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Best Wishes?

A surprising inscription on a first edition of The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh raises unsettling question

Saul Austerlitz
October 15, 2004

Browsing the impressive library that belonged to my fiancée’s grandparents, I stumbled upon a first edition of The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh, 1,000 pages of the famed aviator’s musings on the tumultuous events of World War II. Inscribed on its front page (“To William Epstein, with best wishes, Charles A. Lindbergh”), the book caught my eye amid the frenzy of attention to Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America.

The inscription, which must have been made around the time of the journals’ publication in 1970, brought me to wonder. His anti-Jewish sentiment was obviously not strong enough to prevent him from offering his best wishes to someone named Epstein, and in his journal entries, Lindbergh exhibits a casual, supposedly rational mistrust of the Jew as warmonger, often decrying Jewish influence and Nazi violence in the same breath. Like Roth, I am left trying to reimagine the dead past, picturing the pilot of the Spirit of St. Louis and friend of Hitler, and my fiancée’s grandfather—a bookseller, WWII vet, and Jew—crossing paths, if only momentarily, a quarter century after the war, and pondering the gap between Lindbergh’s warm wishes and his bitter anti-Semitic hostility, left for posterity on so many pages of his Wartime Journals.