Gary'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
Jul 29, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: history-wwii, biography

I found this to be an excellent read. Again, for those interested in WWII and the rise of Nazism this book provides many insights. For example, when Dodd was trying to alert the US government of the anti-semitism going on in Germany, it was widely dismissed because of anti-semitism in the US! The book touches on some of the biases against Jews and other minority groups which were widespread in America in the 1920s and 1930s.
The intellectual community had a lot of "social Darwinists" in it. They used Darwin's writings to justify their own positions in society and their prejudices against various groups. America's own prejudices blinded it to what was occurring in Germany. Many Americans, particularly of German descent, supported Hitler. Americans who were protesting the events going on in Germany were told to tone down their protests and accusations.

Dodd's daughter, Martha, plays a large role in this book. She was a woman in her twenties who was at first fascinated with the Nazis and carried on love affairs with many in Hitler's cabinet. At first, she could not accept her father's criticism of these men. Later, she becomes involved with some artists and communists and begins to see the Nazis from a different perspective. The author draws heavily on writings from the daughter and the father who journaled regularly.

The role of the SS in intimidating citizens as well as tourists and visitors is quite interesting in that they were able to get away with so much. The German people, after a humiliating defeat in WW I and a failed attempt at democracy, runaway inflation and an inability to repay war debt embraced the Fuehrer and leader concepts that went with it, as a quick solution to their problems. They were willing to throw away all their Germanic virtue in order to get a more orderly and peaceful society once again. To no avail, after selling their birthright, Hitler made life a hell on earth, as would befit a Satanic character as himself.

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