Cover for Plotkin: An American in Hitler's  Berlin: Abraham Plotkin's Diary, 1932-33. Click for larger image

An American in Hitler's Berlin

Abraham Plotkin's Diary, 1932-33

An American labor leader's eyewitness perspective on the rise of Nazi power in Weimar-era Berlin

This is the first published edition of the diary of Abraham Plotkin, an American labor leader of immigrant Jewish origin who lived in Berlin between November 1932 and May 1933. A firsthand account of the Weimar Republic's final months and the early rise of Nazi power in Germany, Plotkin's diary focuses on the German working class, the labor movement, and the plight of German Jews. Plotkin investigated Berlin's social conditions with the help of German Social-Democratic leaders whose analyses of the situation he records alongside his own.

Compared to the writings of other American observers of the Third Reich, Plotkin's diary is unique in style, scope, themes, and time span. Most accounts of Hitler's rise to power emphasize political institutions by focusing on the Nazi party's clashes with other political forces. In contrast, Plotkin is especially attentive to socioeconomic factors, providing an alternative view from the left that stems from his access to key German labor and socialist leaders. Chronologically, the diary reports on the moment when Hitler's seizure of power was not yet inevitable and when leaders on the left still believed in a different outcome of the crisis, but it also includes Plotkin's account of the complete destruction of German labor in May 1933.


“[Plotkin] is an astute observer and captures everchanging moods.”--Jewish Book World

"A harrowing picture of Berlin ravaged by the Depression, the Weimar Republic's last months and the onset of Nazism. . . . A rich subtle and extremely readable account of a crucial moment in German history."--European Journal of American Studies.

"A rare jewel. . . . An extremely valuable source for comparative labour historians and for historians of the Weimar Republic and of National Socialism."--Revue Francaise D'etudes Americaines

"Once I started reading this work, I could not put it down. Plotkin's diary is a remarkable analysis 'from the bottom up' of German society, working-class institution, and politics in the period of transition from the Weimar Republic to the rise of Hitler. A very important book."--Fraser Ottanelli, University of South Florida

"Plotkin's writing is lively and conveys a vivid portrayal of German political and economic life on the eve of the Nazi takeover. It also provides an excellent sense of the impact of the Great Depression on German society. A valuable contribution to German history, labor history, and Jewish history."--Vicki Caron, author of Uneasy Asylum: France and the Jewish Refugee Crisis, 1933-1942

"We have almost no eyewitness accounts of this period from nonjournalist observers and certainly none from the perspective of an American working-class observer. This work adds significantly to our knowledge on the history of internationalist trade unionism in the U.S. during the 1920s and 1930s, which is under-researched for this period. Highly recommended."--Dorothee Schneider, coauthor of "My Life in Germany before and after January 30, 1933": Refugee Memoirs and Experiences


Catherine Collomp is a professor of American history at Université Paris VII-Denis Diderot and the author of several books and many articles on American labor and immigration history. Bruno Groppo, a specialist of comparative labor history, is a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique (Paris).

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