National Post (National Edition)
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Bella Fromm was born into a wealthy and well-connected Jewish family in Nuremberg in the last decade of the 19th century. When her family lost its money during the inflation crisis of the 1920s she resorted to journalism, using her contacts to establish herself as a society correspondent, writing about the activities of the upper echelon of German society.
This put her in the unusual position of mixing with the rising figures of National Socialism throughout the 1930s. Unable to put her feelings into print, she confined them to a personal diary. While she smiled and sipped cocktails with top Nazis and their slithering acolytes in working hours, she vented against them in its pages: Joseph Goebbels, a “peculiar-looking dwarf ” who specialized in seducing secretaries after ordering their husbands out of town. “Fat” Hermann Goering with his fetish for medals and uniforms, and the Fuehrer himself, “a plain-looking man” who almost made her gag when — not aware of her bloodline — he insisted on kissing her hand. Though Hitler might have been able to move vast crowds, in polite society “he was self-conscious and inferior in attitude. He did not know what to do with his hands. He clung to his handkerchief or pushed his greasy forelock from his brow.”
Fromm sent her daughter to America but stuck around herself as long as she could use her connections to help others flee. Her friends dwindled, via escape, murder or suicide.
When her employers suggested a loyal Nazi's byline be put atop her articles she finally packed her bags for the U.S., where her efforts to warn people of the horrors building in Germany went unheeded.
She published her diary (Blood and Banquets, a Berlin Diary 1930-38) in 1942. By then the warnings were too late. It's a testament to the willingness of people everywhere to look the other way rather than recognize dangers that are too frightening to confront.
(S.J. PERELMAN) SOUGHT THE PERFECTION OF PHRASE AS MUSICIANS SEEK ABSOLUTE MELODY, PARODY HIS CHOSEN FIELD OF OPERATIONS, AND PERFECTION OF THE SENTENCE, IN DICTION, FLOW AND ORNAMENT, HIS ALWAYS ATTENDANT AMBITION. — REX MURPHY