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I loved Erik Larson s The Devil in the White City , I found the subject matter fascinating and the writing fabulous In the Garden of Beasts is the second book I ve read by Larson and I m sorry to say the two don t compare.I ve read a fair number of books about the Holocaust and I did find the political maneuvering described in Garden interesting in a stomach turning, sickening kind of way But the people in this story never came to life for me, with the exception of Martha Dodd who I didn t care for.I read an advance reader s copy so perhaps the final product will have some additional editing but what I read wasn t of the same caliber as The Devil in the White City , the pacing was relatively slow and there were places where the story was choppy I could have given this story up at anytime not really caring what happened to these people I didn t feel the horror and the fear that Larson described, overall the story just didn t engage me and I often wondered why Larson chose this family as his subject matter. Ambassador Dodd, perhaps one of the most unusual ambassadors to a major country we have ever had, was initially reluctant to criticize the Hitler regime, mainly due to his nostalgic memories of the time he spent studying in Germany decades before But it didn t take him too long to figure out just how horrible the Nazis already were in 1933 and 1934 Dodd s opponents in the State Department wouldn t listen President Roosevelt listened, seemed to agree, but did nothing.It seems clear from this personal view of the early Nazi years that pressure from abroad, especially from the U.S., might have resulted in an early exit for Hitler No invasion of Poland and France No World War II No Holocaust Why did Roosevelt fail to act One theme that recurs several times in Larson s book is concern over Germany s re payment of its debt to U.S interests I need to do research, but questions pop to mind Who held that debt Was it large banks and corporations who had business relationships in Germany Did these business relationships take precedence over the atrocities Hitler was already carrying out against Jews in 1933 Perhaps my next research read German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler by Henry Turner will provide some answers Or IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black My suspicion is that American profits had much to do with American political attitudes toward Hitler at a time when a different U.S policy could have made an enormous difference There were those in Germany who might have opposed Hitler if they knew they could count on U.S help.I hope to develop these themes in my novel in progress, tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER If anyone can suggest other books that have insights on the questions I am raising, please let me knowchokengtitiktitikchokeng Martha Dodd was an absolute disgrace Be prepared to stay up reading into the wee hours once you get your hands on this book It held my interest better than any novel, and it filled in all the gaps in my understanding of how Hitler was able to gain so much power so quickly, with so little opposition Erik Larson used the detailed diaries of William E Dodd and his daughter Martha to reconstruct a year in the life for Americans in Berlin from 1933 to 1934.William Dodd had no idea what he was saying yes to when President Roosevelt offered him the position of ambassador to Germany in 1933 Dodd had fond memories of the Germany of 40 years before, when he d attended college in Leipzig Upon arrival in Berlin, he and his family discovered a Germany already in the grip of terror, a mere six months after Hitler had been appointed chancellor Storm Troopers were attacking people in the streets Communists and liberals were already being sent to concentration camps without due process As ambassador, Dodd found he was required to attend diplomatic functions and rub shoulders with the monsters of the new regime As the horrors worsened, he found this increasingly repugnant, and tried doggedly to convince those in Washington that intervention was necessary His entreaties fell mostly on deaf ears Dodd s bosses were concerned about getting Germany to pay off their huge debt to America, while maintaining an isolationist position with regard to foreign conflicts While Dodd struggled with his diplomatic duties, his young daughter Martha was treating her time in Berlin as a lark She dated and consorted with highly placed Nazis, including some of the most abominable of Hitler s minions At first, she enthusiastically endorsed the Nazi agenda and its effect on the New Germany By the winter of 1933 34, however, she too was living in terror This didn t seem to put much of a damper on her dating life, though, and she gained a reputation as quite a round heeled girl In late June of 1934 came The Night of the Long Knives, in which Hitler orchestrated the rapid execution of hundreds of Storm Troopers and other enemies, some seemingly at random That August, President Hindenburg died Hitler quickly took control