Monday, October 15, 2012

In the Garden of Beasts

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Germany by Erik Larson  448 pp.

Evidently this is my month for WWII books, having already blogged about Prague Winter. This book is about the years leading up to the war. William E. Dodd was appointed the first U.S. Ambassador to Hitler's Germany in 1933 and served until 1937. Dodd was not the first, second, or even third choice to hold that post. He was a quiet, frugal man who essentially found himself way over his head in dealing with the Nazis and the powers that be in the U.S. State Department. He believed his job would be an easy one that would give him plenty of time to work on a book he was writing about the "Old South." Dodd's daughter, Martha, dove into the Berlin social scene attending parties and events with a number of different suitors including Rudolf Diels, the first head of the Gestapo. Some even wanted her to become Hitler's girlfriend. As Dodd became more horrified at the treatment of the Jews, those who opposed the Nazis, and even some Americans, he found it increasingly difficult to convince his superiors in Washington that the problem was a serious one. Soon even Martha realized that the Nazis were frighteningly evil and found a sympathetic Russian Communist as her next paramour. There were times while reading I wished I could go back in time to give both Dodd and his daughter a good shake (or a Gibbs head slap) to wake them out of their naivete.

As with his other books, Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck, Larson has taken a serious non-fiction topic and made it as readable as a novel.

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