Sunday, March 4, 2012
In the Garden of Beasts
A non-fiction account by Erik Larson of the experiences of the US ambassador to Nazi Germany in the early 1930s. He pieced the book together based on diaries of Ambassador Dodd, his daughter Martha, and many of the others they encountered, including the first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. It was really interesting to read about the rise of Hitler from the perspective of people who did not know what was coming next, and in particular, to see the reluctance of the US government and foreign service to become involved in another country's "internal affairs". Though seemingly appalled by the treatment of Jews, Ambassador Dodd worked hard to convince Jewish leaders in the US to tone down their criticism so as not to offend the German government and make things worse. My main criticism is there were many characters and it was hard to remember who was who though I suppose they all figured in the Dodds' lives, and thus the story would not be realistic without mentioning them. The book was also a bit dry at times, but I still found it worth the read.