Workers’ Party the NSDAP and his dictatorship lasting from 1933 to 1945. Part of the activist foreign policy that Hitler and the Nazi Party pursued in the inter-war years, Childers makes clear, was meant to be a distraction from these Party struggles.

Adolf Hitler had an early career in Vienna as an artist painting postcards for a living. He had served in the German army in the Great War where he had won an Iron Cross for bravery in combat. He and most Germans believed that Germany had not really lost WWI. Rather, its armies had failed because of a “stab in the back.” Retaining their paramilitary formations, Hitler and others in the National Socialist movement took to the streets. These brown-shirts, as they were called, bothered the peace of Hitler’s Vienna. Its radical leadership could marshal as many as 100,000 of these brown-shirts to party rallies. They maintained their uniforms and their ardor for causing trouble. There were a half-dozen Reichstag elections between 1926 and 1932, ample opportunity to enter party politics and cause trouble.

In additional to his organizational skills, Hitler contributed his speech-making talents to conservative right-wing causes. His oratorical skills were enhanced by the popularity of radios. You could participate in street demonstrations. Or you could listen to them over the radio. He appealed to a heterogeneous group of voters, the working class but also the German middle class, tuned to their new radios. Many of the early challenges to his leadership came from this middle class.

(Adolf Hitler was not a good negotiator; this was clear in his negotiations within the Nazi Party. He would present an initial offer that had to be accepted.)

During the inter-war period, Germany suffered from a failing economy – a huge drop in industrial production and growing unemployment. The rhetoric that explained these economic woes was tinged with Anti-Semitism. It was believed that wealthy Jews had undermined the war effort. This Anti-Semitism, a mix of anger and frustration, colored the right-wing politics of the 1920s and 1930s. In reality it had long been a part of German politics.

The National Socialists were one of many political factions looking for allies that would create sufficient power in the Reichstag and give their party leaders an office. Hitler was good man for this political milieu.

Adolf Hitler used his successful advocacy of an aggressive military policy to further his career. The German military leadership was impressed – bewildered – by Hitler’s guessing correctly so consistently.  Though they faulted his “baseless optimism” and were dubious of his “apocalyptic strategizing.” Thomas Childers argues that the German political leadership, including Hitler, turned to targeting Polish and German Jews when they began to realize that they could not win a war of attrition. And their radical rhetoric was no longer finding its audience.

There has been much speculation about Adolf Hitler’s decision to enter the war between the US and Japan after Pearl Harbor. Perhaps he understood the enormous military might that we would bring with our entry into the European War. Or was it possible that his thinking ahead to a time when the Germans and the Japanese would be dividing up the Far East for themselves.

Having suggested Adolf Hitler’s alleged military acumen, it would be interesting to explain why Hitler let 338,000 Brits escape from Dunkirk in May-June of 1940. Was he looking beyond this success to a time when he might want to gain French and British cooperation against his main obstacle to dominance of continental Europe, the Russian army? In the midst of Dunkirk, was he thinking strategically of an all-out assault on Russia – Operation Barbarossa?  Hitler was well-aware that the military defeat of Russia could only be the result of a slow war of attrition, and Hitler didn’t have the time.

The German army failed to take either Leningrad or Stalingrad. But the German military leadership delayed its invasion of Russia, and then, following Napoleon, let “Winter” and Russian armies halt the German advance.

This is only a brief review of a few of the many interesting observations that Thomas Childers has made of Nationalist Socialist Germany – The Third Reich.

Roosevelt and Stalin; Portrait of a Partnership by Susan Butler. Vintage, 2016 paper.

Even in the dedication of her book, Susan Butler makes her point: “To the 405,000 Americans and the 27,000,000 Russians who died in World War II.” This was an uneven partnership, based on Russia’s assuming a greater share of the human sacrifice. Perhaps for that reason alone Stalin would have had the keener interest in the peaceful settlement to a long and deadly war.

Wars were fought by armies to be sure. But the author has carefully argued that this was not so true of World War II where planning and critical decisions were made well ahead of time and in concert with other allies.

