Clayton’s William E. Dodd, Minister to Hitler’s Germany

William E. Dodd and his family arrive in Hamburg, Germany in 1933. Image from  the Library of Congress.On June 8, 1933, William Edward Dodd, a Johnston County native, was appointed ambassador to Germany amid rising tensions in Europe.

Born in 1869 near Clayton, Dodd studied history at what’s now Virginia Tech, earning a master’s degree in 1897. Shorty thereafter, he sailed for Germany and entered the University of Leipzig in pursuit of a Ph.D. in history.  Dodd returned to America in 1899, and later taught history at Randolph-Macon College and the University of Chicago, where he became a nationally-renowned expert on the history of the Old South before taking up his diplomatic assignment.

Dodd’s tenure as ambassador to Germany coincided with the rise of the Nazi Party. Having run afoul of the State Department in 1937 for writing materials critical of  the Nazi-controlled government, Dodd was recalled the following year. He returned to his farm in Virginia, where he died of pneumonia in 1940.

During the Nuremburg Trials in April 1946, Dodd’s detailed diary was used as evidence against Hjalmar Schacht, Adolph Hilter’s Minister of Economics and the president of Reichsbank. Having been arrested by the Germans during the war, and serving time in a concentration camp, Schacht ultimately was acquitted of charges.

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