A chilling reminder from Nazi Germany

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.

"In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik LarsonFor those who haven’t read it, the book is a sobering look into Hitler’s rise to power before World War II.

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.

About multiculturalmarriage

I'm glad to be part of a multicultural marriage! I grew up in the U.S. but am married to an African husband. This makes life challenging, creative and cool - all at the same time!
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5 Responses to A chilling reminder from Nazi Germany

  1. 40isthenew13 says:

    Just reading this book now and a search on Wera took me to your post. Nicely said. Couldn’t agree more.

    • Thanks so much! What else have you been reading?

      • 40isthenew13 says:

        I love literary journalism, so I just ordered A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping that Haunted a Nation. Have you heard about it? It’s the story of a 4-yr-old boy who disappeared in Louisiana in 1912, and his parents searched until they found a child they thought was him. This was disputed, went to court, and they eventually raised him as their own. 2004 DNA tests showed he was not related to the Dunbar family, and his granddaughter wrote a book. Can’t wait to read it! How about you?

        • Oh wow, that sounds intense! Let me know what you think when you’ve read it, because it sounds like something I’d be interested in reading too.

          Have you ever read “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer? That’s a fantastic non-fiction account of the life of Chris McCandless, and if you like literary journalism, there’s a good chance you’ll like this one too. Even though Chris dies in his attempt to live in “the wild,” it’s still a very thought-provoking account of his life and the things he accomplished in it.

          My reading has unfortunately suffered during the last few weeks, but I’m hoping to read more in the fall when hopefully things settle down a bit.

          • 40 is the new 13 says:

            I’ll definitely let you know what I think. I’ve paged through it and looks like a good read. “Into the Wild” sounds very interesting, thanks for the recommendation. I’ll put in next on my list. I hope you enjoy more books as things slow down for you. I’ve been running image searches on lots of Nazis, trying to put faces to all these names in the Dodd story.

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