Thursday, October 2, 2014

In the Garden of Beasts, a review

I recently finished reading In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin.

I picked it up a few weeks ago to read on a trip, and just got around to finishing it.

The book is about William Dodd, who became the the U.S. ambassador to Germany on the eve of World War II. Dodd and his family were at first enchanted by the Nazi party. The atrocities they were committing were not widely published, and life was fairly normal and predictable in Berlin. In cities around the country the Nazi party was starting its campaign against the Jews, they were beating Americans in the streets, and began to reveal their true character to the world.

The book focuses a good amount of time on the life of Dodd's daughter, Martha. She was a young woman in a new city with a known father. The city was her playground, and she had the time of her life dating young Gestapo and SS officers. She had illicit affairs with some of the most powerful men in the country. Eventually, she met and became lovers with a Soviet who was a secret agent, and she was recruited to spy of the Soviet Union.

The book covers a few years prior to the war and the political and social changes that occurred prior to the war, and prior to Hitler taking full power of the country.  We all know what happened in the war, but it was enlightening to read about the events that occurred within the country prior to the outbreak of war.

For me, I find that I am often drawn to reading and learning about life in German before the war. In part, this is due to my family. My grandfather's family lived in Germany prior to the war. In the run up to World War II, his family, Jew's, experienced persecution. They were able to flee the country before the real horror began. Unfortunately, his extended family didn't get the chance to leave, so numerous members of our family perished at the hands of the Nazi's.

For my grandfather and his family, they could not get into the USA directly. They were able to secure passage into Mexico, and eventually made their way North into Texas. Their story of survival is nothing short of miraculous. As my grandfather ages, it is becoming more and more important to me that I embrace my heritage, and am a keeper of the family history. I want to share and pass down my families history.

To read in depth about the place where my great-grandparents lived, and the turbulent times they endured makes me long for them. Though I never met them, I wish I had. I wish that I had been born to hear the stories from them, to learn more about their language, life, and culture.

This book is non fiction, but reads like one. It is a great book full of intrigue, mystery, and political motives of the operatives. I highly recommend it!

Talk it out: Where is your family from? What is your heritage? How did you get to where you are now?

1 comment:

Kristen said...

sounds like an interesting book. my grandfather was from germany and he moved to australia during the war when he was a young man. i struggle to read about it though, it makes me very sad.