In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

( 1035 )

Overview

Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the White City, delivers a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
    A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and ...
See more details below
Paperback
$10.57
BN.com price
(Save 33%)$16.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (413) from $1.99   
  • New (16) from $5.22   
  • Used (397) from $1.99   
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the White City, delivers a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
    A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
    Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Isaac's Storm, The Devil in the White City, and Thunderstruck have all proven Erik Larson's ability to adroitly craft multilayered nonfiction. In his new In The Garden of Beasts, he demonstrates that gift again as he unfolds the often startling story of William E. Dodd, the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany, and his family. History professor Dodd was an unlikely choice to represent the United States in Hitler's Berlin; indeed, he was FDR's fifth choice for the post. His on-the-job education in the barbarities of the "New Germany" sometimes contrasted with that of his romantic, impressionable, party-loving daughter Martha. Larson places these very personal stories within the context of the ever-worsening events.

Philip Kerr
History books have to work much harder than they did of old. It's no longer enough that they are authoritative and well-researched—they have to be entertaining, too. As entertaining as a novel, perhaps. Of course this is quite a tall order. But Larson fills it admirably…his book reads like an elegant thriller…utterly compelling, and while I was reading it there were several occasions on which I had to stop and check to make sure it really was a work of nonfiction. It is—and marvelous stuff…an excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller…
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
…[Larson's] best and most enthralling work of novelistic history…There are hindsight-laden books that see the rise of Hitler as a parade of telltale signs. There are individual accounts that personalize the atmosphere of mounting oppression and terror. But there has been nothing quite like Mr. Larson's story of the four Dodds, characters straight out of a 1930s family drama, transporting their shortcomings to a new world full of nasty surprises…The Dodds' story is rich with incident, populated by fascinating secondary characters, tinged with rising peril and pityingly persuasive about the futility of Dodd's mission.
—The New York Times
Dorothy Gallagher
Larson has meticulously researched the Dodds' intimate witness to Hitler's ascendancy and created an edifying narrative of this historical byway that has all the pleasures of a political thriller: innocents abroad, the gathering storm…The story of prewar Germany, of the Jews, of book burnings, of the Reichstag trial, of the Night of the Long Knives, of the Nuremberg rally, of the unfolding disaster is old news. But Larson has connected the dots to make a fresh picture of these terrible events.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City. He surveys Berlin, circa 1933–1934, from the perspective of two American naïfs: Roosevelt's ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, an academic historian and Jeffersonian liberal who hoped Nazism would de-fang itself (he urged Hitler to adopt America's milder conventions of anti-Jewish discrimination), and Dodd's daughter Martha, a sexual free spirit who loved Nazism's vigor and ebullience. At first dazzled by the glamorous world of the Nazi ruling elite, they soon started noticing signs of its true nature: the beatings meted out to Americans who failed to salute passing storm troopers; the oppressive surveillance; the incessant propaganda; the intimidation and persecution of friends; the fanaticism lurking beneath the surface charm of its officialdom. Although the narrative sometimes bogs down in Dodd's wranglings with the State Department and Martha's soap opera, Larson offers a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery. Photos. (May)
From the Publisher
"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

“Larson has meticulously researched the Dodds’ intimate witness to Hitler’s ascendancy and created an edifying narrative of this historical byway that has all the pleasures of a political thriller….a fresh picture of these terrrible events.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
"Larson has taken a brilliant idea and turned it into a gripping book."—Women's Wear Daily

"Harrowingly suspenseful." Vogue.com

"A gripping, deeply-intimate narrative with a climax that reads like the best political thriller, where we are stunned with each turn of the page."—Louisville Courier Journal

"Electrifying reading...fascinating." Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 
“Larson’s latest chronicle of history has as much excitement as a thriller novel, and it’s all the more thrilling because it’s all true.”—Asbury Park Press

"A superb book...nothing less than masterful."—Toronto Globe and Mail  

“Even though we know how it will end — the book's climax, the Night of the Long Knives, being just the beginning, this is a page-turner, full of flesh and blood people and monsters too, whose charms are particularly disturbing.”—Portland Herald

"Larson succeeds brilliantly…offers a fascinating window into the year when the world began its slow slide into war."—Maclean's Magazine

"Erik Larson tackles this outstanding period of history as fully and compellingly as he portrayed the events in his bestseller, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. With each page, more horrors are revealed, making it impossible to put down. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS reads like the true thriller it is."—BookReporter.com

"Larson's strengths as a storyteller have never been stronger than they are here, and this story is far more important than either "The Devil in the White City" or "Thunderstruck." How the United States dithered as Hitler rose to power is a cautionary tale that bears repeating, and Larson has told it masterfully."—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Reads like an elegant thriller…utterly compelling… marvelous stuff. An excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller, and probably will be.”—The Washington Post
 
