Rhoda was not blind to the Nazi abuses. After her first walk in the Tiergarten, she refused to go back. It was far more clean, pretty, and charming than any American public park, she admitted, but the signs on the benches, juDEN vERBoTEN, were nauseating. Seeing similar signs in restaurant windows, she would recoil and demand to go elsewhere. Pug told her of his interview with Rosenthal, she had a deep attack of,the blues: she wanted to forgo the house and even talked of getting out of Germany. "My, imagine! Renting out that beautiful house for a song, just to keep it from being sold over his head-to some fat Nazi, no doubt, lying in wait to pick it off cheap. How horrible." But she agreed that they had better take it.
They had to live somewhere, and the house was divine. Day by day, she reacted less to such things, seeing how commonplace they were in Berlin, and how much taken for granted. When Sally Forrest, who loathed the Nazis, took her to lunch at a restaurant where a window placard announced that Jews were not served, it seemed silly to protest. Soon she ate in such places without a second thought. In time, the Tiergarten became her favorite place for a Sunday stroll. But she insisted that anti-Semitism was a blot on an otherwise exciting, lovely land. She would say so to prominent Nazis. Some stiffened, others tolerantly smirked. A few hinted that the problem would straighten out in time. "I'm an American to the bone, going back six generations," she would say, 'and I'll never see eye to eye with you on this business of the Jews. It's absolutely awful."
Most Germans seemed resigned to this independent, outspoken manner of American women and the way their husbands tolerated it; they regarded it as a national oddity. Victor Henry stayed off the Jewish topic. Nazi Germany was a big, not readily digestible lump of new life. Most foreigners were strongly for or against the Nazis. The correspondents, as Kip Tollever had observed, hated them to a man. Within the embassy views varied. According to some, Hitler was the greatest menace to America since 1776. He would stop at nothing less than world rule, and the day he was strong enough, he would attack the United States. Others saw him as a benefactor, the only bulwark in Europe against Communism. The democracies had shown themselves impotent against the spread of Bolshevist parties, they said.
Hitler fought totalitarian fire with hotter and stronger fire. These judgments, either way, stood on slender bases of knowledge. Pressing his new acquaintances for facts, Victor Henry got vehement opinions and gestures. Statistics abounded in sheaves of analyses and rePorts, but too much of this stuff came down to guesses, propaganda, and questionable paid intelligence. He tried to study German history late at night and found it a muddy tangle going back more than a thousand years. In it he could find no pattern and no guide at all to the problems Of 1939. just to figure out where the Nazis had come from, and what the secret was of Hitler's hold on the Germans, seemed a task beyond him and beyond anybody he talked to; even the outlandish question of German anti-Semitismhad a dozen different explanations, depending on which of any twelve Foreign Service men you asked. Commander Henry decided that he would grope uselessly if he tried to fathom these major matters in a hurry.
Military capacity was something he knew about; it was a narrow but derisive aspect of Hitler's Third Empire. Was Nazi Germany as strong as the ever-marching columns in the streets, and the throngs of uniforms in cafes, suggested? Was it all a show, no more substantial than the transparent red cheesecloth of the towering swastika banners? Deciding to take nothing for granted and to marshal facts for himself, Victor Henry dug into the job of penetrating this one puzzle.