Tag Archives: william e dodd

Polite Conversation in the Early Days of Nazi Germany

William-Dodd_178608kI’m reading In the Garden of Beasts¬†which is the story of an American professor (not much different than me 30 years from now) serving as ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in 1933.

The story is terrifying because it describes a civil world on the verge of turning to destructive hatred and insanity, and shows how easy it is to ignore the signs of impending doom. The momentum of polite conversation at a respectable dinner party can drown out the strongest of our moral intuitions.

Again, the story is terrifying because I continue putting myself in the place of the main character, William E Dodd, and fail to ask the questions I wish I was fearless enough to ask. I am haunted by the thought that the people who were committing the worst atrocities in the 1940’s were not much different than the average American just a decade before.

I’d like to believe that the internet has changed the vulnerability of the masses to brain-washing. It has put massive stores of information at our fingertips. But perhaps, I’m being naive in that optimism and atrocities are always around the corner, just as long as we wait for the generation that remembers the previous one to die out.

I highly recommend the book because unlike other perspectives on the Third Reich, this one focuses exclusively on that most critical transition between something very similar to modern American society to the completely breakdown of thereof under Hitler.