“In the Garden of Beasts”, by Erik Larson

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Read it, or save your time?   If you are interested at all in the topic, definitely read it.  You can learn a lot.  However, if you aren’t sure if this is your cup of tea, it probably isn’t, so skip it.  And don’t feel bad about yourself for thinking it sounds boring.  This novel, albeit wonderful, is certainly not for everybody.

What’s it about?  The story focuses on William Dodd, who along with his family, is brought to Berlin in 1933 to be the first American Ambassador to Germany under Hiter’s rule.  At first, the Dodd family, like many tourists at the time, perceives Germany as a peaceful and exciting place.  Dodd’s daughter Martha is especially taken in by the glamour and enthusiasm of the Nazi party in their quest to restore Germany to its pre-WW1 state of power.  However, as people are beaten in the streets for not giving the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute and laws are passed barring the freedoms of Jews, the ruthlessness of the new regime slowly reveals itself.  Dodd consistenty alerts the state department back home, but his telegraphs are met with skepticism and a seemingly laissez faire attitude.

Due to their position, the Dodd’s often hung out with the likes of Goebbels, Goring, Himmler, and other infamous Nazis, so you learn a lot about them as well.  Most events and conversations are based on original documents; telegraphs, official government reports from the state, personal letters, diary entries, and other forms of written correspondence, making it very factual and detailed.

Reviewer’s Note:   It does (at least a little) answer the seemingly impossible questions of how on earth did the world allow the Holocaust to happen and why was Hitler not stopped immediately?




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