Book extract from: The Third Reich in Power (2005).
Fear of being denounced, overheard or arrested extended even to private conversations, letters and telephone calls. As early as March and April 1933, Victor Klemperer was complaining in his diary: ‘Nobody dares to say anything any more, everyone’s afraid.’216 The Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February 1933 allowed the Gestapo to open people’s letters and tap their telephones, so, reported Klemperer: ‘People don’t dare write letters, people don’t dare to phone each other, they visit each other and calculate their chances.’217 In Berlin, the journalist Charlotte Beradt heard a Social Democratic friend confide to her early in February 1933 a dream he had had, in which Goebbels had visited his workplace, but the dreamer had found it almost impossible to raise his arm in the Nazi salute, and when he finally managed it after half an hour, Goebbels said coldly: ‘I don’t want your salute.’ Alienation from himself, loss of identity, isolation, fear, doubt, all the feelings expressed here were so striking that Beradt decided to make a collection of people’s dreams. By the time she finally left for England in 1939, her unobtrusive inquiries among friends and acquaintances, particularly doctors, who were unlikely to arouse their patients’ suspicions by asking about their dreams, had amassed a collection large enough to fill a book even after all the dreams with no discernible political significance had been weeded out.218
Many of the dreams Beradt collected bore witness to people’s fear of surveillance. One doctor dreamed in 1934 that the walls of his consulting-room and of all the houses and flats in the neighbourhood suddenly vanished, while a loudspeaker blared forth the announcement that it was ‘according to the Decree for the Abolition of Walls, passed on the 17th of this month’. A woman dreamed that when she was at the opera, watching a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, a troop of policemen marched into her box immediately after the line ‘That’s surely the Devil’ had been sung, because they had noted that she had thought of Hitler in connection with the word Devil. As she looked around for help, the old gentleman in the next box spat on her. A girl reported that in a dream she had seen the two pictures of angels that hung over her bed move their eyes downwards from their accustomed heavenward gaze so that they could keep her under observation. A number of people dreamed of being imprisoned behind barbed wire, or having their telephone conversations interrupted, like one man who, after telling his brother over the telephone ‘I can’t enjoy anything any more’, dreamed the same night that his phone had rung and an expressionless voice had announced itself as ‘Office for the Surveillance of Telephone Conversations’: the dreamer immediately realized that being depressed in the Third Reich was a crime, and had asked for forgiveness, but met with nothing but silence. A few dreamed of carrying out small acts of resistance that always turned out to be futile, like the woman who dreamed that she removed the swastika from the Nazi flag every night, but it reappeared every morning all the same.219 In recounting and analysing all these dreams, Charlotte Beradt recalled a claim by the Labour Front leader Robert Ley: ‘The only person in Germany who still has a private life is a person who’s sleeping.’ The dreams she collected showed, she concluded gloomily, that even this was not true.220
216 . Klemperer, Tagebücher 1933-34, 9 (10 March 1933).
217 . Ibid., 19 (2 April 1933).
218 . Charlotte Beradt, Das Dritte Reich des Traums (Frankfurt am
Main, 1981 ); 7 for this particular dream.
219 . Ibid., 19-22, 40, 74.
220 . Ibid., 5. Ley’s statement can be found in Robert Ley, Soldaten
der Arbeit (Munich, 1938), 71.
Richard Evans on 'The Third Reich of Dreams' by Charlotte Berad (1968).