Review of Richard Breitman’s The Berlin Mission: The American Who Resisted Nazi Germany from Within


Richard Breitman’s account of U.S. Foreign Service Senior Consul Raymond Geist’s heroic efforts at warning FDR and other high U.S. officials of the evil of Hitler’s grandiose plans to conquer and dominate the world and Geist’s efforts from the mid to late 1930’s through the end of WWII to save as many as possible European Jews from Hitler and his sustained barbaric efforts to rid the world of Jews through economic, social and emotional, and physical isolation and ultimately extermination through implementation of the final solution is readable as it is dense (i.e., packed) with little known details, entities and figures.

Of course, besides Hitler, there is the SA, SS, Göring, Himmler, Goebbels, and to a lesser extent, Heydrich and others who are well-familiar to those who are fairly well-read in this area. More importantly, Breitman’s account reveals the actions of far more lesser officials that Geist dealt with. Many histories of Nazi Germany only mention in passing and sometimes not at all.

As always with books of these kind, it is an eye opener and a learning experience. It is a daunting prospect to get a sense of Geist’s unflagging efforts during the period of time before Germany declared war on the U.S.  His knowledge of Nazi Germany, its policies and leaders and its efforts to become a world power was immense and unparalleled at the time. Still further was Geist’s ability to get in good with leaders and officials of all stripes in the Nazi government without raising alarm bells from within. His experiences are the building blocks of “neutral” diplomacy that that extracts from one’s enemies results in areas they never intended to give ground on. Geist exemplified Sun Tzu’s maxim, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Breitman’s book goes into the labyrinth of immigration policies that changed by the minute and often were contradictory and made little or no sense and which Geist had to negotiate to accomplish what he did. Geist’s world was one of hostile disbelieving keep-away tactics of Congress, administration officials, and other influential policy, religious, and business leaders in their efforts to stem the tide of Jewish immigration prior to and during WWII for reasons that included rampant and unapologetic -Antisemitism and appeasement of Hitler.

The Berlin Mission: The American Who Resisted Nazi Germany is a good companion to Robert Murphy’s Diplomat Among Warriors and the encyclopedic account, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer.

Copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.