In the Garden of Beasts
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Crown;(May 1, 2012)
In the Garden of Beasts is a vivid portrait of Berlin during the first years of Hitler’s reign, brought to life through the stories of two people: William E. Dodd, who in 1933 became America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his scandalously carefree daughter, Martha. Ambassador Dodd, an unassuming and scholarly man, is an odd fit among the extravagance of the Nazi elite. His frugality annoys his fellow Americans in the State Department and Dodd’s growing misgivings about Hitler’s ambitions fall on deaf ears among his peers, who are content to “give Hitler everything he wants.” Martha, on the other hand, is mesmerized by the glamorous parties and the high-minded conversation of Berlin’s salon society—and flings herself headlong into numerous affairs with the city’s elite, most notably the head of the Gestapo and a Soviet spy. Both become players in the exhilarating (and terrifying) story of Hitler’s obsession for absolute power, which culminates in the events of one murderous night, later known as “the Night of Long Knives.” The rise of Nazi Germany is a well-chronicled time in history, which makes In the Garden of Beasts all the more remarkable. Erik Larson has crafted a gripping, deeply-intimate narrative with a climax that reads like the best political thriller, where we are stunned with each turn of the page, even though we already know the outcome. --Shane Hansanuwat
This is yet another book I found at a thrift store. In "new" condition, I read the flap and found it was not fiction and that it was about a family, the husband was Ambassador from the USA, sent to Germany just as Hitler became Chancellor.
It reflected how Germany was before the war, how the German people felt and acted, and what some parts of Germany looked like. Then enters Hitler... He keeps saying he wants peace, and for a while Dodd believed him and his "assistants". Slowly we see the Storm Troopers and all those that Hitler, seemingly, has faith in to follow his orders. You see the slow change in Hitler how he hates all the Jewish people and makes laws so that the Jewish can no longer work,. Then Hitler does things like sterilize those that he thinks "inferior" so they can't reproduce other that are "inferior". He makes laws that White's cannot associate with Black's and German's cannot be seen even talking to a Jew.
Then see some of his own "henchmen" running and hiding knowing Hitler would turn on them too. And he does! You hear Hitler tell one of his Officers to go and kill another officer and his whole family because he "thinks" him a traitor. And they follow his orders without a thought of their own. It's all actually quite incredible.
Much of how the Ambassador's saw Hitler is talked about among each other. And you see how Dodd's daughter, who in the beginning, thinks nothing wrong of Hitler and "his men" finally starts seeing what has been right in front of her all along.
It was an insight to Hitler before his total power but since we know the outcome you can "see" what other's did not or could not see. It's still hard to believe there are people like Hitler, people who kill for reasons that make no sense.
This is not a book I will likely read again.. but it was a point of view from one family (the Dodd's) who was in Germany in Hitler's beginning. It was actually interesting to read a first hand account of everyday living in Germany when "Heil Hitler" first came about.