Trouble at the Neighbor’s

As summer neared, the sense of unease in Berlin became acute. The mood was “tense and electric,” Martha wrote. “Everyone felt there was something in the air but did not know what it was.”

The strange atmosphere and the fragile condition of Germany were topics of conversation at a late-afternoon Tee-Empfang—a tea party—hosted by Putzi Hanfstaengl on Friday, June 8, 1934, which the Dodd family attended.

On their way home from the tea, the Dodds could not help but notice that something unusual was happening in Bendlerstrasse, the last side street they passed before reaching their house. There, in easy view, stood the buildings of the Bendler Block, army headquarters. Indeed, the Dodds and the army were almost back-fence neighbors—a man with a strong arm could throw a stone from the family’s yard and expect to break one of the army’s windows.

The change was obvious. Soldiers stood on the roofs of headquarters buildings. Heavily armed patrols moved along the sidewalks. Army trucks and Gestapo cars clogged the street.

These forces remained throughout Friday night and Saturday. Then, Sunday morning, June 10, the troops and trucks were gone.

At the Dodds’ house a coolness spread outward from the forested ground of the Tiergarten. There were riders in the park, as always, and the thud of hooves was audible in the Sunday-morning quiet.

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