In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich w...

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Title:In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
Author:Erik Larson
Rating:
Edition Language:English

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Reviews

  • Jeanette

    Be prepared to stay up reading into the wee hours once you get your hands on this book. It held my interest better than any novel, and it filled in all the gaps in my understanding of how Hitler was able to gain so much power so quickly, with so little opposition. Erik Larson used the detailed diaries of William E. Dodd and his daughter Martha to reconstruct "a year in the life" for Americans in Berlin from 1933 to 1934.

    William Dodd had no idea what he was saying yes to when President Roosevelt

    Be prepared to stay up reading into the wee hours once you get your hands on this book. It held my interest better than any novel, and it filled in all the gaps in my understanding of how Hitler was able to gain so much power so quickly, with so little opposition. Erik Larson used the detailed diaries of William E. Dodd and his daughter Martha to reconstruct "a year in the life" for Americans in Berlin from 1933 to 1934.

    William Dodd had no idea what he was saying yes to when President Roosevelt offered him the position of ambassador to Germany in 1933. Dodd had fond memories of the Germany of 40 years before, when he'd attended college in Leipzig. Upon arrival in Berlin, he and his family discovered a Germany already in the grip of terror, a mere six months after Hitler had been appointed chancellor. Storm Troopers were attacking people in the streets. Communists and liberals were already being sent to concentration camps without due process.

    As ambassador, Dodd found he was required to attend diplomatic functions and rub shoulders with the monsters of the new regime. As the horrors worsened, he found this increasingly repugnant, and tried doggedly to convince those in Washington that intervention was necessary. His entreaties fell mostly on deaf ears. Dodd's bosses were more concerned about getting Germany to pay off their huge debt to America, while maintaining an isolationist position with regard to foreign conflicts.

    While Dodd struggled with his diplomatic duties, his young daughter Martha was treating her time in Berlin as a lark. She dated and consorted with highly placed Nazis, including some of the most abominable of Hitler's minions. At first, she enthusiastically endorsed the Nazi agenda and its effect on the "New Germany." By the winter of 1933-34, however, she too was living in terror. This didn't seem to put much of a damper on her dating life, though, and she gained a reputation as quite a round-heeled girl.

    In late June of 1934 came "The Night of the Long Knives," in which Hitler orchestrated the rapid execution of hundreds of Storm Troopers and other "enemies," some seemingly at random. That August, President Hindenburg died. Hitler quickly took control and achieved absolute power. William Dodd remained in his position as ambassador for three more years, during which American leaders continued to refuse his requests for intervention in Nazi Germany.

    This book has already earned a permanent place in my home library. I can't recommend it highly enough. Great care has been taken to provide all the little things that prevent confusion and make a book easier to read and understand. I would give it six stars if I could.

  • Zaphirenia

    Ένα απίστευτα καλογραμμένο και συγκλονιστικό χρονικό της δημιουργίας του τερατουργήματος του τρίτου Ράιχ από το 1933, όταν ο Αδόλφος Χίτλερ ανέλαβε για πρώτη φορά τα καθήκοντα του καγκελαρίου της Γερμανίας έως την έναρξη του δεύτερου παγκοσμίου πολέμου με την είσοδο των γερμανικών στρατευμάτων στην Πολωνία. Αυτό από μόνο του είναι πολύ ενδιαφέρον, μια και συνήθως διαβάζουμε για τα γεγο