“Larson's scholarship is impressive, but it's his pacing and knack for suspense that elevates the book from the matter-of-fact to the sublime.”—Pittsburgh Review

“A master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction.”—People (3 1/2 stars)

"Larson has done it again, expertly weaving together a fresh new narrative from ominous days of the 20th century."—Associated Press

""Mesmerizing...cinematic, improbable yet true."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"[L]ike slipping slowly into a nightmare, with logic perverted and morality upended….It all makes for a powerful, unsettling immediacy."—Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair

“Dazzling….Reads like a suspense novel, replete with colorful characters, both familiar and those previously relegated to the shadows.  Like Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories or Victor Klemperer’s Diaries, IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS is an on-the-ground documentary of a society going mad in slow motion."—The Chicago Sun-Times

“[G]ripping, a nightmare narrative of a terrible time.  It raises again the question never fully answered about the Nazi era—what evil humans are capable of, and what means are necessary to cage the beast.”—The Seattle Times

"In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City...a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery."—Publishers Weekly(Starred Review)

Praise for Erik Larson
  
THUNDERSTRUCK
“A ripping yarn of murder and invention.”—Los Angeles Times

“Larson’s gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant tactility and filling it with surprising personalities makes Thunderstruck an irresistible tale.”—The Washington Post Book World

“Gripping….An edge-of-the-seat read.”—People
 
DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY
“[Larson] relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel….a dynamic, enveloping book.”
The New York Times

“A hugely engrossing chronicle of events public and private. Exceedingly well-documented, exhaustive without being excessive, and utterly fascinating.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“An irresistible page-turner that reads like the most compelling, sleep-defying fiction.”—Time Out New York

 ISAAC’S STORM 
“A gripping account…fascinating to its core, and all the more compelling for being true.”—New York Times Book Review

“Superb...Larson has made the Great Hurricane live again.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Gripping….The Jaws of hurricane yarns.”—Newsday

Library Journal
Best-selling author Larson (The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America) turns his considerable literary nonfiction skills to the experiences of U.S. ambassador to Germany William E. Dodd and his family in Berlin in the early years of Hitler's rule. Dodd had been teaching history at the University of Chicago when he was summoned by FDR to the German ambassadorship. Larson, using lots of archival as well as secondary-source research, focuses on Dodd's first year in Berlin and, using Dodd's diary, chillingly portrays the terror and oppression that slowly settled over Germany in 1933. Dodd quickly realized the Nazis' evil intentions; his daughter Martha, in her mid-20s, was initially smitten by the courteous SS soldiers surrounding her family, but over time she, too, became disenchanted with the brutality of the regime. Along the way Larson provides portraits based on primary-source impressions of Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, and Hitler himself. He also traces the Dodds' lives after their time in Germany. VERDICT Larson captures the nuances of this terrible period. This is a grim read but a necessary one for the present generation. Those who wish to study Dodd further can read Robert Dallek's Democrat & Diplomat.—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Kirkus Reviews

A sometimes improbable but nevertheless true tale of diplomacy and intrigue by bestselling author Larson (Thunderstruck, 2006, etc.).

William E. Dodd, the unlikely hero of the piece, was a historian at the University of Chicago in the early 1930s, tenured and unhappy, increasingly convinced that he was cut out for greater things than proctoring exams. Franklin Roosevelt, then in his second year in office, was meanwhile having trouble filling the ambassadorship in Berlin, where the paramilitary forces of Hitler's newly installed regime were in the habit of beating up Americans—and, it seems, American doctors in particular, one for the offense of not giving the Nazi salute when an SS parade passed by. Dodd was offered the job, and he accepted; as Larson writes, "Dodd wanted a sinecure...this despite his recognition that serving as a diplomat was not something to which his character was well suited." It truly was not, but Dodd did yeomanlike work, pressing for American interests while letting it be known that he did not think much of the blustering Nazis—even as, the author writes, he seems to have been somewhat blind to the intensity of anti-Semitism and was casually anti-Semitic himself. More interesting than the scholarly Dodd, whom the Nazis thought of as a musty old man, was his daughter Martha, a beauty of readily apparent sexual appetite, eagerly courted by Nazis and communists alike. The intrigues in which she was caught up give Larson's tale, already suspenseful, the feel of a John le Carré novel. The only real demerit is that the book goes on a touch too long, though it gives a detailed portrait of a time when the Nazi regime was solidifying into the evil monolith that would go to war with the world only five years later.

An excellent study, taking a tiny instant of modern history and giving it specific weight, depth and meaning.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307408853
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 22,591
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 1.41 (d)

Meet the Author

ERIK LARSON is the author of the national bestsellers Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm. ErikLarsonBooks.com

Biography

Often times, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Take the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois. The fair was the groundbreaking birthplace of such things as neon lights and the Ferris Wheel; a wonderland of futuristic technology and architecture. It was also the playground of a demented murderer who set up his very own chamber of torture within striking distance of the fair. This bizarre dichotomy of creation and destruction is what enticed Erik Larson to tell the twisted tale of the 1893 World's Fair in his fascinating fourth book Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.

