FremantleMedia made its money with reality fare like American Idol and The X Factor, but that money will be put to good use funding a new project. Marshall Herskovitz (Love and Other Drugs) will write and executive produce a drama series based on the Andrew Nagorski book Hitlerland. The series starts in 1920s Berlin and chronicles the rise of Hitler and the Nazis through the eyes of American diplomats. Herskovitz elaborated on the appeal of the setting for Deadline:
“Berlin during the 1920s and ’30s was so alive, so filled with promise, so incredibly modern—even today, much of what we think of as new or avant-garde was created then. And it’s equally important—in light of the dark forces in our world today—to understand how a group like the Nazis ever came to power.”
More, including the book synopsis, after the jump.
The premise is fascinating. I don’t know if Hitlerland will have a Boardwalk Empire-style budget, but the potential for the sets and costumes is sky high. The “American diplomat” perspective takes care of the pesky problem of why everyone must speak English. The key selling point for me, though, is Herskovitz. Herskovitz (along with writing partner Ed Zwick) is the king of naturalistic TV soaps—his producing credits include Thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, and Once and Again. I trust Herskovitz to set the right tone for such intriguing material, and hope the project makes it to series.
Here’s the book synopsis:
Hitler’s rise to power, Germany’s march to the abyss, as seen through the eyes of Americans—diplomats, military, expats, visiting authors, Olympic athletes—who watched horrified and up close. By tapping a rich vein of personal testimonies, Hitlerlandoffers a gripping narrative full of surprising twists—and a startlingly fresh perspective on this heavily dissected era.
Some of the Americans in Weimar and then Hitler’s Germany were merely casual observers, others deliberately blind; a few were Nazi apologists. But most slowly began to understand the horror of what was unfolding, even when they found it difficult to grasp the breadth of the catastrophe.
Among the journalists, William Shirer, Edgar Mowrer, and Dorothy Thompson were increasingly alarmed. Consul General George Messersmith stood out among the American diplomats because of his passion and courage. Truman Smith, the first American official to meet Hitler, was an astute political observer and a remarkably resourceful military attachÉ. Historian William Dodd, whom FDR tapped as ambassador in Hitler’s Berlin, left disillusioned; his daughter Martha scandalized the embassy with her procession of lovers from her initial infatuation with Nazis she took up with. She ended as a Soviet spy.
On the scene were George Kennan, who would become famous as the architect of containment; Richard Helms, who rose to the top of the CIA; Howard K. Smith, who would coanchor the ABC Evening News. The list of prominent visitors included writers Sinclair Lewis and Thomas Wolfe, famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, the great athlete Jesse Owens, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, and black sociologist and historian W.E.B. Dubois.
Observing Hitler and his movement up close, the most perceptive of these Americans helped their reluctant countrymen begin to understand the nature of Nazi Germany as it ruthlessly eliminated political opponents, instilled hatred of Jews and anyone deemed a member of an inferior race, and readied its military and its people for a war for global domination. They helped prepare Americans for the years of struggle ahead. [Amazon]