Hitler’s Girl

Harper: HarperCollins. Jul. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9780062936738. $29.99. HIST
When a cache of classified documents covering the 1930s opened to researchers, Young pored over them looking for evidence of the nature and extent of support for appeasement in Britain in the pre-war period. What she found was damning: direct existence of a “murky fifth column” of British aristocrats insidiously collaborating with Germany, in the hope fascism would triumph at home as well as abroad. Parts of the story are familiar: Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts; the aristocratic Mitford sisters widely broadcast antisemitism and enthusiasm for Hitler (notably 22-year-old Unity Mitford’s 140 meetings with the Führer in 1935–39); Hitler’s courting of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and their support for him, which edged up to the brink of treason. But Young’s new evidence confirms not only the danger British fascists posed to the nation but also the government’s embarrassing, often inexplicable unwillingness to take steps against them. She also looks at evidence suggesting that Unity Mitford might have given birth to Hitler’s baby.
VERDICT Though it will be primarily of interest to history buffs, this may be a cautionary tale for today. Democratic institutions are fragile and many of the problems roiling the waters of the ’30s are ascendant again.
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