Journalist Larson's work displays a fascination with the ways various forms of violence affect every day life. His second book Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun is an exploration of gun culture throughout American history, using a horrendous incident involving a machine-gun toting 16-year old as its uniting thread. His next book, the griping, critically acclaimed Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, detailed one of the worst natural disasters in American history, a hurricane that hit Galveston Texas in 1900 leaving between 6,000 and 10,000 people dead. However, when Larson first encountered the story of Dr. Henry H. Holmes, he was reluctant to use it as the basis for one of his books. "I started doing some research, and I came across the serial killer in this book, Dr. H. H. Holmes," he told Powell's.com. "I immediately dismissed him because he was so over-the-top bad, so luridly outrageous. I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to do a slasher book. It crossed the line into murder-porn. So I kept looking, and I became interested in a different murder that actually had a hurricane connection, where I of course got distracted by the hurricane and wrote Isaac's Storm."

When Larson completed Isaac's Storm and began researching ideas for his next book, he began reading about the 1853 World's Fair. Hooked by the numerous colorful characters and amazing occurrences surrounding the fair, Larson decided he would use it as the subject for his fourth book. Still, he had little interest in telling a straight chronological play-by-play of the fair's creation. So, he resolved to revisit the subject that had so repulsed him prior to writing Isaac's Storm.

Dr. Henry H. Holmes was a heinous modern monster. Just west of the fair, he built the mockingly named "World's Fair Hotel" where he would torture his victims by any number of means. The grotesque hotel was equipped with its very own gas chamber, dissection table, and crematorium. As abhorrent as Holmes was, Larson could not resist the jarring juxtaposition of this remorseless killer and the fair.

The resulting book Devil in the White City is both a richly detailed history and a chilling yarn as unbelievable and spellbinding as any work of fiction. The book was both a finalist for the National Book Award and a Number 1 New York Times bestseller. It was garnered nearly universal raves from The New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, Esquire, The Chicago Sun Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle, among many, many others.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring aspect of Devil in the White City is the fact that the book is an accurate history that also manages to be a riveting page-turner. As Larson says, "I write to be read. I'm quite direct about that. I'm not writing to thrill colleagues or to impress the professors at the University of Iowa; that's not my goal." Larson's goal was to render a fascinating story, and he succeeded admirably with Devil in the White City.

Good To Know

As entertaining as Larson's historical works are, he currently has little interest in expanding into fiction. "The research [involved in nonfiction] appeals to me," he told Powell's.com. "I love looking for pieces of things in far-flung archives -- but the beauty is that the complexity of the characters is there. You don't have to make it up."

As thoroughly detailed and well-researched as Larson's books are, it is hard to believe that he does not employ an assistant. Every detail in his books was gleaned by the author, himself.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Seattle, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 1, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1976; M.S., Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 1978

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Means of Escape

The telephone call that forever changed the lives of the Dodd family of Chicago came at noon on Thursday, June 8, 1933, as William E. Dodd sat at his desk at the University of Chicago.

Now chairman of the history department, Dodd had been a professor at the university since 1909, recognized nationally for his work on the American South and for a biography of Woodrow Wilson. He was sixty-four years old, trim, five feet eight inches tall, with blue-gray eyes and light brown hair. Though his face at rest tended to impart severity, he in fact had a sense of humor that was lively, dry, and easily ignited. He had a wife, Martha, known universally as Mattie, and two children, both in their twenties. His daughter, also named Martha, was twenty-four years old; his son, William Jr.--Bill--was twenty-eight.

By all counts they were a happy family and a close one. Not rich by any means, but well off, despite the economic depression then gripping the nation. They lived in a large house at 5757 Blackstone Avenue in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, a few blocks from the university. Dodd also owned--and every summer tended--a small farm in Round Hill, Virginia, which, according to a county survey, had 386.6 acres, “more or less,” and was where Dodd, a Jeffersonian democrat of the first stripe, felt most at home, moving among his twenty-one Guernsey heifers; his four geldings, Bill, Coley, Mandy, and Prince; his Farmall tractor; and his horse-drawn Syracuse plows. He made coffee in a Maxwell House can atop his old wood-burning stove. His wife was not as fond of the place and was more than happy to let him spend time there by himself while the rest of the family remained behind in Chicago. Dodd named the farm Stoneleigh, because of all the rocks strewn across its expanse, and spoke of it the way other men spoke of first loves. “The fruit is so beautiful, almost flawless, red and luscious, as we look at it, the trees still bending under the weight of their burden,” he wrote one fine night during the apple harvest. “It all appeals to me.”