    Ένα απίστευτα καλογραμμένο και συγκλονιστικό χρονικό της δημιουργίας του τερατουργήματος του τρίτου Ράιχ από το 1933, όταν ο Αδόλφος Χίτλερ ανέλαβε για πρώτη φορά τα καθήκοντα του καγκελαρίου της Γερμανίας έως την έναρξη του δεύτερου παγκοσμίου πολέμου με την είσοδο των γερμανικών στρατευμάτων στην Πολωνία. Αυτό από μόνο του είναι πολύ ενδιαφέρον, μια και συνήθως διαβάζουμε για τα γεγονότα του πολέμου (και για την Ελλάδα πιο συγκεκριμένα της Κατοχής), αλλά όχι για αυτά που προηγήθηκαν της εδραίωσης του καθεστώτος. Κι όμως, εκεί μπήκαν οι βάσεις, εκεί σφυρηλατήθηκε όλο το οικοδόμημα του ναζιστικού κόμματος, μέσω του "συντονισμού" και της προπαγάνδας που δημιούργησε μια νέα κουλτούρα στη γλώσσα, στα ήθη (ο χιτλερικός χαιρετισμός είναι το χαρακτηριστικότερο αλλα όχι το μόνο παράδειγμα) και στην κοινωνία ως σύνολο, που διαπέρασε και διάβρωσε το πνεύμα του λαού του Γκαίτε.

    Ο Έρικ Λάρσον ακολουθεί την πορεία του Γουίλιαμ Ντοντ, πρέσβη των ΗΠΑ στο Βερολίνο από το καλοκαίρι του 1933 και της οικογένειάς του, κυρίως της κόρης του, που άφησε τα απομνημονεύματα της στο βιβλίο της "Through Embassy Eyes". Ο Ντοντ, καθηγητής ιστορίας στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Σικάγο και ένθερμος υποστηρικτής των αξιών του προέδρου Τζέφερσον, διορίζεται από τον Ρούσβελτ πρέσβης στην κομβικής σημασίας πρεσβεία στη Γερμανία, αφού έχουν εξαντληθεί όλες οι πιθανές εναλλακτικές υποψηφίων, και από την πρώτη στιγμή γίνεται θέμα συζήτησης λόγω της επιμονής του να ζει από το μισθό του και να αποφεύγει τις έντονες επιδείξεις πλούτου που συνοδεύουν συνήθως το αξίωμα του.

    Η κατάσταση στη Γερμανία της εποχής είναι περίπλοκη. Είναι εύκολο εκ των υστέρων και εκ του αποτελέσματος να κρίνουμε το καθεστώς του Χίτλερ, όμως, όπως φαίνεται μέσα από αυτό το εξαιρετικό έργο, τα πράγματα δεν ήταν το ίδιο απλά στη Γερμανία του 1933. Ακόμη περισσότερο, δεν ήταν εύκολο να αποκωδικοποιηθουν σωστά τα μηνύματα του καθεστώτος στην άλλη πλευρά του Ατλαντικού. Οι ξένοι και ιδιαίτερα οι Αμερικανοί πολίτες που έρχονται στο Βερολίνο βλέπουν μια πόλη να σφύζει από ζωή, τέχνη, την ανεργία να πέφτει, μια πόλη υγιή και ακμάζουσα. Η Γερμανία που βγήκε από τον Μεγάλο Πόλεμο στέκεται σιγά σιγά στα πόδια της με την καθοδήγηση του νέου της ηγέτη. Οι ξυλοδαρμοί των Εβραίων, οι εκτοπισμοί, οι διώξεις θεωρούνται μεμονωμένα περιστατικά. Οι διαβεβαιώσεις του Χίτλερ ότι επιθυμεί ειρήνη λαμβάνονται υπόψη από τη διεθνή κοινότητα. Και μέχρι την 30ή Ιουνίου του 1934, τη νύχτα των μεγάλων εκκαθαρισεων εντός του κόμματος, κανείς δεν πίστευε ότι θα ακολουθήσουν όσα ακολούθησαν.

  • Will Byrnes

    In 1933, William Dodd, a Chicago academic is appointed the first American ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. He enters this cauldron accompanied by his family, most particularly by his very modern daughter, Martha. Larson shows us the quickly changing Germany of 1933 through their eyes.

    While this is hardly a man-on-the-strasse point of view, a look at the goings on through the experiences of a diplomat and his daughter does get a bit closer to the ground than a more removed historical overview. La

    In 1933, William Dodd, a Chicago academic is appointed the first American ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. He enters this cauldron accompanied by his family, most particularly by his very modern daughter, Martha. Larson shows us the quickly changing Germany of 1933 through their eyes.

