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In the Garden of Beasts Nook Edition by Erik Larson

Click Here to Download the Book 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. Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring 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 Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

Reviews I’ve heard a lot about this book, as it has been out for some time now. However, I resisted reading the book. I actually didn’t like the title of the book…so it certainly didn’t draw my attention at first. I had just finished reading a book and was in a book slump for awhile. Then, I got this notice from my library that the book had come available for me to download. I had forgotten that I requested it a long time ago! It couldn’t have come at a better time than now! This was a rather interesting read. Erick states this is a book of non-fiction. I was amazed at how much research and piecing together facts from various sources he did to make this book. This book has extensive research!! I was surprised at how many people journaled and kept diaries back then, coupled with saved letters, Erik lets the story unfold. WWII, Jews in concentration camps, and other stories about that era are things I hate to read, but love to read. Does that make sense? I really resist reading these kinds of book because the stories stay with me long after the book has been put down. This book is told through a different side. It’s told from the perspective of the Ambassador to Germany, William Dodd and his daughter, Martha. While the daily persecutions of the Jewish people wasn’t written in detail, the mass killings of those who followed Hitler was described. People didn’t trust each other, didn’t know who would turn them in for saying something negative about the government, Hitler, hysteria, and this indiscernible amount of fear consumed the people of Germany. A Jewish banker was rather smart when he offered his extravagant home for very cheap rent to Ambassador Dodd and his family. The banker knew living with the American Ambassador would provide protection and immunity from the daily harassment of Nazis. Enamored with the Old Germany Ambassador Dodd knew as a college student, and his daughter enamored with the New Germany under Hitler’s regime, both are given a real glimpse into what is happening, that is not being reported to the world: mass killings, tortured Jewish people in concentration camps, passing of laws to make it okay to sterilize people that are not deemed Aryan worth, people being exiled from their homes and businesses, beatings for not giving the Hitler salute or not doing it properly, American tourists being beaten and paid off to not report it back to the states, etc. Americans were still recovering from the Great Depression, so they didn’t want to accept immigrants into the States for fear that it would burden the economy, bankers were concerned about the excess money Germany


still owed and were afraid if they spoke out against Hitler that the money would not be repaid, Americans were not being told everything that was going on in Germany (including FDR), and so many mistruths were told to pacify Hitler and his regime. Parties, excess drinking, sex, and bribery were common amongst the supporters of Hitler and only when it was truly too late to do anything about what was happening, did people start speaking out in silent protests….which often resulted in disappearances and death. This is an excellent book and one that I took my time reading. There was so much information and people affected during those times, that I didn’t want to rush through the book. It’s worth reading, it’s a story that should be told to remind us of what can happen, what does happen when someone is given too much power, and how once the wheels starts turning, it truly is too hard to stop the eventual negative impacts of decisions made.

It's 1933. William E. Dodd - a name that most likely doesn't ring an historical bell - was 64 years old, a transplanted southerner and the History Department Head at the University of Chicago. Dodd was feeling his age and also a little sorry for himself, having not realized his life's ambitions, particularly the completion of a history of the antebellum South he's dreamed of writing. His phone rings and it's the new President, Franklin Roosevelt, requesting that he take the job of Ambassador to Germany - a country in transition with Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party assuming power. Even then and without the aid of historical hindsight, this appointment was not a "plum" assignment. Dodd was not Roosevelt's first choice, nor even his second, but Dodd accepted. Duty had called and besides he believed he could finish his Southern history while overseas. So he and his family packed up - with their Chevy boarded an ocean liner and made their way to Berlin - their lives never to be the same again. Larson, using letters and diaries, particularly of Dodd's and his daughter Martha, chronicles the first year of Hitler's Germany through their eyes. Dodd was a fuddy-duddy - nicknamed "Ambassador Dudd" by his fellow State Department "peers" - frugal, unpretentious and liked nothing more than to finish his day with a glass of warm milk, stewed peaches and a good book. Dodd's 24 year-old daughter Martha viewed the trip as an international romantic adventure. In the process of getting a divorce at the time, she collected lovers in Germany like butterflies - her list of paramours both extensive and at times shocking. As we follow the Dodds, the new Ambassador, at times, comes across as incredibly naïve and provincial; his daughter Martha as downright vacuous. Regardless, while meeting the Nazi "elite" - from Hitler on down - and witnessing the ever increasing Nazi perniciousness, - the Reichstag fire trial, the ever increasing Nazi antiSemitism and "The Night of the Long Knives" - both father and daughter, (and mother and son - the reader just doesn't hear as much from them), soon realize that Nazi Germany was an evil force that would soon need to reckoned with. (For instance Dodd spent his post-Ambassador career speaking around the U.S., warning the country about the inevitable conflict, until it finally occurred.) Because of their "Americana normalcy", the opening of the Dodds' eyes foreshadowed what was to sweep across this country in just a few years time. In The Garden of Beasts is Larson's best effort yet. His books are labeled as novelistic history and although that is a mouthful, the description is apt. Using the Dodds and their observations, perspectives and mounting concerns as a guide to the early days of Nazi Germany is a twist of literary genius. Included in this story are also plenty of engaging sub-plots. For instance the insipid, juvenile antics of the self-named "Pretty Good Club", a group of wealthy, narrow minded, immature men employed by the State Department; who with their backbiting, condescension and gossip made Dodds' job unnecessarily more difficult. On the other side of the Atlantic, the sheer buffoonery of Hermann Goering, Hitler's right-hand (fat) man, captured here, is also worth noting.

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In the garden of beasts nook edition