Few journalists irritated Nazi authorities more than American columnist Dorothy Thompson. In the 1930s and 1940s, she used her voice to denounce Nazi policies, call attention to the plight of the regime’s many victims, and urge action by the US government to aid refugees from the Third Reich. Thompson was a famous journalist whose outspoken personality attracted attention both at home and abroad.
In the mid-1920s, Thompson earned a reputation as a writer with a “nose for news.” In fall 1931, she interviewed Adolf Hitler for Cosmopolitan magazine.1 By that time, Hitler had built up a huge national following in Germany and the Nazis had become the largest political party within the German parliament. Thompson’s article depicted Hitler as insecure and incapable of leading Germany, which angered Nazi officials. However, Thompson underestimated Hitler’s support: on January 30, 1933, the figure she described as a “little man” was appointed German chancellor.
The Nazi Party’s rise to power had important consequences both for the German press and the international media working in Germany. Within months, the new regime shut down hundreds of newspapers, destroyed or confiscated their printing presses, and began intimidating foreign journalists into leaving the country.2 In May 1933, a US diplomat in Berlin reported several instances of Nazi officials pressuring American journalists or trying to have them removed for irritating the German government or the Nazi Party.3
Only one day after her arrival in Berlin in 1934, the German Secret Police (Gestapo) gave Dorothy Thompson an order to leave the country within 24 hours.4 Despite warnings that targeting Thompson would cause a “nation-wide sensation” and “advertise everything she had said [about Germany] all over the democratic world,” the Gestapo insisted on expelling her for her critical interview with Hitler and her articles for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).5
Thompson’s expulsion became an international controversy. She left Berlin for Paris, where she was greeted by reporters eager for the story. Likely recorded for a newsreel, the featured clip was filmed in Paris just days after her expulsion from Nazi Germany. In the film, Thompson seems less concerned about her own expulsion than the threats faced by other foreign correspondents. She also warns that “the nature of journalism” itself was being threatened by Nazi censorship.