    While this is hardly a man-on-the-strasse point of view, a look at the goings on through the experiences of a diplomat and his daughter does get a bit closer to the ground than a more removed historical overview. Larson chose to deliver a one year slice of the darkening life of Nazi Germany. There is plenty in that one year to fill many books.

    I was of two minds about this book. On the one hand, I read it rather quickly, which usually indicates a high level of interest. On the other hand, it did not seem all that interesting to me. Certainly there are not a lot of new revelations remaining re the Third Reich. The ambassador seemed like a mostly decent guy who tried his best under what might, at best, be called trying circumstances. His experience highlighted the cliquish, anti-Semitic, quality of the rich-boy American foreign service. ( The Pretty Good Club) Not news. The upper echelons of the Nazi Party included an assortment of mental misfits, from the lunatic-in-chief to Goering, with an ego even larger than his lavishly costumed body, to in-fighting middle-school sociopaths with armies and zero sense of morality. Again, not news. News was some of the nuance involved in why Roosevelt was disinclined to openly criticize the Nazis for their treatment of the Jews. News was the connections the ambassador’s daughter made with questionable characters.

    Ambassador Dodd’s daughter, Martha, appears to have had a very lively social life. Her interactions with some of the notables allow us a look at people who were unfamiliar. Indeed, it is the secondary characters that hold the most interest here. One such who emerges from the gunsmoke is Rudolf Diels, the first head of the Gestapo. His scar-ridden face might lead one to see him as a total black hat. Turns out there was more to him than that. Martha also has an affair with a Soviet KGB agent named, of course, Boris. How much of their affection was true and how much was manipulation? Franz von Papen was Hindenberg’s man, vice-chancellor under Hitler. He delivered (or was forced to give) a famous public call for Hitler to scale back some of his atrocities in the “Marburg Speech.” No. I had never heard of it either. But it was significant for the time, and gets some well-merited attention here. Larson offers a bit of a look at the political machinations of the US consul general George Messersmith, as well.

    One of the most telling scenes in the book is one in which the ambassador is told that his primary task was to see that Germany paid the banks, uber alles. The relevance to the 21st Century is unmistakable. Larson’s depiction of The Night of Long Knives was riveting, particularly the mysteriousness of it all. Who was killed? How many? Why? Contrary to the post-Nazi claim that most of the population was against Hitler, the portrait Larson paints indicates widespread popular support for the Nazi leader.

    It is chilling to see the frustrations of a population which had suffered economic deprivations for so long finding a savior in a madman. There is clearly a willingness in the USA for many people to throw their support to the loudest and meanest, regardless of what is revealed almost daily about the dishonesty of such leaders. It is not surprising that there were so many in Germany who felt that their national honor could best be revived through this bombastic bully. Pay attention to what the crazies say they want to do. Whether it is Paul Ryan promising to dismantle Medicare, or Ron Paul objecting to the Civil Rights Act.

    is pretty specific. What did they think they were getting? In the article cited at the end of this page, Larson says,

    But even though there were interesting elements within the book, even though I read through it all relatively quickly, I still did not feel, by the time I had finished, that it was all that much. One of the problems with being a damn good writer is that expectations are elevated. It is tough indeed to come up to

    , an astonishingly good book.

    does not approach that work. While it might be interesting to see how the flowers grow in this dark garden, there is just not enough meat here to satisfy the fly-traps.

