Over the weekend I finished reading Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts,” which a friend recommended to me. I haven’t read much narrative nonfiction before, but this one is amazing. I could hardly put it down. It made me want to explore some of Larson’s other books.
As readers we follow the story of William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, and his family.
They are gradually awakened to the horrific reality that the next world war, which everyone had been trying to avoid, is inevitable if Hitler and his supporters are not stopped.
(Note: I’ve linked to a book review by NPR, which you can read by clicking on the image of the book. It deals with some very adult material. I’d strongly advise reader discretion if you check this out further.)
And this particular passage really stood out to me in the context of multicultural marriages. This is from Chapter 21, “The Trouble with George”:
“Within Germany, a great flywheel had been set in motion that drove the country inexorably toward some dark place alien to Dodd’s recollection of the old Germany he had known as a student. … Especially strange to him was the Nazi fixation on racial purity. A draft of a new penal code had begun to circulate that proposed to make it a key buttress of German law. The American vice consul in Leipzig, Henry Leverich, found the draft an extraordinary document and wrote an analysis: “For the first time, therefore, in German legal history the draft code contains definite suggestions for protection of the German Race from what is considered the disintegration caused by an intermixture of Jewish and colored blood.” If the code became law – and he had no doubt it would – then henceforth “it shall be considered as a crime for a gentile man or woman to marry a Jewish or colored man or woman.” “
Now obviously I’m biased. But reading about how racial bigotry was codified into law not too long ago is a chilling reminder of how easy it is for us as human beings to separate the “others” of our society from ourselves, then use it to justify unspeakable cruelty against them.
One of the most poignant scenes in this book is the story of a prominent German columnist, Wera von Huhn, or “Poulette.” After Hitler’s Germany required everyone to find out their racial heritage for several generations, she searched for her papers and discovered her grandmother had been Jewish.
Larson writes, “With that news her life had been abruptly, irrevocably altered. Come January she would join a wholly new social stratum consisting of thousands of people stunned to learn they had Jewish relatives somewhere in their past.”
Her job was gone. Her whole career demolished in the work of an instant. Later in the book we learn she commits suicide.
As mentioned before, I believe multicultural marriage is one of the best examples of the very character of an interracial, multicultural God. And on a practical level, it’s one of the best actions we can take toward a more peaceful, unified world.
If we are all part of the same human family, then we can’t point fingers at one race and say, “This one is subhuman,” or “That one is better.”
For if we have family ties to every race, we will simply be pointing the finger at ourselves.