Though generally not given to cliche, Dodd described the telephone call as a “sudden surprise out of a clear sky.” This was, however, something of an exaggeration. Over the preceding several months there had been talk among his friends that one day a call like this might come. It was the precise nature of the call that startled Dodd, and troubled him.

For some time now, Dodd had been unhappy in his position at the university. Though he loved teaching history, he loved writing it more, and for years he had been working on what he expected would be the definitive recounting of early southern history, a four-volume series that he called The Rise and Fall of the Old South, but time and again he had found his progress stymied by the routine demands of his job. Only the first volume was near completion, and he was of an age when he feared he would be buried alongside the unfinished remainder. He had negotiated a reduced schedule with his department, but as is so often the case with such artificial ententes, it did not work in the manner he had hoped. Staff departures and financial pressures within the university associated with the Depression had left him working just as hard as ever, dealing with university officials, preparing lectures, and confronting the engulfing needs of graduate students. In a letter to the university’s Department of Buildings and Grounds dated October 31, 1932, he pleaded for heat in his office on Sundays so he could have at least one day to devote to uninterrupted writing. To a friend he described his position as “embarrassing.”

Adding to his dissatisfaction was his belief that he should have been farther along in his career than he was. What had kept him from advancing at a faster clip, he complained to his wife, was the fact that he had not grown up in a life of privilege and instead had been compelled to work hard for all that he achieved, unlike others in his field who had advanced more quickly. And indeed, he had reached his position in life the hard way. Born on October 21, 1869, at his parents’ home in the tiny hamlet of Clayton, North Carolina, Dodd entered the bottom stratum of white southern society, which still adhered to the class conventions of the antebellum era. His father, John D. Dodd, was a barely literate subsistence farmer; his mother, Evelyn Creech, was descended from a more exalted strain of North Carolina stock and deemed to have married down. The couple raised cotton on land given to them by Evelyn’s father and barely made a living. In the years after the Civil War, as cotton production soared and prices sank, the family fell steadily into debt to the town’s general store, owned by a relative of Evelyn’s who was one of Clayton’s three men of privilege--“hard men,” Dodd called them: “. . . traders and aristocratic masters of their dependents!”

Dodd was one of seven children and spent his youth working the family’s land. Although he saw the work as honorable, he did not wish to spend the rest of his life farming and recognized that the only way a man of his lowly background could avoid this fate was by gaining an education. He fought his way upward, at times focusing so closely on his studies that other students dubbed him “Monk Dodd.” In February 1891 he entered Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (later Virginia Tech). There too he was a sober, focused presence. Other students indulged in such pranks as painting the college president’s cow and staging fake duels so as to convince freshmen that they had killed their adversaries. Dodd only studied. He got his bachelor’s degree in 1895 and his master’s in 1897, when he was twenty-six years old.

At the encouragement of a revered faculty member, and with a loan from a kindly great-uncle, Dodd in June 1897 set off for Germany and the University of Leipzig to begin studies toward a doctorate. He brought his bicycle. He chose to focus his dissertation on Thomas Jefferson, despite the obvious difficulty of acquiring eighteenth-century American documents in Germany. Dodd did his necessary classwork and found archives of relevant materials in London and Berlin. He also did a lot of traveling, often on his bicycle, and time after time was struck by the atmosphere of militarism that pervaded Germany. At one point one of his favorite professors led a discussion on the question “How helpless would the United States be if invaded by a great German army?” All this Prussian bellicosity made Dodd uneasy. He wrote, “There was too much war spirit everywhere.”

Dodd returned to North Carolina in late autumn 1899 and after months of search at last got an instructor’s position at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. He also renewed a friendship with a young woman named Martha Johns, the daughter of a well-off landowner who lived near Dodd’s hometown. The friendship blossomed into romance and on Christmas Eve 1901, they married.

At Randolph-Macon, Dodd promptly got himself into hot water. In 1902 he published an article in the Nation in which he attacked a successful campaign by the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans to have Virginia ban a history textbook that the veterans deemed an affront to southern honor. Dodd charged that the veterans believed the only valid histories were those that held that the South “was altogether right in seceding from the Union.”

The backlash was immediate. An attorney prominent in the veterans’ movement launched a drive to have Dodd fired from Randolph-Macon. The school gave Dodd its full support. A year later he attacked the veterans again, this time in a speech before the American Historical Society in which he decried their efforts to “put out of the schools any and all books which do not come up to their standard of local patriotism.” He railed that “to remain silent is out of the question for a strong and honest man.”

Dodd’s stature as a historian grew, and so too did his family. His son was born in 1905, his daughter in 1908. Recognizing that an increase in salary would come in handy and that pressure from his southern foes was unlikely to abate, Dodd put his name in the running for an opening at the University of Chicago. He got the job, and in the frigid January of 1909, when he was thirty-nine years old, he and his family made their way to Chicago, where he would remain for the next quarter century. In October 1912, feeling the pull of his heritage and a need to establish his own credibility as a true Jeffersonian democrat, he bought his farm. The grueling work that had so worn on him during his boyhood now became for him both a soul-saving diversion and a romantic harking back to America’s past.