    Larson is interviewed in this outstanding NPR piece:

    - May 2, 2011

  • Lou

    This story covers the Dodd family and their lives amongst the beast machine of Hitler's Nazi Germany. Rosevelt asked Dodd to become the American ambassador to Hitler's Germany. At that time Germany was in debt to America and owed loads of money and they looked like they were not going to pay so the need for the ambassador arose. Dodd and his wife agreed to the position and so they left for Berlin, he also invited his two grown children Martha and Bill. The lovely Martha appears in the story quit

    This story covers the Dodd family and their lives amongst the beast machine of Hitler's Nazi Germany. Rosevelt asked Dodd to become the American ambassador to Hitler's Germany. At that time Germany was in debt to America and owed loads of money and they looked like they were not going to pay so the need for the ambassador arose. Dodd and his wife agreed to the position and so they left for Berlin, he also invited his two grown children Martha and Bill. The lovely Martha appears in the story quite a bit as in the backdrop Hitlers rises to power and his evil spreads we follow her and her relationship with a communist Russian. Martha when she arrived in Berlin found she liked Germany and the people and commented them as being better than the Parisian, obviously this was before Hitler showed his face and colors of evil and his propaganda was widespread. Germany wanted this image wanted Americans to warm to them but as the garden was perceived to be nice the beasts were slowly going about their Arian work, as the stormtroopers developed unknown to the visitors eye a rage and a pot was brewing of turmoil and fascism. The rest is history the persecutions of Jews and all non Arian is well documented the author is trying to give us a pigeon hole on how it was for this family amongst the turmoil and documents the ambassadors interactions with Hitler's Germany. The ambassador was called eventually to Hitlers office and warned in person by Hitler that he was unhappy with Americas media view of him. The story became at times too fact based but is not an easy subject to write about he has successfully not made it solely just about the evil but also about the human struggles.

    When i was searching the web for a photo of Dodd I came across interesting info.

    ” Evidence of continued efforts by powerful U.S. fascists to regain control of the White House is illustrated by a 1936 statement by William Dodd, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany. In a letter to Roosevelt, he stated:

    “A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime…. A prominent executive of one of the largest corporations, told me point blank that he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism into America if President Roosevelt continued his progressive policies. Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there. Propagandists for fascist groups try to dismiss the fascist scare. We should be aware of the symptoms. When industrialists ignore laws designed for social and economic progress they will seek recourse to a fascist state when the institutions of our government compel them to comply with the provisions.”

    Martha Dodd

    There is also to be a movie.

  • Lewis Weinstein

    Ambassador Dodd, perhaps one of the most unusual ambassadors to a major country we have ever had, was initially reluctant to criticize the Hitler regime, mainly due to his nostalgic memories of the time he spent studying in Germany decades before. But it didn't take him too long to figure out just how horrible the Nazis already were in 1933 and 1934. Dodd's opponents in the State Department wouldn't listen. President Roosevelt listened, seemed to agree, but did nothing.

    It seems clear from this p

    Ambassador Dodd, perhaps one of the most unusual ambassadors to a major country we have ever had, was initially reluctant to criticize the Hitler regime, mainly due to his nostalgic memories of the time he spent studying in Germany decades before. But it didn't take him too long to figure out just how horrible the Nazis already were in 1933 and 1934. Dodd's opponents in the State Department wouldn't listen. President Roosevelt listened, seemed to agree, but did nothing.

    It seems clear from this personal view of the early Nazi years that pressure from abroad, especially from the U.S., might have resulted in an early exit for Hitler. No invasion of Poland and France. No World War II. No Holocaust. Why did Roosevelt fail to act?

    One theme that recurs several times in Larson's book is concern over Germany's re-payment of its debt to U.S. interests. I need to do more research, but questions pop to mind. Who held that debt? Was it large banks and corporations who had business relationships in Germany? Did these business relationships take precedence over the atrocities Hitler was already carrying out against Jews in 1933?

    Perhaps my next research read-

    by Henry Turner - will provide some answers. Or

    by Edwin Black. My suspicion is that American profits had much to do with American political attitudes toward Hitler at a time when a different U.S. policy could have made an enormous difference. There were those in Germany who might have opposed Hitler if they knew they could count on U.S. help.

    I hope to develop these themes in my novel-in-progress, tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER. If anyone can suggest other books that have insights on the questions I am raising, please let me know.

    ps. Martha Dodd was an absolute disgrace!

