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

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
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's review
Mar 18, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: book-club, world-history
Read from March 18 to April 04, 2012

I probably wouldn't have picked this one up if my book club hadn't chosen it; I wasn't eager to read more about Nazi terror. Had the subject matter been different I would have rated it higher, because the author has done his historical and political homework; he tells and documents the story well. This glimpse into the time period when Hitler was consolidating his power is particularly poignant: if response on the part of the German people and other countries had been different, if Hitler could have been stopped early on, World War II might have been avoided. But it was not to be, and the then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, a mild-mannered former history professor, struggled mightily in tense circumstances to chart his political course. His peace of mind was not helped by his reckless daughter Martha, who took lover after lover regardless of whether they were married or a security risk. One of them was head of the Gestapo, and another, a Soviet spy. Lack of support for Ambassador Dodd in the State Department at home led to his recall. Once back home, he went on lecture tours trying in vain to alert the U.S. government and public to the seriousness of the Nazi threat. America was strongly isolationist in the mid-1930's and didn't want to hear about it.

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