Dodd also discovered in himself an abiding interest in the political life, triggered in earnest when in August 1916 he found himself in the Oval Office of the White House for a meeting with President Woodrow Wilson. The encounter, according to one biographer, “profoundly altered his life.”

Dodd had grown deeply uneasy about signs that America was sliding toward intervention in the Great War then being fought in Europe. His experience in Leipzig had left him no doubt that Germany alone was responsible for starting the war, in satisfaction of the yearnings of Germany’s industrialists and aristocrats, the Junkers, whom he likened to the southern aristocracy before the Civil War. Now he saw the emergence of a similar hubris on the part of America’s own industrial and military elites. When an army general tried to include the University of Chicago in a national campaign to ready the nation for war, Dodd bridled and took his complaint directly to the commander in chief.

Dodd wanted only ten minutes of Wilson’s time but got far more and found himself as thoroughly charmed as if he’d been the recipient of a potion in a fairy tale. He came to believe that Wilson was correct in advocating U.S. intervention in the war. For Dodd, Wilson became the modern embodiment of Jefferson. Over the next seven years, he and Wilson became friends; Dodd wrote Wilson’s biography. Upon Wilson’s death on February 3, 1924, Dodd fell into deep mourning.

At length he came to see Franklin Roosevelt as Wilson’s equal and threw himself behind Roosevelt’s 1932 campaign, speaking and writing on his behalf whenever an opportunity arose. If he had hopes of becoming a member of Roosevelt’s inner circle, however, Dodd soon found himself disappointed, consigned to the increasingly dissatisfying duties of an academic chair.

Now he was sixty-four years old, and the way he would leave his mark on the world would be with his history of the old South, which also happened to be the one thing that every force in the universe seemed aligned to defeat, including the university’s policy of not heating buildings on Sundays.

More and more he considered leaving the university for some position that would allow him time to write, “before it is too late.” The idea occurred to him that an ideal job might be an undemanding post within the State Department, perhaps as an ambassador in Brussels or The Hague. He believed that he was sufficiently prominent to be considered for such a position, though he tended to see himself as far more influential in national affairs than in fact he was. He had written often to advise Roosevelt on economic and political matters, both before and immediately after Roosevelt’s victory. It surely galled Dodd that soon after the election he received from the White House a form letter stating that while the president wanted every letter to his office answered promptly, he could not himself reply to all of them in a timely manner and thus had asked his secretary to do so in his stead.

Dodd did, however, have several good friends who were close to Roosevelt, including the new secretary of commerce, Daniel Roper. Dodd’s son and daughter were to Roper like nephew and niece, sufficiently close that Dodd had no compunction about dispatching his son as intermediary to ask Roper whether the new administration might see fit to appoint Dodd as minister to Belgium or the Netherlands. “These are posts where the government must have somebody, yet the work is not heavy,” Dodd told his son. He confided that he was motivated mainly by his need to complete his Old South. “I am not desirous of any appointment from Roosevelt but I am very anxious not to be defeated in a life-long purpose.”

In short, Dodd wanted a sinecure, a job that was not too demanding yet that would provide stature and a living wage and, most important, leave him plenty of time to write--this despite his recognition that serving as a diplomat was not something to which his character was well suited. “As to high diplomacy (London, Paris, Berlin) I am not the kind,” he wrote to his wife early in 1933. “I am distressed that this is so on your account. I simply am not the sly, two-faced type so necessary to ‘lie abroad for the country.’ If I were, I might go to Berlin and bend the knee to Hitler--and relearn German.” But, he added, “why waste time writing about such a subject? Who would care to live in Berlin the next four years?”

Whether because of his son’s conversation with Roper or the play of other forces, Dodd’s name soon was in the wind. On March 15, 1933, during a sojourn at his Virginia farm, he went to Washington to meet with Roosevelt’s new secretary of state, Cordell Hull, whom he had met on a number of previous occasions. Hull was tall and silver haired, with a cleft chin and strong jaw. Outwardly, he seemed the physical embodiment of all that a secretary of state should be, but those who knew him better understood that when angered he had a most unstatesmanlike penchant for releasing torrents of profanity and that he suffered a speech impediment that turned his r’s to w’s in the manner of the cartoon character Elmer Fudd--a trait that Roosevelt now and then made fun of privately, as when he once spoke of Hull’s “twade tweaties.” Hull, as usual, had four or five red pencils in his shirt pocket, his favored tools of state. He raised the possibility of Dodd receiving an appointment to Holland or Belgium, exactly what Dodd had hoped for. But now, suddenly forced to imagine the day-to-day reality of what such a life would entail, Dodd balked. “After considerable study of the situation,” he wrote in his little pocket diary, “I told Hull I could not take such a position.”