In the nineteenth century, the European peace was dominated by a system of alliances and alignments kept together by the Prussian statesman, Otto Von Bismarck; nothing like the conferences in the inter-war period or the war years. A century after Bismarck’s dismissal, European peace was kept in place by the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, signed on 23 August 1939 by Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov.

Stalin was not fooled into thinking that this Pact was a permanent solution. He hoped that he had bought time, which Russia badly needed. Its army was not in any shape to fight the Wehrmacht at that point. True to the agreement, on 1 September 1939 the German and Russian Armies invaded Poland from their respective sides as they had agreed.

The British also moved to make peace with the German domination of Central Europe. Hence the famous (notorious?) Munich Pact between Britain and Germany, signed on 29 September 1938.

Much of the planning for the Allied conduct of the war and the peace-keeping mechanism after the German defeat took place at a series of conferences that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, and other diplomats attended during World War II

They began with a meeting of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt off the coast of Newfoundland in 1941.  Josef Stalin attended most of the subsequent conferences, which included a varied list of other diplomats. On to Casablanca, Cairo, Tehran, Yalta, and ending with Potsdam after Roosevelt’s death. The American delegation was headed by a less than enthusiastic President Harry Truman. These conferences required huge amounts of planning and much concern about the safety and security of their participants.

These conferences did not anticipate the continued maintenance of post-war Europe by a triumphant American military machine. Nor a North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Instead the peace was to be maintained by an organization called the United Nations and planning for a post-war peace was a major part of the conversation and then commitments that arose out of these discussions.

Most of the issues that these conferences discussed concerned the European front. And here the most significant issue was the opening of another front – Normandy – that would relieve some of the pressure on the Russian armies trying to recapture vast territory lost to the Germans. Stalin understood that the invasion across the English Channel would involve considerable planning, and he wanted to see signs that it had begun. The Russians had timed an offensive on their front to relieve pressure on the American-British army at the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 to January 1945).

The war with Japan in the Far East also involved the some bargaining. The Russians could promise assistance there in return for military equipment – tanks and heavy trucks – in the reoccupation of Poland. The American military leadership was assuming that they would have to invade the Japanese homeland to end the war in the Far East and asking for an unconditional surrender. Hence Russian military assistance would be valuable in that sphere in return for Allied assistance in France. The Roosevelt-Stalin partnership involved some “horse trading,” and critics of our wartime diplomacy believed that we got the worst of it.

Neither Stalin nor Roosevelt was as concerned as Winston Churchill about the fate of European colonialism – particularly India. Britain had used their Sepoy army to fight their battles in colonial Malaysia. Churchill made it clear, “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”  He was always informed about issues coming before the Stalin-Roosevelt partnership, but not always consulted.

Should the “partnership” between Roosevelt and Stalin continue after the War? Opposition within the US to any permanent alliance with the Russians was growing. They; the Russians, “were not our kind of people.”

There were few “thanks” to Russia from members of the Roosevelt Administration. Averell Harriman pointed out that had Russian soldiers not liberated those concentration camps in Poland and Eastern Germany when they did many more American POWs would have died.

We quickly assumed the mantel of the victor and constructed our own stories about the wartime Soviet-American partnership. This was an uneven partnership, so Butler maintains, based on Russia’s bearing a greater share of the fatalities and carnage of WWII.

Unfortunately FDR did not include Harry Truman in the work of these conferences, and when he became President upon Roosevelt’s death, he knew little about these discussions, over this five-year period. Moreover he had a different set of advisors. Many Americans felt that Stalin had taken advantage of an ailing Roosevelt and a novice Mid-Westerner.

Lincoln and the Abolitionists

Lincoln and the Abolitionists; John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War by Fred Kaplan. Harper, 2017.

Abraham Lincoln believed that the presence of free blacks in a white society would perpetuate racial conflict. The abolition of slaves, he argued, would create an unworkable biracial democracy. The author, Fred Kaplan, contrasts Lincoln’s views to those of the Adams family. John Quincy Adams had served two terms as President from 1825 to 1833, and that experience had convinced him that abolition was essential to the future of the republic.

