In the Garden of Beasts

In the Garden of Beasts

Love, Terror, and An American Family in Hitler's Berlin

Book - 2011
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"Larson is a marvelous writer...superb at creating characters with a few short strokes."-- 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," 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 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.
Publisher: New York : Crown, c2011.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307408846
Branch Call Number: 943.086 DODD W
Characteristics: xiv, 448 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm.


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From Library Staff

LPL_PolliK Jan 07, 2019

Larson writes masterful narrative nonfiction (and a cautionary tale) that takes a deep dive into 1933 Germany, just after Hitler has been named Chancellor. We see the unraveling of a nation firsthand through the eyes of the American Ambassador William E. Dodd in Berlin, and his flamboyant and pop... Read More »

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May 11, 2021

Good research, interesting history. Kinda slow

Jan 25, 2021

Erik Larson books are so well researched and written. His books never disappoint the reader. Intense book to read and you will find yourself thinking 'history repeats itself'

Dec 22, 2020

I wish the character of Martha who became a spy for the Soviet Union as early as 1935 had been more developed. She was much more than the irresponsible woman who attended parties. How was she recruited? Did her activities have any impact on the war? How did she access classified information? Did her parents have any idea about what she was doing? Unfortunately, the book does not provide much information in this regard.

May 13, 2020

My first Larson book in the age of COVID-19, March 2020; copy on hand - vow to read more via ebooks from the Library

FPL_John Dec 26, 2019

This book is a great read for anyone interested in what Germany was like just prior to WWII. Seen through the eyes of the US Ambassador to Germany and his family it is a fascinating glimpse of how a country could devolve into a brutal dictatorship and how people could tell themselves it wasn’t happening. If you enjoy history, you should definitely read this.

LPL_PolliK Jan 07, 2019

Larson writes masterful narrative nonfiction (and a cautionary tale) that takes a deep dive into 1933 Germany, just after Hitler has been named Chancellor. We see the unraveling of a nation firsthand through the eyes of the American Ambassador William E. Dodd in Berlin, and his flamboyant and popular daughter Martha Dodd. Larson chronicles the growing horror as both statesmen and average citizens work hard to excuse and normalize Hitler and Nazi Party behavior, all the while letting democracy die. When enough people finally woke up and spoke up, it was too late to reverse course. A riveting and important read.

HCL_staff_reviews Oct 27, 2017

In 1933 Germany elected a new chancellor and a surprising resurgence appeared to occur in the once-decimated superpower nation. For newly-appointed American ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd, and his family, Berlin is a city of enchantment and reports of brutality towards communists and Jews seem to them exaggerated. But as their stay in Germany continues, the darker truths of the new Germany become impossible to ignore. Larson follows up <i>Devil in the White City</i> with another intimate account of a big historical topic and the personal nature of the narrative illuminates Nazi Germany unlike any other nonfiction book I've encountered. Compelling, readable and fascinating from beginning to end. — Anne P., Washburn Library

mryanhess Oct 13, 2017

If you're looking for an intimate portrait of how real people witnessed the rise of a brutal dictatorship, this book will satisfy...and terrify. I found it especially interesting to watch the characters steadily realize what the Nazi's were leading the world toward...and how few listened to them.

Jul 22, 2017

Fascinating and terrifying book! Felt like the author was reading the book to me -

Jul 04, 2017

Innocents Abroad: Between the Wars. This story of ambassadorial intrigue as the Nazis take power in republican Germany -- in other words, fiddling while Rome burns -- is not as interesting as it should be. The elements are all there, but the author does not have the skills, or call it the killer instinct, to bring the generally well-meaning but confused and complacent U.S. ambassador and his daughter to life. I wonder how the film will turn out; they're going to have to do back flips to portray them as heroic, or even very sympathetic. Maybe they won't, and instead will portray them as they were. Wouldn't that be interesting?

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Nov 16, 2017

a fascinating look into life in Berlin when Germany was slowly being drawn into Hitler's web. at that time, everyone was oh so hopeful the extremists could be reasoned with, and that things would not be "that bad". lesson learned.

Feb 09, 2017

In the diplomatic service, Berlin would normally be considered a plum ambassadorial appointment, a great European capital exceeded only by London or Paris. But in the spring of 1933, the recently elected Franklin Roosevelt was having trouble filling the position. The political situation in Germany was turbulent, and Adolf Hitler had just been appointed Chancellor. Meanwhile Roosevelt had more consuming problems closer to home, dealing with the Great Depression. Just before congress closed session in June 1933, Roosevelt appointed William E. Dodd, a historian from the University of Chicago, to the post. At least four previous candidates had declined the position. Dodd, his wife Mattie, and adult children Bill and Martha, decamped for Berlin, becoming first-hand witnesses to the rise of National Socialism during their four year tenure in the German capital.

ajmccreary Jul 01, 2016

Chronicles the tenure of a history professor turned US ambassador to Germany during the early 1930s; the dalliances of his daughter with Jewish literary figures, Nazi power brokers, and Soviet spies; and the reluctance of all -- but especially of those back in Washington -- to fully register the implications of Hitler's rise.

Jun 08, 2013

This book takes place in Germany prior to WW II. Get a glimpse of what was happening in Germany as Hitler rose to power.


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ajmccreary Jul 01, 2016

ajmccreary thinks this title is suitable for All Ages


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Feb 09, 2017

There existed at this time a widespread perception that Hitler’s government could not possibly endure.


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