But his name remained in circulation.

And now, on that Thursday in June, his telephone began to ring. As he held the receiver to his ear, he heard a voice he recognized immediately.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Das Vorspiel xvii

The Man Behind the Curtain 3

Part I Into the Wood 7

Part II House Hunting in the Third Reich 51

Part III Lucifer in the Garden 91

Part IV How the Skeleton Aches 155

Part V Disquiet 207

Part VI Berlin at Dusk 261

Part VII When Everything Changed 301

Epilogue The Queer Bird in Exile 357

Coda "Table Talk" 365

Sources and Acknowledgments 367

Notes 377

Bibliography 423

Photo Credits 435

Index 437

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 1035 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(364)

4 Star

(307)

3 Star

(194)

2 Star

(87)

1 Star

(83)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1043 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    powerful book

    This is the newest book by the author who wrote The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. If you are a history aficionado like me, especially if you are intrigued by Germany during the time of the Third Reich, then this is the book for you. Through the eyes of the American ambassador to Berlin and his adult daughter, Mr. Larson shows in stunning fashion how the world was determined to ignore the warning signs, and thus the true intent of Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany, until it was too late. This book certainly told a powerful tale. I am giving this one 5 stars, not because I loved the story, but because it made an impact on me and I will continue to think of it for quite a while.

    157 out of 162 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Great Read!

    The Dodd family moves to Berlin in 1933. Dodd is the US Ambassador to Germany appointed by Roosevelt. The book follows the family while they are in Berlin during Hitler's rise to power. This is a very intense look at what it was like to live in Germany during this time. Immensely informative and significantly disturbing read!

    81 out of 83 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 17, 2011

    A Fascinating Glimpse Into Prewar Nazi Germany

    I have always admired Erik Larsen's ability to mix period details with a personal story and "In The Garden of Beasts" is no exception. In it Mr. Larsen tells the story of the short term of William Dodd, a college professor who became the ambassador to Berlin in the early 30's. Called the "Cassandra of Diplomats" as he foretold the eventual rise of Hitler, Mr. Dodd was castigated by his peers in the state department for his frugal ways and low key manner. It also entails the story of his daughter Martha, who apparently slept her way through any male even remotely interesting. Mr. Larsen's story is well written and his prose creates the moods and feeling of prewar Berlin. Many famous figures float through his story and we know them all for better or worse when we are done reading. I recommend "In the Garden of Beasts" for anyone even vaquely interested in the period. I personally found it very hard to put down.

    40 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 11, 2011

    Wow! A remarkable look into Hitler's rise to power and America's indifference

    This book really opened my eyes to the insidious rise of Hitler and his henchmen.

    I was amazed by how indifferent America was as Mr. Dodd tried so hard to open their eyes to Hitler's real intent to start war.

    The story is told in a realistic and very readable form. I had a little trouble getting started with it due to recent cataract surgery, but once I picked it back up, I almost couldn't put it down to go to sleep, or go to work or anything. I read the last 330 pages of it in two evenings straight.

    Eric Larson is a wonderful writer, who backs up his story with solid research. Kudos to him!

    I immediately began reading his book "Thunderstruck" as soon as I finished "In the Garden of Beasts". It will also be an excellent read.

    32 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Haunting!

    Eric Larson has done it again! After a lackluster Thunderstruck, he has given us a skillfully written acount of the little know US's first ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler. The book perfectly captures the insidious evil of Hitler and his minions. Larson makes pre-World War II Berlin nightlife come alive as we watch Dodd's less-than-chaste daughter socialize with half of Fuhrer's posse. Even though you may not be a history buff, this book reads like a novel - pick it up, down load it - read it!

    27 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A wonderful non-fiction narrative

    This novel is so good you feel as if you are right there in the midst of all of these events (good and bad) that took place in the years before the Nazis decided that they should own Europe. Not since The Devil in the White City, another book by Mr. Larson published in 2000, has there been a book so well researched and captivating. In the year 1933, Mr. William F. Dodd, a Professor from Chicago, along with his family (wife, daughter and son) were sent to Berlin by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to become the American Ambassador. Mr. Dodd was the first Ambassador to Germany from the US and settled in Berlin during the year that was to become a turning point in history. Mr. Dodd, a fairly docile gentleman, was perfectly willing to accept the German politicians and their ways, which proved later on, that he was a bit overly naïve. Mrs. Dodd and Bill, Jr. were content with their lot in life and daughter, Martha, was extremely social and loved to party. Some of the handsome young men of the Third Reich were more than happy to show her the town. Martha was so impressed with these men that she had many affairs, one of them with the head of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But, as the days progress, it is evident that the new regime in Germany is starting a little "ethnic cleansing," as they say now, and the Jewish race and many others are being persecuted. These attacks against citizens of Germany are certainly not kept quiet and Mr. Dodd is getting very nervous and sending letters back to the State Department telling the President what is going on. Sadly, the State Department is very unconcerned about the letters and thinks that Mr. Dodd is crying wolf. Mr. Dodd watches the new laws passed by German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, and also the newspapers are censored as to what they can write. He even has a meeting with Hitler, where Hitler swore that he was not interested in starting a war. Unfortunately, Mr. Dodd believed Hitler and said so to the U.S. State Department. As Dodd's first year as Ambassador ends, the shadows of war creep forward. It becomes clear that Chancellor Hitler is arming Germany and biding his time before invading other countries and starting the 1000-year Reich. After a horrible night of murder and mayhem, Mr. Dodd is sure that Hitler is heading toward war. A wonderful non-fiction narrative that tells the reader that the United States did not realize what Hitler was doing behind everyone's backs until the invasions started and the world was at war. Quill Says: Even though this was a terrible time in the history of the world, this book is an absolute MUST READ!!!