  • Jason Koivu

    Want to know what it would be like to try to talk Satan out of being such a dick? Consider reading

    !

    Erudite but ineffectual historian, Dr. William E. Dodd was chosen to be Ambassador to Germany in the decade leading up to WWII, because President Roosevelt couldn't find anyone else willing to take on the job. In 1933 Dodd was tasked with handling relations with a rabid and deranged political phoenix named Adolf Hitler. Perhaps you've heard of him?

    Dodd has brought along his

    Want to know what it would be like to try to talk Satan out of being such a dick? Consider reading

    !

    Erudite but ineffectual historian, Dr. William E. Dodd was chosen to be Ambassador to Germany in the decade leading up to WWII, because President Roosevelt couldn't find anyone else willing to take on the job. In 1933 Dodd was tasked with handling relations with a rabid and deranged political phoenix named Adolf Hitler. Perhaps you've heard of him?

    Dodd has brought along his family. This was going to be a nice little holiday, wherein he could finish a book he'd been working on and his family could enjoy the Germany he remembered from his school days. But that was a long time ago and German had changed. Dodd and his family's idea of Germans must necessarily change as well.

    This is just as much a story of political intrigue as it is an innocence lost/coming of age tale.

    Martha Dodd, the ambassador's fetching daughter is a socialite of the first order. Men seem to throw themselves at her (even her own father, in a way). Much of the book follows her numerous trysts with many a notable figure of the day, writer Carl Sandberg for one and even Hitler himself entertained the idea of making a match.

    Larson and other biographers can thank her and her father's proclivity for writing letters and journals as the reason for the wealth of insight into the lives of these somewhat innocuous people. I say "somewhat" in reference to the Dodd's ambassadorial ineptitude, while giving a nod to Martha's post WWII involvement in the cold war spy game. Now I feel I must make reparations for my use of "ineptitude," for I doubt very much that

    ambassador sent over to deal with Hitler's steamroller regime at the time could've done anything to change the course of seemingly inevitable history.

    Erik Larson is making a name for himself in the modern era's take on dramatic non-fiction. This subject being so recent, he doesn't have to rely so heavily on supposed conversations or probable scenarios to reconstruct hypothetical scenes. Not only does he have firsthand accounts from the Dodds themselves, but there are also preserved documents, news stories, even eyewitness accounts. What Larson does with this wealth of information is not outstandingly spectacular, but it is an admirable piece of work and an interesting viewpoint from which to approach the coming of World War II.

  • Kemper

    Picture Principal Skinner from

    and Paris Hilton going to Nazi Germany, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what this book is like.

    I was split on Erik Larson’s

    because I found the half of the book about the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair incredibly interesting but thought the other half about serial killer H.H. Holmes to be just another true crime gore fest. Then in

    he again gave us some nice pop history with the story of Marconi and the inventi

    Picture Principal Skinner from

    and Paris Hilton going to Nazi Germany, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what this book is like.

    I was split on Erik Larson’s

    because I found the half of the book about the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair incredibly interesting but thought the other half about serial killer H.H. Holmes to be just another true crime gore fest. Then in

    he again gave us some nice pop history with the story of Marconi and the invention of the radio, but then he stretched the inclusion of a crime story to a ridiculous exteme by trying to tie in a manhunt for a killer across the Atlantic that used early wireless.

    I was hoping that

    would allow Larson to play to his strengths with a story about Nazis in the 1930s because I thought he could give a detailed look at life in Berlin as Hitler was consolidating his power, and this time he’d actually have a legitimate horror story to tell without it feeling like something just tacked on to sell books. Instead, I got a story about a couple of people who were surrounded by evil and didn’t do a helluva lot about it.

