A selection from Charlotte Beradt’s Dreams of the Third Reich.
Beradt was a journalist in Germany when Hitler took power and, inspired by the first dream below “set out to collect the dreams the Nazi regime had generated”—which she did until she left the country in 1939. She published a few of them in 1943, in an article called “Dreams under Dictatorship,” but the book was not published until 1966. She notes that she “deliberately omitted all dreams involving violence or any physical expression of fear” and provides one short example: I awoke bathed in sweat. As had happened many nights before, I had been shot at, martyred, and scalped—had run for my life with blood streaming and teeth knocked out, Storm Troopers constantly on my heels.
I have included the date where Beradt provides it and her description of the dreamer.
(1933), “a man of about sixty and the owner of a middle-sized factory”:
Goebbels was visiting my factory. He had all the workers line up in two rows facing each other. I had to stand in the middle and raise my arm in the Nazi salute. It took me half an hour to get my arm up, inch by inch. Goebbels showed neither approval nor disapproval as he watched my struggle, as if it were a play. When I finally managed to get my arm up, he said just five words—”I don’t want your salute”—then turned and went to the door. There I stood in my own factory, arm raised, pilloried right in the midst of my own people. I was only able to keep from collapsing by staring at his clubfoot as he limped out. And so I stood until I woke up.
(1934), “a forty-five-year-old doctor”:
It was about nine o’clock in the evening. My consultations were over, and I was just stretching out on the couch to relax with a book on Matthias Grünewald, when suddenly the walls of my room and then my apartment disappeared. I looked around and discovered to my horror that as far as the eye could see no apartment had walls any more. Then I heard a loudspeaker boom, “According to the decree of the 17th of this month on the Abolition of Walls…”
(1933), “a cultivated, pampered, liberal-minded woman of some thirty years, with no profession”:
First dream: In place of the street signs which had been abolished, posters had been set up on every corner, proclaiming in white letters on a black background the twenty words people were not allowed to say. The first was “Lord”—to be on the safe side I must have dreamt it in English. I don’t recall the following words and possibly didn’t even dream them, but the last one was “I.”
Second dream: I was sitting in a box at the opera, dressed in a new gown, and with my hair beautifully done. It was a huge opera house with many, many tiers, and I was enjoying considerable admiration. They were presenting my favorite opera, The Magic Flute. When it came to the line, “That is the devil certainly,” a squad of policemen came stomping in and marched directly up to me. A machine had registered the fact that I had thought of Hitler on hearing the word “devil.” I imploringly searched the festive crowd for some sign of help, but they all just sat there staring straight ahead, silent and expressionless, not one showing even pity. The old gentleman in an adjoining box looked kind and distinguished, but when I tried to catch his eye he spat at me.
Third dream: I knew that all books were being collected and burned. Not wanting to part with the old pencil- marked copy of Don Carlos I had had ever since schooldays, I hid it under the maid’s bed. But when the Storm Troopers came to take away the books, they marched, feet stomping, straight to the maid’s room…They pulled the book out from under the bed and threw it on the truck that was to take it to the bonfire.
At that point I discovered that I had only hidden an atlas and not my Don Carlos —and still I stood by with a guilty feeling and let them take it away.
(1933), “an elderly woman mathematics teacher”:
It was forbidden under penalty of death to write down anything concerned with mathematics. I took refuge in a night club (never in my life have I set foot in such a place). Drunks staggered around, the waitresses were half naked, and the music was deafening. I took a piece of tissue paper out of my pocketbook and proceeded to write down a couple of equations in invisible ink, and was frightened to death.