    18 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2011

    The Odd Dodds Do Berlin

    You'd think an up-close look at Hitler's Berlin in the 30s would be interesting. Well it isn't, not here. I've loved two of Larson's previous books, so I'm sorry to say he goofed with this one. The truth about the Nazis is they're boring. It doesn't take long to get fed up. It's like spending time locked in a smelly, airless closet. Larson's vehicle for conveying it all, the midwestern American Dodd family with their social and cultural pretensions, appealed to me not at all. They could've stepped straight out of Sinclair Lewis, only Sinclair Lewis didn't write this book. So we get dinner parties, drives in the German countryside, house decoration, spats among Nazi officials and embassy functionaries, and Martha Dodd ever on the prowl. One more dinner party with the Dodds and their German guest list and who sat where and which of Martha's lovers showed up and how tense everybody was -- I thought I'd go off my nut with boredom. Ditto for Martha's love-trysts, complete with hokey dialogue I assume Larson got from Martha's own literary droppings. You're better off reading Wikipedia's articles on the Dodds. When I read the eye-opening one on Martha I was halfway through Larson's book. If I'd read it sooner I might've saved my money.

    16 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 15, 2011

    Very Disappointing! The Trifles of Diplomatic Life

    I'm honestly baffled by the positive reviews for "In The Garden of Beasts," a work that is nearly unreadable as a narrative history. I can only assume that Larson's readers remember the adventures and high drama of "Devil in the White City," a work of deserved praise. After a laborious three hundred pages of diplomatic dinners, infantile liaisons, minor diplomatic spats and walks along the Tiergarden, I was ready to consign Mr. Larson's recent work to the donation bin.

    Larson's protagonists, William E. Dodd, the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany, and his family (notably the vapid and promiscuous Martha, his daughter) are the epitome of American policy (and to a certain extent public opinion) as a whole toward the newly-born Nazi government; impotent, grossly naive and ill-prepared. Though Larson wants to draw this parallel, he fails to mention any detailed information regarding American views toward Germany, Hitler or the Nazi regime, with the exception of the American Jewish Congress. It's hard to decide whether Larson wants us to sympathize with Dodd or castigate him for behaving like a stubborn tenured professor. Dodd comes off as a dullard and, frankly anti-Semitic.

    Larson's failure to expound on the history of the Nazi party and several of the high ranking officials, relegating these figures to side-show status does the reader a great dis-service. His cliff notes version of the Nazi leadership is pathetic an lazy. When you compare this to the details regarding Martha Dodd's affairs and paramours, Larson insults the learned reader and indulges the tawdry side of this flawed history. Why quote or reference Shirer, when you have Mosse or Bullock? Why amble on and on about that love triangle between Martha, Biels and Boris, when you can actually quote from German newspapers reacting to Hitler's policies? This is a cheap history written for an ill-informed American audience.

    By the way......stop complaining about the price of "NOOK" books! You knew this was going to happen! Books need creative talent, time and research to complete. This is not the dollar store...If you would like, go down to your local INDEPENDENT bookstore and by it from them...its the same price.

    9 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2011

    Sorry Erik You Struck Out On This One

    His previous books were so well written and the stories so well constructed that when this was offered on pre-order I immediately did so.But I was very disappointed in what I got: a soap opera with Nazis occasionally showing up at the never ending embassy parties causing "tension in the air". Good grief, what a bore this was! I have to agree with other reviewers (The Dodds Do Berlin","Not Engaging", and " Not Worth The Money") and I only give this one star because the cover was kind of cool.Buy it only if you're having problems getting to sleep at night. Loved " Thunderstruck", "Devil in the White City", and "Isaac's Storm" so three home runs in four at bats is still Hall of Fame stuff. But I probably will not pre-order the next one.Keep swinging Erik.

    8 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 3, 2011

    A glimpse into the birth of evil

    If you want a glimpse into the world just before WWII and if you ask yourself how did civilized nations allow Hitler to take the world to the brink of destruction check this book out.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2011

    Disappointed - did not live up to promises

    Unlike so many others, I was not upset about the price...

