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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

by Erik Larson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,5893401,175 (3.82)322
History. Nonfiction. HTML:‚??Larson is a marvelous writer...superb at creating characters with a few short strokes.‚?Ě‚??New York Times Book Review
  
Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, 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.
 
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,‚?Ě 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 G√∂ring 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 E
… (more)
  1. 90
    The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer (kraaivrouw)
  2. 40
    I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1933-1941 by Victor Klemperer (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The published version of Klemperer‚Äôs secret wartime diary are a vivid and personal account of day-to-day life in Nazi Germany. Writing with sophistication and insight, he records the stories of ordinary Germans and their hopes and fears during the dark days of the war. This provides interesting points of comparison with Dodd's experiences.… (more)
  3. 30
    Through Embassy Eyes by Martha Dodd (marieke54)
  4. 31
    Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler by Anne Nelson (kraaivrouw)
  5. 20
    Resisting Hitler. Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra by Shareen Blair Brysac (marieke54)
  6. 20
    Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: If you found In the Garden of Beasts moving and want to read fiction about the Third Reich, try Every Man Dies Alone, a haunting novel based on actual events surrounding a couple that attempted to undermine the Nazi regime.
  7. 02
    The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era (Modern Library Paperbacks) by Allen Weinstein (spacecommuter)
    spacecommuter: Erik Larsen's In the Garden of Beasts draws on The Haunted Wood and the notebooks of Alexader Vassiliev as sources. The Haunted Wood mentions Martha Dodd, her romance with Boris Winogradov and her father extensively, and includes additional evidence of Martha's espionage that Larsen mostly omitted from his book.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 329 (next | show all)
Very well-written and an interesting read. However, it is very much unlike his other books with two protagonists who live parallel lives that eventually intersect with one experience. In this book, Larson has also failed to prevent the one thing that historians must be careful not to do--viewing history through the lens of hindsight. His questioning of why certain people in America did nothing to stop Hitler does not truly take into account the political, economic, and social climate of the time. He states the isolationism of the people and the Great Depression, but does not really represent what that entails and so passive-aggressively questions the US government's ineffectual policies regarding Germany (and really, all of Europe).

Regardless, it is extremely interesting to view Nazi Germany from the point of view of those who lived, worked, and loved in what became the most hated regime of all time. ( )
  BrandyWinn | Feb 2, 2024 |
The tale of 1933 - from May of 33 to July of 34, really, in Berlin, from the perspective of the American ambassador and his family. Same material as in '1933' by Metcalfe, but much better written. The end was a bit abrupt and somewhat disconnected, but overall a superb page turner. Very disconcerting to see parallels 90 years later. ( )
  dhaxton | Jan 30, 2024 |
(2011)Another very good up close history. This one explores the Dodds, as William becomes the United States ambassador to Germany during 1933 and 1934 just as Hitler and his gang of thugs start to come to real power. Also a lot of time is spent on Martha, his daughter, who apparently sleeps with every high-ranking German official and Russian spy in the country. The really interesting arc is how William changes from an apologist for the German regime to what appears to be the only wise person in the State Department who realizes that Hitler is a very bad man and only horror will come from his rule.Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2011: In the Garden of Beasts is a vivid portrait of Berlin during the first years of Hitler's reign, brought to life through the stories of two people: William E. Dodd, who in 1933 became America's first ambassador to Hitler's regime, and his scandalously carefree daughter, Martha. Ambassador Dodd, an unassuming and scholarly man, is an odd fit among the extravagance of the Nazi elite. His frugality annoys his fellow Americans in the State Department and Dodd's growing misgivings about Hitler's ambitions fall on deaf ears among his peers, who are content to ?give Hitler everything he wants.? Martha, on the other hand, is mesmerized by the glamorous parties and the high-minded conversation of Berlin's salon society•and flings herself headlong into numerous affairs with the city's elite, most notably the head of the Gestapo and a Soviet spy. Both become players in the exhilarating (and terrifying) story of Hitler's obsession for absolute power, which culminates in the events of one murderous night, later known as ?the Night of Long Knives.? The rise of Nazi Germany is a well-chronicled time in history, which makes In the Garden of Beasts all the more remarkable. Erik Larson has crafted a gripping, deeply-intimate narrative with a climax that reads like the best political thriller, where we are stunned with each turn of the page, even though we already know the outcome. --Shane Hansanuwat
  derailer | Jan 25, 2024 |
Amazing story, terrifically told, as always by Erik Larson. I don't know how he stood to immerse himself in the horrors mainly only foreseen here. The story was to me unknown, and I suspect the same will be true for most readers. Highly recommended; hard to put down. ( )
  fmclellan | Jan 23, 2024 |
In the Garden of Beasts begins in the early 1930s when FDR appoints William Dodd as America's ambassador to Germany. (I thought I knew about this period in history but I have to confess I'd never heard of William Dodd, and a bunch of others, until I read this book.) The book focuses on Dodd and his daughter and through their letters and diaries we get to see Berlin (and Germany) from their perspective as Hitler first rises to power. It's a fascinating book, and kept making me think about lots of "if onlys" ... so many people chose to ignore events for so many reasons.....

