In the Garden of Beasts

In the Garden of Beasts tells the story of Ambassador Dodd and his family from their time spent in Berlin from 1933 until 1939 when they were witnesses to the final ascent of Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany. Erik Larson details the story of their arrival and immersion into the Berlin world of politics while Ambassodor Dodd relays the events back to Washington DC.

For how much I read about WWII, I felt very unfamiliar with the world that Larson recreates. I knew a little about the night life and high living of those who lived in Germany during a certain period, I just never realized that the high living overlapped when Jews and others were taken into secret prisons that sprung up all over Germany.

Many of the names were familiar, but not nearly as familiar as I think they should be. Of course I know Hitler, but Larson dissects the political dissension among the prominent members of the Nazi party. Goring and Goebbels are names I recall, but not for their particular heinous crimes. And pretty much everyone connected to the Nazi party has a part in the crimes. Larson also shows them in a personal light, interacting with Martha Dodd, meeting with the Ambassador, or hosting infamous gatherings.

This was a time period that most of the world should like to forget their complacency and anti-Semitism, and Larson does not hold back on many American politicians openly not wanting to help the Jewish people. Especially young Martha who Larson shows being entertained and enjoying the German hospitality of the 1930’s.

Overall a very detailed look at the smallness of a family and the largeness of international politics leading up to WWII. I think this is a book that I would need to read a 2nd time to truly understand all the Larson has laid out.

Read December 2013

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