    Had I not been between semesters with abundant free time, I would not have elected to even finish this book. The story lacked flow and, at times, was almost unreadable. This is from such a fascinating time in history and had so much potential to tell the story of a truly unforgettable and bizarre time in European and American history but fell short. I never felt a connection to the people in the story Larson was sharing. For a book about such an emotional time in history, there was little emotion within the text. The rave reviews and rankings within "must read" lists may have raised my expectations higher than anticipated.
    I have not read any of the other books of Mr. Larson's that also received such high praise (as indicated on the book jacket). Unfortunately, my disappointment with this book will bias me against other critically acclaimed books as well as Mr. Larson's past and future works.

    7 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 9, 2011

    Look through the eyes of the experienced

    An excellent read of the turmoils of one Ambassador and his family during the Third Reich's rise to power. Mr. Dodd was never seen as a good example by Washington standards but an intellectual with good diplomatic skills nonetheless. Dodd being from North Carolina was my main reason for reading and I was able to read of his stress being a Southern Gentleman farmer going through the spell of Hitler's Germany. The whole family is represented in this work and a grand description of a pious family amist the every extravgant Nazi Party.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    Great Story, Good Read

    The rise of the Nazis from the point of view of the American Ambassador and his daughter. Sheds light on how a civilized Germany was led down the path of distruction through the stories of some significant but lesser known personalities of the mid 1930s in Germany.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Magnificent history, a la Devil, truly enlightening

    Best strict history I've read since Devil in the White City, and thoroughly enjoyable.
    Particularly enlightening is the feeling -- as you're reading -- that the U.S. was ridiculously isolationist and the State Department full of country-club socialites. Although the end of WWI left participants exhausted, depressed and bereft, it also left them unwilling to "rock the boat" as Hitler and his facists rose to power. Larson shows us this again and again... and the world inevitably is sucked into World War.
    Larson tells this story from a unique point of view -- the educated American family whose father was appointed US ambassador in 1933. Americans in Berlin seemed to ignore the unpleasant aspects of an encroaching crackdown, distracted by parties, culture and gossip. Ambassador Dodd slowly came to realize that Hitler's goals included European domination and the eradication of Jews. His convictions, framed in constant communications with other embassies, U.S. cohorts and FDR,
    The characters here are compelling, frustrating, sometimes despicable ... just as in life. Dodd's daughter Martha is particularly fascinating -- a frankly sexual, intelligent young woman who certainly seems to make the most of her circumstances. Dodd himself starts off a bit stodgy, ultimately brave, clear-headed, and quite misunderstood in the U.S. The correctness of his assertions becomes apparent only too late.
    This is an engrossing tale where quotes come from primary sources and the details of events draw you in. Larson has done his usual masterful job of focusing our attention on an engrossing tale. In DEVIL, you had parallel stories; here, the good and bad guys live in the same neighborhoods. The tension on Tiergartenstrasse must have been like a chokehold.
    MUST READ for any fan of history. Also, you might find a few parallels between early Nazi-ism and the more ridiculous elements of conservatives Americans.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2012

    Great book!

    This is a great book that gives insight into Germany's path to destruction through the eyes of an American family. A fascinating true story, Eric Larson has done an excellent job with this one!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2011

    Not engaging

    While I loved Devil in the White City, I could not engage with Erik Larson's new book. I read the entire book, but I felt like I was forcing myself to read it because surely at some point, it would get better and would feel like a story. It never did feel that way to me. I'm glad others have enjoyed the book, but it didn't speak to me. It felt very dry and, I'm afraid, boring.

    5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I thought the book was fascinating. However, I could only give

    I thought the book was fascinating. However, I could only give it 3 stars, because it was kind of strangely written. The first 3/4 of the book were so crammed with minute details, that some of them seemed superfluous. Then the last few chapters were rushed. Like, how the beginning is a day by day by day account of every-little-thing. Then all of a sudden, it jumps from 1934 to 1937 with little detail at all. Had it not done that, I would have easily given it 4, or maybe even 5 stars.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 6, 2011

    Not worth the money

    Like a lot of things I have read lately this should have been a magazine article, not a book.
    The Dodds are not that interesting. The father seems to be a border line anti-semite himself, and the daughter was a shallow, somewhat round-heeled opportunist.
    There wasn't enough material here for a book and I wish I had saved my money.

    4 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Totally disappointed!

    After White City / and Isaac's Storm, I expected better than this.
    In my opinion the characters were flat and boring. I didn't care what the ambassador's daughter was doing, and so much of the book was devoted to her romances, just boring!

    This could have been a fantastic look at Germany pre-World War II but it turned out flat as a pancake. Too bad.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 28, 2011

    Great research

    - yet the Dodd family really isnt so interesting

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1043 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)