Most abolitionists had no certainty about what to do if and when American slavery ended. Lincoln favored returning black slaves to Africa. Or perhaps creating new colonies for them in South America and the Caribbean.  However, it was not clear who would pay for this colonial alternative. And should slave owners receive financial compensation? Would immigration be forced on the freedmen? Neither Abraham Lincoln nor John Quincy Adams suggested how the country would sort out any multi-racial democracy.

The more immediate problem was whether slavery would be extended to the new territories acquired either by the Louisiana Purchase or as the result of the Mexican War, and particularly Texas. The conflict over continuing or ending slavery had become entangled, Kaplan argues, with the incorporation of new states and territories into a lasting, stable democratic republic.

The necessity to settle this growing political issue was heightened by the increasingly violent opposition to abolition, even in the North. Elijah Lovejoy – preacher, journalist, and abolitionist – owned a printing business in Alton, Illinois. Its presses were destroyed by a pro-slavery mob and Lovejoy was shot dead. Lovejoy’s death as the result of mob violence is often considered to be part of the struggle for free-speech, but Kaplan argues it was also part of the anti-slavery movement. The crowd had a number of passions. Illinois was important, Kaplan points out, in the abolitionist movement. It was also Abraham Lincoln’s home state and important to his political career; he was planning to run for a second term. Springfield became the initial home of his aspirations, and the Sangamo Journal his first print forum.

Lincoln took comfort in the widely held assumption that the North had a superiority in almost all measures essential to waging war.

Some advocates of abolition argued that ultimately the issue of slavery would take care of itself; slavery would gradually disappear. In fact agriculture in the South, Kaplan reports, prospered with the introduction of cotton and sugar and the work force was primarily black slaves. Raw cotton from the South fed the cotton spinning and weaving industries in New England, Britain, and elsewhere.

Lincoln proposed using some tempting to encourage secessionist states to rejoin the union, initially targeting the border states — Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware – where slavery was never so entrenched. In September 1862, he issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Slaves in the remaining states that had rejoined the Union would be freed after a period of time. Lincoln understood that the failure of the Union armies to achieve a battlefield victory was complicating his timing. George McClellan’s victory at Antietam provided that opportunity. Also former bondsmen were showing up everywhere along Union lines and needed to be organized into the fight as freedmen.

The Emancipation Proclamation of the following year was also not a total emancipation, even though it freed three of the four million slaves in those states and territories occupied by Union Armies. Many who had been supporters of what Kaplan calls “anti-slavery moralism,” were disappointed with these several half-measures that Lincoln was taking. Many were also outraged by Lincoln’s declaration of martial rule and his restrictions on speech, which limited the public discussion of emancipation.

But Lincoln, Kaplan argues, was thinking ahead to a post-Civil War America and at least a partial mending of the secession. How to put the country back together again? Healing those divisions was the more important objective of his decision to contest the right of states to secede, and important to the making of the peace.

Kaplan joins virtually all other historians in believing that Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s Vice President was a disaster and his attempts at reconstruction left us saddled with the Jim Crow South and decades of racist policies. Had Booth’s bullets missed their target, post-Civil War America might have been a very different place. Would the Ku Klux Klan have launched its campaign of terror? Would there have been a march across the bridge at Selma, Alabama?

 

 

Grant

          Most military historians, Chernow included, agree that Ulysses S. Grant was the most successful of the Civil War generals on both the Confederate and Union sides. Grant’s origins, however, were humble. He started out working as a tanner in  the small Illinois town of Galena, along the Mississippi. The author of this long biography disagrees with most historians in his evaluation of Grant’s two terms as the US President from 1869 to 1877.

          Grant was as professionally trained as any military commander could be in nineteenth-century America. Appointed to West Point in 1839, he served with distinction in the Mexican War and in 1863 won one of the most important battles of the Civil War, the siege and surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Grant’s contacts at West Point were later important to his rise within the Union Army. He claimed that he knew how Confederate generals – also West Point graduates – would respond to situations as they arose on the battlefield.   

Much has been made of his drinking problem, and Chernow acknowledges that at times Ulysses drank whiskey to the point of inebriation (got dead drunk). Chernow even allows that at times his drinking may have adversely affected his generalship. Though there were commanding qualities that out-weighed this infrequent condition.

