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In The Garden of Beasts
By Erik Larson
This is a long (375 pages – which is why there hasn’t been a book post in a while!) but intriguing book, especially if you find WWII history as interesting as I do. I don’t necessarily like books about war, but this period of US and world history definitely captures my attention. Part of it is the mere atrocities that occurred… what humans are capable of doing to one another and what nations will overlook merely because it’s too much effort or would be against their personal interests to stand against. Doing the right thing can be so confusing. Often it’s right in one view and not in another. Also, there are consequences to doing the right thing which in the end may not feel like the right thing at all.
I know that sounds very vague with no real answers…. read the book!
This is a biography about four years in the life of the Dodd family as William E. Dodd was the US ambasedor in Natzi Berlin, Germany. He was there from 1933 – 1937 just as the war was starting to heat up. He arrived just after Hitler became the chancellor of Germany in 1933 and was there for the complete acquisition of power as Führer und Reichskanzler after the president died.
The book is mainly about Dodd and his daughter Martha. The struggles Dodd goes through opposing the Natzi regime and also not receiving much support from America are paramount. He was not a typical ambassador of the time, meaning he wasn’t from the elite Harvard and Yale club and was not independently wealthy. He was a history professor who loved America and wanted to do something to stand for her ideals; even in Natzi Germany.
Martha on the other hand fell in love with the Natzi ideals and was a staunch supporter… in the beginning… then she dabbled in communism as well. She was also a beautiful young American woman in Germany and found many young men with whom she had affairs. She developed relationships with top commanders and leaders in the Natzi party and even met Hitler as well. This is partly her story as well.
Dodd had studied in Germany when he was younger and fell in love with the country. He was so saddened, torn and depressed to see what was happening to a nation that he loved. Especially since there wasn’t much he could do about it, considering his beloved America didn’t agree with his views of the Natzi regime.
The book is sad, eye opening, and frustrating. Reading when you already know what it going to happen there are many instances where it seems that history could have been changed and the atrocities stopped… but it didn’t happen. As I was reading there were many times I would think, “Here is another opportunity! Stop! Change! Restore!” It never happened… and the world was thrust into a tragic world war.
Read and let me know what you think!