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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and…

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

by Erik Larson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,2132831,272 (3.82)259
  1. 70
    The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer (kraaivrouw)
  2. 30
    Through embassy eyes by Martha Dodd (marieke54)
  3. 20
    I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1933-1941 by Victor Klemperer (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The published version of Klemperer’s 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)
  4. 20
    Resisting Hitler. Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra by Shareen Blair Brysac (marieke54)
  5. 10
    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.
  6. 11
    Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler by Anne Nelson (kraaivrouw)
  7. 02
    The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era 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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» See also 259 mentions

English (273)  French (3)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (283)
Showing 1-5 of 273 (next | show all)
I read this a few years ago and enjoyed it. It was a very different perspective on the effects of Hitler's rule in Germany. ( )
  Carlathelibrarian | Feb 5, 2019 |
It is another window to the period of Nazism from the direction of the United States and its part in the matter. ( )
  AvrahamDavid | Jan 30, 2019 |
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson is as chilling as a horror story, but anything with Hitler and his sycophants at the fore makes a story fiendish. The name of the the book is taken from the Tiergarten, a central park of sorts in Berlin that means "garden of the beasts" which provides an easy metaphor for the Nazi gargoyles. The main character, William E. Dodd, is the US ambassador to Germany. Professor Dodd is a bit of an oddball to his ambassadorial colleagues. He eschews the opulence of the office and adheres to his Jeffersonian ideals of frugality. This makes him many enemies in the Harvard educated ambassador pool who refer to themselves as the "Pretty Good Club," which is a purposeful misnomer, ambassadorship is a really good club, filled with clout and gilded international parties. But Dodd has the backing of the one person who matters, President Roosevelt, who sees in Dodd an intelligent historian who can spread the message about American ideals through his actions as well as rhetoric. Dodd at first looks at Hilter as a blip in history that will soon be removed, as does many others, including the US State Department. He continues for a brief period to regard Germany through an idealized lens fashioned by his stint as a college student in Liepzig. In fact Dodd is idealistic about other things too. His life's work is a 3 volume manuscript entitles The Old South. This work on the antebellum American south is always haunting his mind and he routinely wishes that he could retire to his farm in Virginia and finish it. One wonders why he took this job; you sense that he fears finishing the book and retirement more than he dislikes the thankless job of dealing with the Nazis. In one of their few face to face meetings Dodd's expertise in southern history enables him to lecture Hilter on defeat after Hilter rages about France's unfair treatment of Germany after World War I . Dodd calmly draws on the example of the Confederacy and replies "defeat in war is always followed by injustice" which causes a rare moment of silence from the dictator.

Larson soon introduces one of the most interesting characters of the book, Dodd's intelligent, beautiful and flirtatious daughter Martha. A polar opposite of her bookish father. She is a recent divorcee and finds herself liberated in the waning, unrestricted Weimar culture of Berlin. She sleeps with many Nazi officials, including Rudolph Diels, the scarred, former head of the Gestapo who is portrayed as a surprisingly sympathetic character. But Martha find a soul mate in the doomed Soviet embassy official Boris Winogradov (most any Soviet official can be refered to as doomed before Stalin's purges). Some of Larson's best writing revolves around their relationship. Martha eventually becomes a communist and a minor spy for the Soviet Union. Another strength of the book is the author's depiction of the Nazi leaders, especially Hermann Goring who is described as the "hind end of an elephant." Dodd and his family connect with the corpulent and congenial leader and attend some of his lavish parties, including one where he reveals his plan, alongside an unresponsive bison, to open a game park of archaic German animals, which was one of the Nazi's ridiculous themes of Aryan mythologizing.

The story reaches a crescendo and its climax with Hitler's murderous rampage against his rivals in the SA now known as the "Night of the Long Knives". This reveals the Nazis as the violent thugs that they actually were and Dodd begins a crusade to warn the US and world, which unfortunately falls on deaf ears to the detriment of all but especially the European Jews. Although the book is not as seminal as his The Devil in the White City, Larson deftly wields the slow build up to this climax and shows again that he is a masterful storyteller. ( )
  earlbot88 | Jan 20, 2019 |
This is a true story, fascinatingly narrated by the author from the diaries of the Berliners of 1933-1934. Adolf Hitler has just been elected chancellor of Germany, the Nazis have not yet taken power, the state, and the army, and a new American ambassador is taking office in Berlin. It's a great way to learn history: not retrospectively, with hindsight, but through the eyes of the participants in the drama, and at the personal and daily level. ( )
  Ramonremires | Jan 14, 2019 |
How could the world not see what Hitler was doing? Larson gives us a view through the eyes of our ambassador to Germany from 1933-1937 and his family. Even though we think we know what was happening in Germany at the time, the surprise for me came in the rhetoric from our own State Department and the US population at large. Who knew that so many despised the Jews here? Mob mentality at its worst. ( )
  sraelling | Sep 4, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 273 (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, “In the Garden of Beasts,” is by Erik Larson, the author of “The Devil in the White City.” Larson has meticulously researched the Dodds’ intimate witness to Hitler’s 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 (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erik Larsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cookman, WhtineyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nudelman, ElinaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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)
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.
"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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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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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.… (more)

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