Sunday, May 29, 2011

In the Garden of Beasts

by Erik Larson

This work of non-fiction tells the story of William Dodd's service as US ambassador to Germany beginning in 1933, the year Hitler was appointed chancellor to the country.  In the Garden of Beasts shifts between the perspective of the ambassador and his socialite daughter as they experience life in a changing country.  From early on, Dodd is apprehensive about Hitler and his regime and expresses his concerns to many in the US. However because of Dodd's unpopularity, these men ignore his warnings, which ultimately comes at a great cost to millions.

Dodd's daughter Martha goes to Germany looking for escape and excitement. She likes to party and she likes men. She gets involved romantically with several Nazi officers, including Rudolf Diels, as well as the Soviet intelligence officer Boris Vinogradov. Martha's sympathies seem to be guided by her romances causing her to ignore or overlook several horrendous eye-witness beatings perpetrated by SS officers.

Larson does a great job relating these lives and circumstances in world history without making the history dull. Readers can perhaps see how this evil fascist ruler was able to slowly enforce his plan and gain the trust of many Germans, confirming Edmund Burke's famous quote, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

This book meets the challenge for evil in the title.

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