The Confederate states believed the Civil War to be a testing of the right to secede from the Union.  And, yes, secession was the issue when the war began, at least for Abraham Lincoln and others in the Lincoln Administration. But by 1863 both Lincoln and Grant thought the War to be the opportunity to end slavery adding, emancipation to secession. General Grant argued for the incorporation of blacks into the Union Army, especially after the draft riots in New York showed that there would be resistance to conscription.

Grant believed the War would be won, not by occupying cities but by defeating Confederate armies and then pursuing them as they retreated. Lincoln was relieved to have found a general who agreed with his war strategy.

Grant found that these black volunteers made good soldiers. They should be recruited to share in the battle for their freedom. The South, on the other hand, looked upon black soldiers as runaway slaves (most of them were) and should suffer the fate that absconding slaves had always suffered.

Later when Grant began the negotiations with General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, one of his concerns was the protection of the Negro from white racism. In the early negotiations Lee insisted that, as part of any agreement to end the war, the North should agree to return freedman to their former masters. Would this be for an appropriate punishment? Grant did not consent to this condition.

In December 1862 Grant made what he considers to have been his greatest mistake during his command of the Army of Tennessee. He issued General Order # 11 expelling all Jews in his military district. As a commander of the Army, Grant was responsible for the licensing of traders. His order was intended to deal with the ‘Israelite profiteers’ who were obtaining contracts to supply Southern cotton to the New England and European mill industry through “corruption” – a black market. The order was immediately rescinded.

Perhaps Chernow spends too much time on Grant’s wife, Julia. She and Mary Lincoln did not get along. When Lincoln invited General and Mrs. Grant to attend a play at Ford Theater, it was politely declined. The afternoon before the performance Mrs. Grant noticed that a horseman was peering into their carriage. It turned out to have been John Wilkes Booth. There is some evidence that Booth was “stalking” both President and General. Was Grant slated to be assassinated as well?  

Grant is praised for his generosity to the defeated foe at Appomattox. Both he and Lee wished to prevent the Confederate army from breaking up into bands of raiders, waging guerrilla warfare. Ulysses S. Grant was also positioning himself to run for the presidency against Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s Vice-President.

          Chernow hopes to persuade us that much injustice is done to Grant’s two Presidential terms. They were besmeared by the corruption of the post-Civil War administrations, Andrew Johnson’s and then his own as well.

          Almost immediately with the surrender, race riots broke out in Memphis, New Orleans, and elsewhere. The Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups began their intimidation of the black voters and jurists. Lynching, burning black churches and homes, intimidation of witnesses when perpetrators were brought to trial, and other acts of violence against the new freedmen were common throughout the old Confederacy. A caste system evolved with its black codes which we collectively call Jim Crow. President Johnson was criticized for doing nothing about the violence. His impeachment was defeated by a single vote.

A two-term presidency was an easy win for Grant. He considered a third, unprecedented term at his wife’s urging. But he was ready to go home.

          Grant inherited the violence and dealt with it as he could – with opposition from states’ rights advocates. He turned to weaving the three Post-War amendments into the fabric of our constitutional structure. And he never forgot what the author calls the spirit of Appomattox.

 A Civil Rights Act passed in 1875 was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1883. And not passed until 1957 and 1964.

Ulysses Grant was also a strong supporter of Native Americans and white-settler resistance to encroachment in Dakota Territory. Were he around today Grant would be a strong supporter of the new Crazy Horse Monument being carved near Mount Rushmore. Grant would also probably have agreed to the four presidents to be carved on Mount Rushmore. Perhaps we should add a second team to the Rushmore first team. Certainly Woodrow Wilson would be included. Would Ulysses S. Grant?

Dietrich and Riefenstahl; Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives by Karin Wieland and Shelley Frisch, trans. W.W. Norton, 2016, paper.

 

Marlene Dietrich (1904-1992) and Leni Riefenstahl (1902- 2003) both began life as daughters of moderately prosperous German families in Berlin. Both families were upwardly mobile, and their dreams were realized in their daughters’ successful careers in the 1930s. Both daughters were beautiful women. But similarities begin to play out as their careers diverged.

