Friday, November 14, 2014

In The Garden of Beasts

Just finished reading this book.  It is about history professor William Dodd, appointed as ambassador to Nazi Germany in 1933, and the strange diplomatic and personal tanglings of Dodd and his family while they were there.  His daughter Martha dated the head of the Gestapo at the start of Hitler's reign, an NKVD agent assigned to the Soviet Embassy, and all sorts of other interesting and often dangerous characters.  What is quite interesting in how easily progressives like Dodd and especially Martha at first managed to find something very positive about the National Socialist revolution.  All this change, and rejection of bourgeois values!  Martha eventually became a minor Soviet agent, and she and her husband fled the U.S. after being subpoenaed by HUAC, eventually dying in Prague.

Erik Larson calls this "novelistic history", but I would not agree.  It is powerfully sourced, and awash in details from primary sources.  The title comes from the fact that much of it takes places in the Tiergarten section of Berlin, and also a commentary on who took over Germany.

1 comment:

Allen Cogbill said...

I recall reading in Amity Shlaes The Forgotten Man how FDR's close advisors thought that Stalin and the USSR in general were absolutely wonderful. I also remember that the first head of the organization founded to administer the National Industrial Recovery Act kept a life-sized photograph of Benito Mussolini in his office.