Tag: Franklin Roosevelt

In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

May 29th, 2012 — 1:12am

In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson – Just when it seems that everything has been written about the rise of Nazism, a new work come along that sheds further insight on this horrific piece of history. Erik Larson ( author of The Devil in the While City ) allows us to see this morbid piece of history through the eye of William Dodd, a university professor who was chosen by President Franklin Roosevelt to the US Ambassador to Germany in the 1930s, just as Hitler is coming to power. He, his wife and two grown children, Bill and Martha come to Berlin bringing their old Chevy with them so Dodd could try to avoid an ostentatious diplomatic life style and live within his meager salary. Never the less he did attend the lavish diplomatic events  as required. He got know the rising Nazis and witnessed first hand the slow  but sure disenfranchisement of the Jews living in Germany and the ultimate brutality of the Nazis. His daughter Martha can only be described as a free spirit. She dated and romanced several young German officers, a Russian spy and even was introduced by one of her boyfriends to Adolph Hitler who kissed her hand. Both father and daughter at first didn’t appreciate the significance of the changing atmosphere in Germany. Initially, they   even seemed to sympathize with what they thought was seemingly innocuous anti-Semitic views expressed by some of the German leaders and many of the German people. Both did come to understand the true nature of the new German rulers. They saw not only was it undemocratic but it was  cruel and inhuman. From early on in his stay Dodd felt some of the people in the state department and even some from his staff badmouthed him because they felt he didn’t fit in this “old boys” network. It was Ambassador Dodd who tried to inform his superiors in Washington of what was happening in Germany but he was minimized by many voices in the US state department. The impression is given that Roosevelt did understood the reality but couldn’t speak out or take action because the mood of the US was not ready. In the end Dodd came out a hero-although a lonely voice that obviously never made a difference but deserves to be remembered.

The authenticity of the narration is supported by detailed research, which Larson documented at the end of this book. This included a meticulous review of archives from all over the world, biographies, memoirs published and unpublished. There would seem to be no doubt that the reader has viewed the birth and growth of the Nazi beast from a unique vantage point.

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