From the time I saw the initial reviews of In the Garden of Beasts, I knew it would be a book that I couldn’t put down. Erik Larson wrote a book that doesn’t disappoint. The time and research that he put into the book makes it worth reading as the story he tells is fascinating and horrifying at the same time.
In the Garden of Beasts opens in 1933 as Hitler is rising in the German political ranks and the undercurrents of “The Jewish Problem” are starting to be exposed. William Dodd is selected as the first American ambassador in the Franklin Roosevelt administration to reside in Germany and provide answers to the American government on his findings of the Hitler uprising.
When Dodd arrives with his family, he discovers that although his government does have an interest in the ongoing attacks of Jewish citizens, the bigger concern is the billion dollars that America is still owed from World War I. Dodd also realizes that his support from the government – with the exception of Roosevelt – is very minimal as he does not come from a wealthy background and does not know how to play the Boys Club game. He is consistently undermined as he reports his findings on the Third Reich; his reports are very accurate and if listened to earlier, could have saved the lives of millions of people. His colleagues continue to spend more time trying to remove him from his position as they realize that his outspokenness and interest in finding a solution take Germany farther away from settling their debt.
As In the Garden of Beasts is a work of non-fiction, Larson does a fantastic job of showing the true sentiments of the American government and public as they begin to hear about the plight of the German Jews. He found that Americans often had anti-Semitic views in the 1930’s and had little sympathy for the situation. William Dodd’s own daughter Martha found the rise of the Nazis glamorous and became a part of the culture until she saw the true focus of the regime take the lives of many in her circle.
Larson also does a great job of working in the class differences that existed in America, and which continue to be a problem today. William Dodd, with his common background, was shunned because he didn’t fear speaking his views against the Germans and in 1937, Roosevelt was forced to remove him from his position. Within two years of Dodd’s removal, all of his predictions came to life as the Germans began what was to be the murder of ten million people and the beginning of World War II.
Wendy Fitos is a makeup artist and esthetician with 22 years of experience. Her goal is to educate women on how to create looks that will meet both professional and personal styles. Wendy lives in Cleveland, Ohio and enjoys reading and exercising.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Crown. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.