Tuesday, 4 October 2011

In the Garden of Beasts - Love and Terror in Hitler's Berlin - Eric Larson

Being a fan of Larson since he wrote The Devil in the White City which followed the architect Daniel Burnham and the serial killer H.H. Holmes, I've been really looking forward to reading In the Garden of the Beasts. Also while I have a keen interest WWI II history I have not read as much as I would like about the preceding period
Larson follows Dodd, reluctant American Ambassador to Germany and his family, in particular his daughter Martha as they are situated in Berlin. Although a work of non-fiction, this like Devil reads like a novel, painting a vivid picture of life in pre-war Berlin, and using extracts written by Dodd and Martha. Dodd's lame and tame attitude means he does not see evidence of the growing anti-semitism around him for at least a year (although there is an interesting aside, in the want to save money he rents his embassy house from a Jewish Banker who insists on remaining to live in the 4th floor with his mother, knowing that the safest place for a Jew at this time is in the American Ambassador's house). Martha is more of a social animal than her father and quickly embraces the Berlin scene and becomes involved in a number of affairs with high ranking officials including the head of the Gestapo and an NKVD (KGB) agent.
While I still think the Devil in the White City is a greater achievement I loved the insight into pre-war Berlin from a personal aspect and it aided in seeing how easily war escalated when all parties involved at their heads firmly in the sand.

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