    The story centers on William Dodd and his daughter Martha. Dodd was a history professor in Chicago with minor political connections and a dream of obtaining a quiet government post somewhere so he could finish writing a history of the American Civil War. When President Roosevelt couldn’t get anyone else to take the job, he asked Dodd to be the ambassador to Germany. Dodd accepted and took his wife and two grown children along with him. Like a lot of Americans, Dodd was worried about some of the stories of Nazi violence coming out at the time, but thought that Hitler might be nudged towards controlling the extreme factions since he‘d just taken over as chancellor. His interactions with the Nazi power brokers and the rise of German nationalistic fervor eventually convinced Dodd that Hitler and his people were bad news for the entire world.

    Here’s where the book falls down for me. Larson got me interested in the Chicago World’s Fair because I knew nothing about it, and he made it come alive. I already know about how the Nazis came to power so the history piece of this is old news to me. While there’s some interesting slice of life details and Larson does a nice job of giving you a sense of the weird combination of paranoia, pride, terror and zeal that pervaded Germany in the 1930s, it’s really nothing I haven’t heard before. Maybe I would have been more interested if I would have found Dodd’s story more intriguing, but frankly, the ambassador seemed about as interesting as a saltine cracker to me.

    Dodd comes across as a decent enough guy for his time. He did advocate policies of getting tougher with Germany when most of America was in full isolationist mode, but aside from irking the Nazis with a couple of speeches and boycotting a couple of official functions, he really didn’t do anything. (And as one of his critics of the time pointed out, an ambassador who refuses to meet with the government of the country he’s in really isn’t accomplishing much.) Dodd irritated others in America’s diplomatic service with his constant criticism of their spending and seemed more concerned with cutting costs at the embassy rather than dealing with the Germans.

    The odd thing about this book is that Larson all but ignores Dodd’s wife and son in favor of giving a detailed portrayal of his daughter, Martha. Martha came along with her father as her first marriage was ending, and to put it mildly, she got around. I mean, it’s good that a woman in her time was sexually liberated enough to carry on with guys like the poet Carl Sandburg. However, once she dated the head of the Gestapo and a top Soviet spy as well as many, many others, I had the impression that Martha was less than discriminating with her affections. Hell, she even kinda went along with a half-assed scheme one of the Nazis had to try and hook her up with Hitler himself.

    So this becomes the story of a mild mannered diplomat dealing with the rise of some of the most evil fucks in history, but he’s pinching pennies at the embassy instead of giving visas to every Jewish person he could find. And his daughter is a sleeping her way through Europe while at first extolling the virtues of the Nazis, then deciding that she’s kind of a communist, but in the end Martha doesn’t do much but put a smile on the face of any guy who gives her a wink and a smile.

    In this case, I knew the history and only got a story about a couple of people who seem like they should have been maybe a chapter in larger history of the time and place. Dodd and Martha just didn’t impress or intrigue me enough to warrant reading a whole book about them. It’s disappointing that Larson decided to make them the center of this.

  • Lyn

    On November 9-10, 1938 Nazi Germany, using SA storm troopers and sympathetic civilians, carried out the Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, a series of systematic attacks targeting Jewish homes and businesses. Almost 100 people were killed and thousands were wounded and or arrested and sent to concentration camps. United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a harsh condemnation, stating that “he could scarcely believe such a thing could happen in a twentieth century civilization”.

    On November 9-10, 1938 Nazi Germany, using SA storm troopers and sympathetic civilians, carried out the Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, a series of systematic attacks targeting Jewish homes and businesses. Almost 100 people were killed and thousands were wounded and or arrested and sent to concentration camps. United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a harsh condemnation, stating that “he could scarcely believe such a thing could happen in a twentieth century civilization”. This statement came almost six years after both he and Adolph Hitler had taken power, respectively, and almost six years after he had dispatched American professor William Dodd, a plain spoken Jeffersonian Democrat of Spartan means and simple tastes to serve as American Ambassador.