and achieved absolute power William Dodd remained in his position as ambassador for three years, during which American leaders continued to refuse his requests for intervention in Nazi Germany.This book has already earned a permanent place in my home library I can t recommend it highly enough Great care has been taken to provide all the little things that prevent confusion and make a book easier to read and understand I would give it six stars if I could. In 1933, William Dodd, a Chicago academic is appointed the first American ambassador to Hitler s Germany He enters this cauldron accompanied by his family, most particularly by his very modern daughter, Martha Larson shows us the quickly changing Germany of 1933 through their eyes While this is hardly a man on the strasse point of view, a look at the goings on through the experiences of a diplomat and his daughter does get a bit closer to the ground than a removed historical overview Larson chose to deliver a one year slice of the darkening life of Nazi Germany There is plenty in that one year to fill many books I was of two minds about this book On the one hand, I read it rather quickly, which usually indicates a high level of interest On the other hand, it did not seem all that interesting to me Certainly there are not a lot of new revelations remaining re the Third Reich The ambassador seemed like a mostly decent guy who tried his best under what might, at best, be called trying circumstances His experience highlighted the cliquish, anti Semitic, quality of the rich boy American foreign service The Pretty Good Club Not news The upper echelons of the Nazi Party included an assortment of mental misfits, from the lunatic in chief to Goering, with an ego even larger than his lavishly costumed body, to in fighting middle school sociopaths with armies and zero sense of morality Again, not news News was some of the nuance involved in why Roosevelt was disinclined to openly criticize the Nazis for their treatment of the Jews News was the connections the ambassador s daughter made with questionable characters.Ambassador Dodd s daughter, Martha, appears to have had a very lively social life Her interactions with some of the notables allow us a look at people who were unfamiliar Indeed, it is the secondary characters that hold the most interest here One such who emerges from the gunsmoke is Rudolf Diels, the first head of the Gestapo His scar ridden face might lead one to see him as a total black hat Turns out there was to him than that Martha also has an affair with a Soviet KGB agent named, of course, Boris How much of their affection was true and how much was manipulation Franz von Papen was Hindenberg s man, vice chancellor under Hitler He delivered or was forced to give a famous public call for Hitler to scale back some of his atrocities in the Marburg Speech No I had never heard of it either But it was significant for the time, and gets some well merited attention here Larson offers a bit of a look at the political machinations of the US consul general George Messersmith, as well One of the most telling scenes in the book is one in which the ambassador is told that his primary task was to see that Germany paid the banks, uber alles The relevance to the 21st Century is unmistakable Larson s depiction of The Night of Long Knives was riveting, particularly the mysteriousness of it all Who was killed How many Why Contrary to the post Nazi claim that most of the population was against Hitler, the portrait Larson paints indicates widespread popular support for the Nazi leader It is chilling to see the frustrations of a population which had suffered economic deprivations for so long finding a savior in a madman There is clearly a willingness in the USA for many people to throw their support to the loudest and meanest, regardless of what is revealed almost daily about the dishonesty of such leaders It is not surprising that there were so many in Germany who felt that their national honor could best be revived through this bombastic bully Pay attention to what the crazies say they want to do Whether it is Paul Ryan promising to dismantle Medicare, or Ron Paul objecting to the Civil Rights Act Mein Kampf is pretty specific What did they think they were getting In the article cited at the end of this page, Larson says, The immediate trigger for this book was reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, but I read that also at a time when I was feeling uneasy about how things were going in this country It troubled me that we had these reports of torture of detainees, we had people jailed at Guantanamo Bay who couldn t even talk to their lawyers and couldn t see the evidence against them sort of fundamental bedrock civil liberties things Look, I don t care what your party is I went to public school on Long Island, and it seemed every year we were being taught that you had a right to a fair trial and a right to confront your accuser So it s this kind of vague feeling I had in the background which was, What was that like to experience a real extreme version of that So it