April 28, 2022

IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: LOVE, TERROR, AND AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN HITLER’S BERLIN by Erik Larson

Publication Date: May 10, 2011
Print Length: 466 Pages
New York Times Bestseller
2011 Christian Science Monitor 15 Best Nonfiction Books

Previous Author Publications:
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz (2020)
Dead Wake, The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (2015)
Thunderstruck (2006)
The Devil in the White City, Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (2002)
Issac’s Storm, A Man, a Time and the Deadliest Hurricane in History (1999)

SYNOPSIS

In 1933, William Dodd, a professor at the University of Chicago, agreed to become the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, believing it would allow him to complete his history of the civil war. After arriving in Berlin with his wife, son, and daughter (Martha), Dodd grew alarmed as he watched Hitler’s Nazi Party become increasingly violent. While Martha flirted with Nazi officers, Dodd urged the U.S. State Department to recognize the threat that Hitler posed, a sinister warning that in the 1930s was not taken seriously enough. Using first-hand accounts, Larsen tells a gripping historical narrative of Hitler’s rise to power and Dodd’s unsuccessful efforts to raise the alarm.

REVIEWS AND AUTHOR INFORMATION

Maslin, Janet, “Perched in Berlin with Hitler Rising.” Books of the Times, The New York Times. May 19, 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/books/in-the-garden-of-beasts-by-erik-larson-review.html

Author Interview, “The U.S. Ambassador Inside Hitler’s Berlin.” NPR, May 4, 2012. https://www.npr.org/2012/05/04/151378813/the-u-s-ambassador-inside-hitlers-berlin

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • What were the events that most alarmed Ambassador Dodd as Hitler and the Nazi Party assumed control over Germany?

  • Despite his limited diplomatic experience, did Ambassador Dodd accurately assess the threat that Hitler posed in his communiques to the U.S. State Department?

  • How did Ambassador Dodd’s perceptions regarding what was happening in Germany differ from that of his daughter, Martha?

  • Given the warning signs about Hitler’s ambitions, how aware were the Western leaders that World War II was about to begin? What, if anything, could have prevented the war from happening?

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