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In the Garden of Beasts

Love, Terror, and An American Family in Hitler's Berlin

Larson, Erik

(Book - 2011)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
In the Garden of Beasts
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The bestselling author of "Devil in the White City" turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler's rise to power. 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. 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 with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the "New Germany," she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance -- and ultimately horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder unmasks Hitler's true character and ruthless ambition.
Publisher: New York :, Crown,, [2011]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ♭2011
ISBN: 1617934267
9781617934261
0307914585
9780307914583
0307887952
9780307887955
030740885X
9780307408853
0307408841
9780307408846
Characteristics: xiv, 448 pages :,illustrations, map ;,25 cm

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A fascinating literary Non Fiction thriller about the shadowy and dark days that preceded World War 2! Very well research! Soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks and Natalie Portman.

Jun 19, 2014
  • lbarkema rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

I am not sure that I enjoyed the way in which Larson wrote the book. Too much detail at times, (like way too much), and at others not enough about the people that I found most interesting. I also expected more suspense at the end of each chapter (even though I know it's not a novel), but instead it just fell flat in those parts. A very interesting book to discuss though, and overall I liked it. I just wish he would have given us more of the following years that the Dodd family was in Berlin, instead of just 1933-1934.

Jun 06, 2014
  • Eosos rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

The story of Ambassador Dodd and his daughter Martha in 1933 Berlin is fascinating to say the least.

The politics of Berlin at the time was very volatile and no country was particularity interested in the reports coming from the ambassadors. Despite the increasingly restrictive laws for Jews and the incease in violence against them and anyone opposing the Hitler regime, no country publicly condemned them. The United States refused to even issue a travel advisory and the tourists didn't get to see the bad undercurrents, always bring home reports of how eveything was wonderful. No one wanted to believe that Germany was rearming.

This was a great personal story of a man not like the other ambassadors, he had no experience and very little money at a time when most ambassadors were independently wealthy. His reports on the happenings in Berlin were largely ignored and even he who lived there, didn't see all that Hitler was doing.
The story of Martha Dodd is more salacious. Her many affairs and initial love of the Hitler regime made her notorious, both then and now. Her eventual disillusionment in Hitler and embracing of communism made for even better gossip and led to her living outside of the US for most of her life.

I really liked this book but while I love the era and politics, this story had just a bit too much of the sensational. Especially when it came to Martha and her life, which makes sense as even by today's standards she would be a gossip columnists dream come true.
It is a good look at history from the point of view of a family who lived it and well worth the read.

really interesting view of 1930s Germany. Frightening portrayal of the 'pulse' as hatred came to a full boil.

Oct 25, 2013
  • hania4987 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This is the story of the consolidation of power on the national level, mostly seen through Professor Dodd who became the American ambassador in Berlin in 1933. The focus is the first year of his posting. At first he is a almost a comically naive character, full of his own prejudices and idiosyncrasies, who thinks he can persuade and reason with Hitler to change his agenda. As he becomes more aware of events that he cannot continue to justify, he starts to take some small actions, speaks out and stops to attend staged events. In the end he becomes that unlikely American hero who raises the warning of isolationism and its consequences. The Professor is never part of the clubby cronyism of the diplomatic corps, and in the end, he is undermined and ultimately removed. We have a picture of a collective European ambivalence towards German actions in that time period, but the US had similar attitudes. Larson writes: "the lengths U.S. officials felt compelled to go to avoid direct criticism of Hitler and his party. The degree of restraint would have been comical if the stakes had not been so high and raised a question: why were the State Department and President Roosevelt so hesitant to express in frank terms how they really felt about Hitler at a time when such expressions clearly could have had a powerful effect on his prestige in the world?" On a side note, his daughter Martha is the other major character in this narrative. Her actions become a symbol of the general American flirtation with the philosophies prevalent in Europe which are a direct contradiction to American ideals. It's also interesting to see the parallels to more contemporary events. (A great book which explains how this all happened is "The Nazi Seizure of Power" by William Sheridan Allen)

Sep 24, 2013
  • lorna2511 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A vivid account of the upper-eschelons of Berlin society during the years of Hitler's rise to power and entry to war. Larson's writing is engaging and informative, bringing to life Ambassador Dodd and his grown daughter, Martha. Fact-based fiction which entertainingly fills out the reader's knowledge and understanding of this period of history.

Aug 13, 2013
  • jeanie123 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Well, I didn't love this book nor did I hate it. There were definitely some tedious moments and some very loooong sentences. There were some very interesting facets of history that I had not previously accessed, but I found the writing style awkward.

Jun 09, 2013
  • WVMLBookClubTitles rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

In 1933, William E. Dodd is selected US ambassador to Nazi Germany. Dodd takes his family with him. At first, his daughter Martha is entranced by the parties, pomp, and young men of the Third Reich. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. With alarm, Dodd watches as Jews are attacked and the press is censored. As the year unfolds, the Dodds experience days of excitement, romance—and ultimately horror as Hitler reveals his true character. An addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize Hitler as a threat until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

Jan 27, 2013
  • msevinrud rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

Have to agree with Michelle - just could not wade through all the non-relevant drivel. Made it more than 1/2 way but had a stack of books that seemed way more interesting so just quit reading. Was disappointed as author had been recommended to me.

Jan 13, 2013
  • michelledrmt rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

I listened to this book on audio and STILL could not get through it. The storyline had good potential, but Larson wrote in WAY too much detail, repeatedly going off on irrelevant tangents. It read like a history text book, very dry, too many facts and not enough story. I was unimpressed by the lack of creativity. Did learn some interesting things about the Nazis and Germany at this time, and would have liked to learn more, but I just couldn't bear it any longer. Very disappointed.

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