Tuesday 24 May 2011

In the Garden of Beasts

Finished May 23
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
I had an advance reading copy of this from Library Journal and spent part of the long weekend reading it. It tells the story of William E Dodd, the first U.S. ambassador to Hitler's Germany and the story of his daughter Martha. Dodd became the ambassador in 1933, and was not Roosevelt's first choice. He took along with him his wife Mattie, his 26-year-old daughter Martha, and his 28-year-old son Bill.
This book is based on extensive research, including Dodd's diaries (published by Martha and Bill after his death), other Dodd papers, and Martha's papers.
It really focuses on the first year the family spent in Germany, and how they gradually realized the true nature of Hitler's aims. You can see the move from skepticism to disbelief to disgust in their outlook. Dodd could hardly force himself to interact with the German government after the Night of the Long Knives.
Martha had a different path, but ended up at the same place. She played the party girl, going to nightclubs, socializing with Nazis and diplomats from other countries. At first she defended the Nazis as setting their country right, but gradually began to see the harm they were causing to their citizens.
This was a fascinating read, and opened another viewpoint to this period in history to me.

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