In the summer of 1937, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King spent four days in Berlin. He arrived at Friedrichstrasse Station, home of the impressive U-bahn subway which was built in preparation for the 1936 Berlin Olympics; a year later this same station would transport Jewish children to Britain. During his time in Berlin, King visited a Hitler Youth Camp, which was later absorbed into the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Before he returned to Canada, King sat face to face with Adolf Hitler at the Reich Presidential Palace. “My sizing up of the man as I sat and talked with him,” King later reflected, “was that he is one who truly loves his fellow-men, and his country, and would make any sacrifices for their good.” When King returned to Berlin in 1946, those sites that so impressed him nine years earlier were now in ruins. Today they are marked with memorials to the victims of Nazism. In his new book, Four Days in Hitler’s Germany: MacKenzie King’s Mission to Avert a Second World War, Robert Teigrob of Ryerson University, shares King’s travels through a history of Berlin before, during and after Nazi rule. In this episode of On War and Society, Teigrob sits down with Kyle Falcon to discuss McKenzie King’s four days in Berlin and the complicated moral questions that it raises about present-day diplomacy and historical commemoration.

References

David Halton, Dispatches from the Front: The Life of Matthew Halton, Canada’s Voice at War (McClelland & Stewart, 2014).

Dr. Robert Teigrob studies 20th-century international relations, focusing on the ways in which war, decolonization, race, culture, and the development of international organizations and law have influenced the modern global order. His work has appeared in numerous Canadian and international journals and edited collections. He is the author of Warming Up to the Cold War: Canada and the United States’ Coalition of the Willing from Hiroshima to Korea (2009), Living With War: Twentieth-Century Conflict in Canadian and American History and Memory (2016), and co-editor of Canada and the United Nations: Legacies, Limits, Prospects (2017). He is also a faculty member at Freie Universität Berlin’s International Summer University program. Before coming to Ryerson in 2007, Dr. Teigrob taught at Nipissing University, the University of Toronto, and Central New Mexico Community College. He also has served as an archivist for the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives and the Minnesota Historical Society and worked as a cultural resources consultant. In 2010, Dr. Teigrob received the Dean’s Teaching Award, which recognizes continuing teaching excellence and achievement in instruction, and in 2017, he received the Dean’s Research Award for contributions to the fields of History and International Relations. He also is a member of the graduate faculty.