made me wonder what allows a culture to slip its moorings But even though there were interesting elements within the book, even though I read through it all relatively quickly, I still did not feel, by the time I had finished, that it was all that much One of the problems with being a damn good writer is that expectations are elevated It is tough indeed to come up to The Devil in the White City, an astonishingly good book In the Garden of Beasts does not approach that work While it might be interesting to see how the flowers grow in this dark garden, there is just not enough meat here to satisfy the fly traps Larson is interviewed in this outstanding NPR piece William Dodd The U.S Ambassador In Hitler s Berlin May 2, 2011 ,1933 , 1933 Through Embassy Eyes , 1933 30 1934. Want to know what it would be like to try to talk Satan out of being such a dick Consider reading In the Garden of Beasts Erudite but ineffectual historian, Dr William E Dodd was chosen to be Ambassador to Germany in the decade leading up to WWII, because President Roosevelt couldn t find anyone else willing to take on the job In 1933 Dodd was tasked with handling relations with a rabid and deranged political phoenix named Adolf Hitler Perhaps you ve heard of him Dodd has brought along his family This was going to be a nice little holiday, wherein he could finish a book he d been working on and his family could enjoy the Germany he remembered from his school days But that was a long time ago and German had changed Dodd and his family s idea of Germans must necessarily change as well Martha Martha Martha This is just as much a story of political intrigue as it is an innocence lost coming of age tale Martha Dodd, the ambassador s fetching daughter is a socialite of the first order Men seem to throw themselves at her even her own father, in a way Much of the book follows her numerous trysts with many a notable figure of the day, writer Carl Sandberg for one and even Hitler himself entertained the idea of making a match Larson and other biographers can thank her and her father s proclivity for writing letters and journals as the reason for the wealth of insight into the lives of these somewhat innocuous people I say somewhat in reference to the Dodd s ambassadorial ineptitude, while giving a nod to Martha s post WWII involvement in the cold war spy game Now I feel I must make reparations for my use of ineptitude, for I doubt very much that any ambassador sent over to deal with Hitler s steamroller regime at the time could ve done anything to change the course of seemingly inevitable history Erik Larson is making a name for himself in the modern era s take on dramatic non fiction This subject being so recent, he doesn t have to rely so heavily on supposed conversations or probable scenarios to reconstruct hypothetical scenes Not only does he have firsthand accounts from the Dodds themselves, but there are also preserved documents, news stories, even eyewitness accounts What Larson does with this wealth of information is not outstandingly spectacular, but it is an admirable piece of work and an interesting viewpoint from which to approach the coming of World War II. On November 9 10, 1938 Nazi Germany, using SA storm troopers and sympathetic civilians, carried out the Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, a series of systematic attacks targeting Jewish homes and businesses Almost 100 people were killed and thousands were wounded and or arrested and sent to concentration camps United States President Franklin D Roosevelt issued a harsh condemnation, stating that he could scarcely believe such a thing could happen in a twentieth century civilization This statement came almost six years after both he and Adolph Hitler had taken power, respectively, and almost six years after he had dispatched American professor William Dodd, a plain spoken Jeffersonian Democrat of Spartan means and simple tastes to serve as American Ambassador Differing mightily from the Pretty Good Club of independently wealthy, aristocratic leaning gentlemen diplomats usually deployed by the state department, Dodd had vowed to operate the Berlin embassy on a strict budget and would live within his means on his government salary of seventeen thousand dollars a year As an example and illustration he eschewed the limousines and other trappings of his office and transported his homely old Chevrolet to Germany with him Roosevelt hoped that Professor Dodd would be a shining beacon of American common sense and constitutionalism in the fanatical leaning Germany that was embracing a young Hitler But truth be known, Dodd was not Roosevelt s first choice for the appointment, or the second or the third he was by all accounts a dark horse candidate for the job and a statesman not at all embraced by the elitist upper echelons of diplomatic society And truth be known, Dodd himself would have much rather spent those years on his farm in Virginia quietly writing volumes of his Old South history.So it was a misfit ambassador in an aristocratic, transitional government city, speaking with an odd