Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the White City, delivers 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 Nazi 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 suprisingly 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 reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable 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.
In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City. He surveys Berlin, circa 1933 1934, from the perspective of two American na fs: Roosevelt's ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, an academic historian and Jeffersonian liberal who hoped Nazism would de-fang itself (he urged Hitler to adopt America's milder conventions of anti-Jewish discrimination), and Dodd's daughter Martha, a sexual free spirit who loved Nazism's vigor and ebullience. At first dazzled by the glamorous world of the Nazi ruling elite, they soon started noticing signs of its true nature: the beatings meted out to Americans who failed to salute passing storm troopers; the oppressive surveillance; the incessant propaganda; the intimidation and persecution of friends; the fanaticism lurking beneath the surface charm of its officialdom. Although the narrative sometimes bogs down in Dodd's wranglings with the State Department and Martha's soap opera, Larson offers a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery. Photos.
I thought this was well done. It does get a bit dry at times and the author seems to keep things going often by revealing the details of Martha's romantic life which are sultry but become a little boring after a while.
Still, the author's gift for writing is evident throughout and I found his viewpoint on the Nazis very grounded and refreshing.
Any history buff should love this one.
Hard to read since know what happens. Demeaning of daughter. Just did not like.
Nazi story brought to life unexpected.
This book takes you back in time to an American family that got involved in Germany during World War II. The book was my first non-fiction that I read in terms of history involving wars. I am mostly a fiction reader and to read a story like this one blew me away.
I wasn’t bored nor was I second guessing. The writing was good enough to keep me turning the page. Although I did get characters confused and the plot seemed to jump from one place to the other. I felt like I was an under cover agent in the ranks of the Nazi regime.
This book will pull at your heart strings to make you say, “Aw man!” And also say, “No way?!” There were surprises here and there which I will not disclose. How the author described Hitler impressed me and I got to see Hitler for who he was instead of the constant hatred he had for the Jews.
When it comes to mentioning the Jews, I think the subject was touched briefly upon. Yes they went through horrific things. To mention that a little bit per chapter kept that sensitivity to the story. I think without mentioning the Jews in this novel it would have read like a documentary.
All in all, I recommend this book. If World War II is a touchy subject you don’t like then this isn’t for you. Because this novel takes the touchy subjects head on and morphs it into a story of discovery and self worth.