Review: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin


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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, a long if not accurate title for Erik Larson’s latest book, is one that might be hard to read for some. See, when looking back on history we’re able to point out what should have happened, or how we should have done things, or exclaim disbelief that we let things happen the way they did. But when you’re living during history you can only hope that the decisions made, the actions done, and the final outcome will be good.

The book follows American Ambassador to Germany William Dodd and his family, specifically his daughter Martha, during the tumultuous early years of Hitler’s Nazi regime. It was a time where America is still dealing with a financial depression and killer heat wave; and where it’s citizens, and most government officials, want nothing to do with Europe and their wars. Isolationism was the ideal, even if then President Roosevelt didn’t share those views. It was a time where the only thing that mattered when it came to Germany was that it repay the American financial institutions after being defeated in World War I.

We get a unique look at the early years of Hitler in Germany through the eyes of Americans who both want to believe that the increasing militaristic feel is just a temporary thing while Hitler and his party solidify their power-base, and who are alarmed at how barbaric and terrible this new ruling party could be. We meet the friends the Dodds make, Jewish, Nazi, and other foreign diplomats who also wish to believe that Hitler will either calm down once he consolidates power, or that the German people will rise up against him.

It's a scary book to read because it's really just the beginning of a story; a story where we all know the ending. You're left wondering "what if?".

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