accent who confronted the embryonic Third Reich on behalf of America Dealing with awkward relationships in Berlin and an increasingly hostile state department in Washington, Dodd alone among so many government leaders saw what would become if nothing was done And his enemies in Washington downplayed his warnings and played politics and intrigue rather than investigating his claims of Hitler s real purpose.It is in this setting of internal and external tension that author Erik Larson weaves his novelistic history of the years before World War II and Hitler s rise to international conflict More than that, Larson s journalistic narrative describes Dodd s family, his lusty and adventurous daughter and how this eclectic American family lived down the street from SA commander Rohm and within walking distance of Nazi elite Fascinating, compelling and disturbingly relevant for our own times as issues of freedom of speech and expression continue to be discussed, scarcely realistic given that we now live in a twenty first century global civilization. This story covers the Dodd family and their lives amongst the beast machine of Hitler s Nazi Germany Rosevelt asked Dodd to become the American ambassador to Hitler s Germany At that time Germany was in debt to America and owed loads of money and they looked like they were not going to pay so the need for the ambassador arose Dodd and his wife agreed to the position and so they left for Berlin, he also invited his two grown children Martha and Bill The lovely Martha appears in the story quite a bit as in the backdrop Hitlers rises to power and his evil spreads we follow her and her relationship with a communist Russian Martha when she arrived in Berlin found she liked Germany and the people and commented them as being better than the Parisian, obviously this was before Hitler showed his face and colors of evil and his propaganda was widespread Germany wanted this image wanted Americans to warm to them but as the garden was perceived to be nice the beasts were slowly going about their Arian work, as the stormtroopers developed unknown to the visitors eye a rage and a pot was brewing of turmoil and fascism The rest is history the persecutions of Jews and all non Arian is well documented the author is trying to give us a pigeon hole on how it was for this family amongst the turmoil and documents the ambassadors interactions with Hitler s Germany The ambassador was called eventually to Hitlers office and warned in person by Hitler that he was unhappy with Americas media view of him The story became at times too fact based but is not an easy subject to write about he has successfully not made it solely just about the evil but also about the human struggles When i was searching the web for a photo of Dodd I came across interesting info Evidence of continued efforts by powerful U.S fascists to regain control of the White House is illustrated by a 1936 statement by William Dodd, the U.S Ambassador to Germany In a letter to Roosevelt, he stated A clique of U.S industrialists is hell bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime A prominent executive of one of the largest corporations, told me point blank that he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism into America if President Roosevelt continued his progressive policies Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there Propagandists for fascist groups try to dismiss the fascist scare We should be aware of the symptoms When industrialists ignore laws designed for social and economic progress they will seek recourse to a fascist state when the institutions of our government compel them to comply with the provisions Martha Dodd Visit webpage for Video interview with the author.There is also to be a movie. I didn t think you could make the rise of Hitler boring, butthis was Ever so much 300 pages of But unknown to Dodd, all the rich dudes in the US hated him and were saying things like blah blah blah and Martha was having yet another affair and Everyone in Berlin seemed happy but THE ATMOSPHERE WAS TENSE that all led up to a rather anticlimactic Night of the Long Knives I really just didn t care for anyone in the Dodd family Dodd himself seemed stuffy and did not, over the course of the book, seem to have the brilliant insight into the implications of the Nazi regime with which the epilogue credits him Martha was pretty insufferable and ultimately I had no idea why so much time was spent on her affairs I would ve vastly preferred a book about characters named only briefly, like Bella Fromm or Sigrid Schulz. `Free Kindle ☈ In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin ↶ The Time Is , 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 HistoryA 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 Enad Of The New Germany, She Has One Affair After Another, Including With The Surprisingly 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 AmbitionSuffused With The Tense Atmosphere Of The Period, And With Unforgettable Portraits Of The Bizarre Goring 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