Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin" by Erik Larson

464 pages

In 1933, a mild-mannered professor named William Dodd was appointed US ambassador and moved from his home in Chicago to Berlin, bringing with him his wife, son, and daughter. At first, it seemed that the vicious rumors about the new chancellor, Hitler, were exaggerated. The Dodds found Germany to be lovely, and daughter Martha especially began integrating into Berlin's social scene. Before long, however, evidence of Jewish persecution became more troubling and more frequent. Dodd expressed his increasingly alarming concerns to the State Department back home but found it to be, for the most part, indifferent. As the atmosphere grew more tense, the Dodds began to see Hitler's true character and ambition come to light.

I thought this story was interesting, but not as fascinating as I expected. I was hoping for more griping first-hand accounts of the Nazis atrocities and an inside look at how such a madman as Hitler could rise to power. I thought this book had too much of Martha's social life and not enough of the real stuff. Larson certainly did his homework on that front, and perhaps Martha's correspondence and such is the bulk of what's still around from the Dodd family at this point (meaning that Larson was forced to make that his focus). Still, I was disappointed. 

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