Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In the Garden of Beasts

My latest book from the library is In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson. Here are a few of the blurbs at the Amazon page ...

"By far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history….Powerful, poignant…a transportingly true story." - The New York Times

"Tells a fascinating story brilliantly well." - Financial Times

"Highly compelling...Larson brings Berlin roaring to life in all its glamour and horror...a welcome new chapter in the vast canon of World War II." - Christian Science Monitor

"Terrific." - Los Angeles Times

“A stunning work of history.” - Newsweek

This non-fiction book is about the time spent by American Ambassador to Germany William Dodd (and his family) in Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich (1933 -). I'm just a few disks into the audio version, but I'm finding it very interesting, if disturbing - it reminds me of the film Cabaret which was set in the Berlin of just two years earlier (1931). It's appalling to read about the taken-for-granted anti-Semitism that tainted the US government's decisions on how to treat Germany at this time, and on the personal level, one of the creepier elements of the story is Dodd's daughter's behavior - thought to be beautiful and befriended by notables like Carl Sandburg, she had sexual relationships with the head of the Gestapo and a Soviet diplomat who recruited her to spy for the KGB ... so far I find her an self-absorbed dope and though I've never read Sandburg, if his letters to her are any example of his style, I'm glad I've missed him. I think the book is really worth a read, though its portrait of human nature is chilling.

Here's a bit from a review of the book in the L.A. Times ....

Book review: 'In the Garden of Beasts'
by Jeff Bailey

As the events leading up to World War II go, Franklin Roosevelt's 1933 appointment of a naïve history professor as ambassador to Germany — and the professor's decision to take his adventurous adult daughter with him — rank pretty low in importance. But in these lives, Erik Larson, author of "The Devil in the White City," finds a terrific storytelling vehicle, as William E. Dodd and his daughter, Martha, are initially taken with Adolf Hitler and his reinvigoration of Germany, and then slowly come to realize that nothing would stop Hitler from waging war and seeking to wipe out Europe's Jews .........

The Dodds initially thought that Hitler would either be deposed as Germany came to its senses or that he would moderate his behavior. They refused to believe more experienced diplomats and journalists in Berlin who warned of the regime's brutality. In a letter to Roosevelt, Dodd said he disapproved of Hitler's treatment of Jews, but added, "I believe a people has a right to govern itself and that other peoples must exercise patience even when cruelties and injustices are done. Give men a chance to try their schemes."

Little by little, the Dodds' view changed. Brutal attacks on visiting Americans by Hitler's storm troopers, the growing persecution of Jews, and finally the frightening June 1934 purge, known as the Night of the Long Knives, in which Hitler had hundreds of government officials murdered, awakened them. Just a few months earlier, Dodd had met with Hitler, who became enraged on the topic of Jews. "Damn the Jews," he'd told Dodd, blaming them for any troubles between the U.S. and Germany. "If they continue their activity, we shall make a complete end to all of them in this country."

Dodd became strongly anti-Hitler, speaking out against the regime and warning of war ahead. His remarks angered his State Department bosses, who legitimately wondered how an ambassador not on speaking terms with his host government could be effective. Recognizing his loss of influence, Dodd mulled quitting but didn't want to give his enemies the satisfaction. Instead, he was sacked, Roosevelt finally bowing to State Department demands to make a change .........

Berlin's Tiergarten (garden of beasts) ...


Anonymous Victor said...

Crystal, now that "Lent" is over, "I" can finally say a few words without sinner vic looking over my shoulder and telling me what to write.

I want to start off by saying that you are so way ahead of me spiritually and as hard as I try, I can't seem to find a lot of the interesting movies that you talk about from the library. I hear ya! Victor if you would just accept some of the millions you've been offered, you wouldn't have that problem? :(

Anyway there's so much that I want to say about this post and I don't really know where to start so I'll try to keep "IT" simple and start in "The Beginning" and then move to "Adam and Eve" following that with "The Word of GOD made flesh" and compress "IT" and simply say that because "The Jews" accidently crucified "Jesus" "The angels" "Left Behind" thought that if they killed enough jews, then the godly alien cells would eventually forgive them in "Time"....\

You better let U>S (usual sinners) finish this you skitso Victor before you make a complete "MESS of "IT" if you know what "I" mean folks?:)

Go figure! I better quit NOW! And me, myself and i thought we were finally rid of ya sinner vic.

Peace Crystal

No, No, "IT" is piece Victor!? :)

"WHATEVER!" sinner vic! :(

9:46 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Victor,

The Romans killed Jesus - there's no excuse for anti-Semitism.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Victor said...

Crystal, I agree that The Jews did not directly nailed Jesus to the cross but The Jewish leaders believed that Jesus was threat to their way of life so their behavior was just as instrumental in getting Him executed. As you say, they did not crucify Him directly but I've always assumed that if you're not part of the solution to do good and team UP with evil, then are we not part of the problem for causing it to take place. If The Jews spiritually in reality helped The Romans with "IT" then in other words if a Jewish leaders representing The Jewish Race caused "Jesus" to be crucified, does that not make them just as guilty if not even more so?

Just wondering!


7:14 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


A few Jewish religious leaders may have wished to do away with Jesus ... how does that equal "the whole Jewish race" having killed Jesus?

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Ελλάδα said...

This excellent book tells the story of William Dodd- F.D.R.'s first ambassador to Nazi Germany shortly after the Nazi's came to power.The main characters in the book are Dodd and his daughter Martha who lives life to it's fullest.(She is friends with many leading lights including Carl Sandburg and Thornton Wilder.One of her lovers was Rudolf Diels an early leader of the Gestapo) Dodd was not the Presidents first choice- he was not even his second- Dodd's enemies called him "Telephone book Dodd" insinuating that F.DR. wanted another Dodd for the job but called William by accident. F.D.R. wants Dodd to represent American democratic values while at the same time getting loans owed by Germany to American bankers. He is also given the charge of dealing with stories of German abuses toward their Jewish population.This was a delicate issue for the U.S. Department of State was riddled with anti-semitism and the American public was not receptive toward immigrants during the Great Depression. Also isolationist sentiment was running high.Dodd gained his PhD in Germany and at first he was resistant to stories of rising German brutality. As he tours the nation, his opinions change as hears accounts of anti- semitism, abuses against dissidents and attacks on Americans.I had never heard of Americans being attacked on street corners by S.A. thugs who were incensed when they did not raise their arms in the Heil salute.Dodd was to become a vocal opponent of the regime.The author captures the spread of Nazi power over the nation from tales of stunned intellectuals who moderate their views on the Nazi's as not to offend them to a Nazi bigwig who offers a treat to a party guest who is shocked to see the candy engraved with the swastika.Meanwhile in the U.S.-Dodd has enemies in the State Department who feel his views on Germany are too harsh and are exaggerated.

3:47 AM  

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