 

Berlin had survived the Great War and the revolution that followed German defeat. The city was home to the new German film industry; there were large movie theaters opening in the 1920s.  German cinema was, however, even then under the thrall of Hollywood. Dietrich spent most of her acting life in California and New York. Riefenstahl wanted to be a dancer but after an injury, took up acting and then directing films. She formed her own production company in 1931.

 

German cinema began with “mountain films,” an odd genre that celebrated the perils and triumphs of mountain climbing but had no plots. Perhaps the most celebrated, “The Holy Mountain,” premiered in Berlin in 1926 and starred Leni Riefenstahl.

 

About that time Riefenstahl became enamored with the rising star of Weimar politics, Adolf Hitler. She found him spellbinding and attended his rallies.  He admired her work. (Hitler’s only love, however, was his Germany) and soon Riefenstahl was commissioned to film the National Socialist Party rallies in Nuremberg. The 1934 documentary, “The Triumph of the Will”, was distributed by Joseph Goebbels’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment. A propaganda effort, the film was also an attempt to get the German public to forget the recent deadly rupture between Hitler and the leader of the SA, Ernst Röhm – the “night of the long knives.”

 

Riefenstahl’s film was widely received as a successful documentary and remains much respected. Wieland suggests that these rallies drew huge disorderly crowds to Nuremberg and Riefenstahl’s film imposed whatever order there was at these rallies.

 

Meanwhile Marlene Dietrich’s career was taking another turn altogether. She had hooked up with a German-American director Josef von Sternberg who worked for Paramount Pictures in Hollywood and had been invited back to Berlin in 1930 to direct Germany’s first talkie, ‘The Blue Angel.” He needed a “discovery” for the main female part. Dietrich fit the bill. She signed a contract for two films a year.

 

She was paid $125,000 for each film, an enormous sum, but Dietrich loved to spend money, and her finances were often rocky. Moreover as she aged, she found it difficult to keep up her young, glamorous film star notoriety. She married, had a child, and then a grandchild which also compromised that persona. Dietrich never really liked Hollywood; she preferred New York. In 1939 she became an American citizen.

 

In 1939 Leni Riefenstahl accompanied the Wehrmacht when it invaded Poland to film a documentary. She came upon an incident where some Polish workers were being badly mistreated. She lodged a complaint; nothing happened except that she was not invited back to cover the subsequent occupations of Ukraine and Russia.

 

By way of contrast, Marlene Dietrich volunteered for the United Service Organization (USO) and entertained American troops in North Africa and Europe. Although tiring work, she enjoyed the travel and was, according to Wieland, a huge success.

 

After the War, this most beautiful grandmother in the world had difficulties finding work. Westerns came to her rescue! With these movie shoots, she often included some fun in bed with other actors and particularly producers. Which we learn about in great detail.

 

After the war Riefenstahl, according to Karin Wieland, displayed a shocking egomania, days – years – full of self-pity. In 1948 she had to undergo denazification hearings. Cleared, she was able to resume her career. Most German artists welcomed the new influences on their art coming from Europe and North America after the war, having been largely cut off from them from 1933 to 1945. That was not true of Riefenstahl.

 

However, she did manage a post-war career. She accompanied some anthropologists to Africa and photographed the Nuba in the Sudan and turned those photographs into several successful books. The well-muscled males wrestled and dueled with knives in the nude. Cultural critic, Susan Sontag, argues that you can still see in this collection the aesthetics of her films from the Nazi era. Certainly that is true of the films of the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin.

 

Two complaints about the book. Too much shifting of the spotlight back and forth between Dietrich and Riefenstahl. Also, Wieland provides some political and cultural background, but mostly prior to the Nazi regime. Defeat in the Great War, the stab-in-the-back legend, hyper-inflation, and certainly the growing animosity toward German Jews in the inter-war years are neglected. There is only a mention of Kristallnacht, a massive pogrom in 1938 in Berlin and elsewhere that made anti-Jewish sentiments available for everyone to see – if they wished.