IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: LOVE, TERROR, AND AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN HITLER’S BERLIN

By: Erik Larson

Erik Larson, of The Devil and the White City and Issac’s Storm (re the Galveston hurricane of 1901) fame, has done it again! This is a wonderful portrayal of events in Berlin during the first few months of Adolph Hitler’s reign. He tells the tale through the eyes of FDR’s first ambassador to Germany, the scholar William E. Dodd and his grown daughter Martha. He extensively utilizes both of their diaries. Dodd is not a member of “the pretty good club” of the state department in the 1930’s, a pretty anti-Semitic club at that, so his observations about Hitler fell on some pretty deaf ears in Washington.

Martha was taken in at first by the parties and pomp of the eager young Germans, by those starry eyes soon became aware of the mounting persecution of Jews. Her father saw it all pretty quickly. Their perspectives are compelling, making the pages almost turn by themselves. Certainly, had Washington been listening, things might have taken a different turn. But there was no way that Hitler was going to be stopped, except perhaps, see below.

-- Tim Merrill