Dodd was a quiet professor who didn't seem a good fit in dipomatic circles. His daughter Martha was at the opposite end of the spectrum from her father.....she flitted from affair to affair, from the first head of the Gestapo to a Russian spy. She had men falling in lust with her everywhere she went. It seemed every time I turned the page, she had a new man. And speaking of her men friends, who wrote like this? This is from a "boyfriend" in 1931 "What fun it was in the swimming pool that afternoon, and how cute you were with me after I had taken my bathing suit off!" "Ye gods, what a woman, what a woman!"

Anyway, Dodd and Martha both came to Berlin seemingly sympathetic to the Nazis so at times it's difficult to read how they reacted to particular awful events. I had to keep reminding myself they didn't have the benefit of hindsight. I do wish the book had made more mention of Mrs. Dodd because I'm curious how she felt about her husband, his actions as ambassador and her daughter's scandalous behavior. But it's almost like she doesn't exist. In the end, (and this isn't a spoiler because we all know how it turned out), Dodd comes to learn the truth about Hiter and the Nazis but he couldn't get anyone in our government or the rest of Europe to do anything about it.

If you like reading about this period of history, this is a great read. ( )
  ellink | Jan 22, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 329 (next | show all)
William E. Dodd was an academic historian, living a quiet life in Chicago, when Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him United States ambassador to Germany. It was 1933, Hitler had recently been appointed chancellor, the world was about to change.

Had Dodd gone to Berlin by himself, his reports of events, his diary entries, his quarrels with the State Department, his conversations with Roosevelt would be source material for specialists. But the general reader is in luck on two counts: First, Dodd took his family to Berlin, including his young, beautiful and sexually adventurous daughter, Martha; second, the book that recounts this story, ‚ÄúIn the Garden of Beasts,‚ÄĚ is by Erik Larson, the author of ‚ÄúThe Devil in the White City.‚ÄĚ Larson has meticulously researched the Dodds‚Äô intimate witness to Hitler‚Äôs ascendancy and created an edifying narrative of this historical byway that has all the pleasures of a political thriller: innocents abroad, the gathering storm. . . .
added by PLReader | editNY Times, DOROTHY GALLAGHER (Jun 10, 2011)
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erik Larsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cookman, WhtineyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eklöf, MargaretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herrera, AnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoye, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nudelman, ElinaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ochs, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vitangeli, RaffaellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost. - Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Canto I (Carlyle-Wickstead Translation, 1932)
Dedication
To the girls, and the
next twenty-five

(and in memory of Molly, a good dog)
First words
Once, at the dawn of a very dark time, an American father and daughter found themselves suddenly transported from their snug home in Chicago to the heart of Hitler's Berlin.
Quotations
"Hardly anyone thought that the threats against the Jews were meant seriously," wrote Carl Zuckmayer, a Jewish writer.
Even the language used by Hitler and party officials was weirdly inverted. The term "fanatical" became a positive trait. Suddenly it connoted what philologist Victor Klemperer, a Jewish resident of Berlin, described as a "happy mix of courage and fervent devotion."
"There has been nothing in social history more implacable, more heartless and more devastating than the present policy in Germany against the Jews..."
An odd kind of fanciful thinking seemed to have bedazzled Germany, to the highest levels of government. Earlier in the year, for example, Goring had claimed with utter sobriety that three hundred German Americans had been murdered in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia at the start of the past world war. Messersmith, in a dispatch, observed that even smart, well-traveled Germans will "sit and calmly tell you the most extraordinary fairy tales."
After experiencing life in Nazi Germany, Thomas Wolfe wrote, "Here was an entire nation ... infested with the contagion of an ever-present fear. It was a kind of creeping paralysis which twisted and blighted all human relations."
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History. Nonfiction. HTML:‚??Larson is a marvelous writer...superb at creating characters with a few short strokes.‚?Ě‚??New York Times Book Review
  
Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, 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.
 
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,‚?Ě 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 G√∂ring 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 E

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Book description
William E. Dodd becomes the American ambassador to Germany, where he witnesses first-hand the atrocities of Hitler's regime and watches his daughter fall in love with a Nazi officer.
Haiku summary
They come overmatched Think easy job, not so Leave disheartened (foof2you)

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