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Highlights from In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Movies to Watch. Photos Add Image Add an image Do you have any images for this title? Though a warped human being, he was neither clown nor puppet, as many liked to think; Hitler appears here as an enormously astute politician, impressing and hypnotizing Germans and foreigners alike with the scope of his projects and the theatricality of their presentation. Fest uncovers in Hitler a constantly destructive personality The time is , the place, Berlin, when William E. 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. 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. The result is a dazzling, addictively listenable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

I have rarely been more conflicted about a book than I am about this one. In many ways it was gripping and sometimes mesmerizing and then again, it was also annoying and at the same time, utterly appalling. The indifference and callously entrenched anti-Semitism of US State Department officials and their consequent tolerance for the atrocities of the Nazi government is hard to stomach. This is not an image of our government that could make anyone proud to be an American. The failure of all the western nations to do anything to stop Hitler while they could -- with relative ease -- have done so is difficult to fathom.

The feather-headed self-absorption of Dodd's daughter is like a case of hives: the more you scratch, the more you itch. Most of the people in the book are awful in one way or another. Dodd, the ambassador, ultimately grows to become, in his way, heroic. He, at least, saw what was happening and tried -- within the scope of his position -- to do what he could.

That no one listened to him is part of the heartbreak. Hitler as the lesser of two evils? How revolting is that? And all of this led to the bloodiest war in human history, a conflict wherein more than 30 million people died. The banality of evil has never been more obvious or more terrifying. Read it and weep.

What an incredible view of a pivotal moment in history. Perhaps this book is not as powerful if you have middling knowledge of 20th century history, but I found this portrait of Germany and the birth of the Third Reich chilling. If you have ever asked, "how could THAT have happened?


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Watching Berlin, one of the world's most important cultural centers, dissolve into barbaric, paranoid madness is very disturbing, particularly because of how easily it happened. Its also quite sad to know that there were a few moments at the beginning, here and there, when maybe it all could have been stopped. I'm still thinking about it all days later. Very worth reading. Some have panned this book as having main characters who reader's didn't care about. I can only say that those readers must be looking for heroes. For those seeking to understand HOW Nazi Germany could have happened, this is a perfect addition to the lexicon as a glimpse into America's inertia, latent if not overt anti-semitism, lack of foresight, and even investment driven foreign policy sound familiar America???

There are no Shindlers in this book, just complicated human beings. Additionally, Hitler, Goehring, Goebels, etc. This is a great book. One downside.. Listen anyway!

BookTV: Erik Larson, "In the Garden of Beasts"

Very nicely read, this book makes for compelling listening. The book covers a period in which the monster that was Germany grew into something truly awful. William Dodd, the American ambassador in Berlin is nicely drawn. We are told he is witty, although the evidence is scanty. His daughter, Martha, is a piece of work.

And she does go through a lot of men. Eventually, she goes off in a direction that would have deeply saddened her ambassador father, I imagine. From Mata Hari to Stalinist in three easy years. The Dodd family members, who are as different as can be, seem to get along very well with one another during a difficult time. This book focuses almost entirely on the first year of Hitler's leadership of Germany, told from the perspective of some "ordinary" folks, principally the US ambassador to Germany and his something daughter.

The book is written beautifully, with much interweaving of such primary sources as letters, diaries and recollections including a book written by the daughter in And the loves and partying of the daughter. I thought the book was very well narrated too. It seems to me that there are two kinds of history writing. One kind informs about what happened. A good example of this kind of writing is William L. But, after we have some knowledge of the facts, we may want to go further and seek an explanation for the events, that is, why did they happen.

It is a proverbial page turner.