    Differing mightily from the “Pretty Good Club” of independently wealthy, aristocratic leaning gentlemen diplomats usually deployed by the state department, Dodd had vowed to operate the Berlin embassy on a strict budget and would live within his means on his government salary of seventeen thousand dollars a year. As an example and illustration he eschewed the limousines and other trappings of his office and transported his homely old Chevrolet to Germany with him. Roosevelt hoped that Professor Dodd would be a shining beacon of American common sense and constitutionalism in the fanatical leaning Germany that was embracing a young Hitler. But truth be known, Dodd was not Roosevelt’s first choice for the appointment, or the second or the third; he was by all accounts a dark horse candidate for the job and a statesman not at all embraced by the elitist upper echelons of diplomatic society. And truth be known, Dodd himself would have much rather spent those years on his farm in Virginia quietly writing volumes of his Old South history.

    So it was a misfit ambassador in an aristocratic, transitional government city, speaking with an odd accent who confronted the embryonic Third Reich on behalf of America. Dealing with awkward relationships in Berlin and an increasingly hostile state department in Washington, Dodd alone among so many government leaders saw what would become if nothing was done. And his enemies in Washington downplayed his warnings and played politics and intrigue rather than investigating his claims of Hitler’s real purpose.

    It is in this setting of internal and external tension that author Erik Larson weaves his novelistic history of the years before World War II and Hitler’s rise to international conflict. More than that, Larson’s journalistic narrative describes Dodd’s family, his lusty and adventurous daughter and how this eclectic American family lived down the street from SA commander Rohm and within walking distance of Nazi elite. Fascinating, compelling and disturbingly relevant for our own times as issues of freedom of speech and expression continue to be discussed, scarcely realistic given that we now live in a twenty-first century global civilization.

  • Corina

    I didn't think you could make the rise of Hitler boring, but...this was. Ever so much. 300 pages of "But unknown to Dodd, all the rich dudes in the US hated him and were saying things like blah blah blah" and "Martha was having yet another affair" and "Everyone in Berlin seemed happy but THE ATMOSPHERE WAS TENSE" that all led up to a rather anticlimactic Night of the Long Knives. I really just didn't care for anyone in the Dodd family - Dodd himself seemed stuffy and did not, over the course of

    I didn't think you could make the rise of Hitler boring, but...this was. Ever so much. 300 pages of "But unknown to Dodd, all the rich dudes in the US hated him and were saying things like blah blah blah" and "Martha was having yet another affair" and "Everyone in Berlin seemed happy but THE ATMOSPHERE WAS TENSE" that all led up to a rather anticlimactic Night of the Long Knives. I really just didn't care for anyone in the Dodd family - Dodd himself seemed stuffy and did not, over the course of the book, seem to have the brilliant insight into the implications of the Nazi regime with which the epilogue credits him. Martha was pretty insufferable and ultimately I had no idea why so much time was spent on her affairs. I would've vastly preferred a book about characters named only briefly, like Bella Fromm or Sigrid Schulz.

  • Barb

    I loved Erik Larson's 'The Devil in the White City', I found the subject matter fascinating and the writing fabulous. 'In the Garden of Beasts' is the second book I've read by Larson and I'm sorry to say the two don't compare.

    I've read a fair number of books about the Holocaust and I did find the political maneuvering described in 'Garden' interesting in a stomach turning, sickening kind of way. But the people in this story never came to life for me, with the exception of Martha Dodd who I didn'

    I loved Erik Larson's 'The Devil in the White City', I found the subject matter fascinating and the writing fabulous. 'In the Garden of Beasts' is the second book I've read by Larson and I'm sorry to say the two don't compare.

    I've read a fair number of books about the Holocaust and I did find the political maneuvering described in 'Garden' interesting in a stomach turning, sickening kind of way. But the people in this story never came to life for me, with the exception of Martha Dodd who I didn't care for.

    I read an advance reader's copy so perhaps the final product will have some additional editing but what I read wasn't of the same caliber as 'The Devil in the White City', the pacing was relatively slow and there were places where the story was choppy.

    I could have given this story up at anytime not really caring what happened to these people. I didn't feel the horror and the fear that Larson described, overall the story just didn't engage me and I often wondered why Larson chose this family as his subject matter.

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