Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City, takes readers on a captivating and at times terrifying tour of early 1930s Berlin in his latest work, In the Garden of Beasts. In this book, we observe the beginnings of the Nazi regime through the eyes of the American ambassador to Germany at the time and his adult daughter, who accompanied him during his ambassadorship and socialized with many of the prominent figures of the era, up to and including Adolf Hitler himself.
In hopes of finding a prestigious but low-demand government job allowing him time to do scholarly work, University of Chicago professor William E. Dodd applied for and was granted the ambassadorship to Germany in 1933. His family's move there coincided with the National Socialist takeover of the German government, an event which had immediate and ominous consequences. Dodd and his daughter, Martha, kept detailed journals of their time in Berlin, noting the transformation of the city from a vibrant, diverse metropolis to a cold, conformist symbol of the "New Germany" being forged by Hitler and his henchmen. Initial enthusiasm for the new government on the part of Martha Dodd is quickly dashed as the reality of the Nazis' intentions becomes evident.
Larson expertly weaves the entries from the Dodds' journals and other historical documents into a riveting and powerful narrative. Many of the major players in the regime are present here--Röhm, Göring, Goebbels, Himmler, and of course Hitler, with whom both Dodds were acquainted. From our 20/20 perspective, it is chilling to read of Martha in particular engaging lightly with these notorious figures. Nonetheless, her and her father's experiences provide us with a unique view of an extraordinary time in world history.
Submitted by Brett @ Washington Park