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

Erik Larson
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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Summary & Study Guide Description

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson, is the story of William E. Dodd, who was the United States Ambassador to Germany from 1933 through 1937, just when Adolph Hitler's ascension to power was taking place. With obvious signs of trouble brewing, diplomats were not vying for the job as US Ambassador to Germany. Filling that position was one of the first and most difficult challenges facing the the newly elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

William E. Dodd was a history professor at the University of Chicago, where he had served for decades. Although he always had political aspirations, he was never called upon to serve his country. In 1933, Dodd was frustrated that his career at the university had really never taken off and that he had been by-passed by years for diplomatic positions within the government. He was on the verge of retiring from the university to devote his remaining years to writing when he learned he was a candidate for US Ambassador to Germany, a position which was located in Berlin.

When FDR made the offer to Dodd, he told him he'd give him only two hours to decide. After a quick discussion with his wife, he accepted the position. Dodd, his wife, and his two adult children took off on an ocean liner headed for Europe. Once arriving in the German capital, the Dodds found the city intriguing and the people warm and welcoming. The rumors they had heard about the rising violence after Adolph Hitler had risen to the position of German Chancellor and concluded that the press had been exaggerating the events.

As the months passed, however, Dodd began to see that signs that the Third Reich was a serious and growing danger. But Dodd was in a precarious position. As the head diplomat representing the United States, he was limited on his public statements because they were guided by American foreign policy. And despite the fact that President Roosevelt and the State Department under Secretary Hull were sent reports about the growing threat posed by Hitler and the Nazis and the violence perpetrated against Jews and Americans in Germany, there was a reluctance for the administration to publicly denounce these actions. There were many pressures on the Roosevelt administration to remain quiet about the Nazis. The State Department wanted to maintain diplomatic ties, American Jews were afraid that their German relatives would be treated more harshly, and the vast majority of the American public did not want to become embroiled in a European war.

Dodd thought of leaving--after all he and his family lived in danger--but his work ethic would not allow him to. He maintained relations with the Nazis as long as possible, but towards the end of his time in Berlin, he began to speak out against the atrocities that were increasing by the day. After Dodd returned to America in 1937, he felt it was his duty to speak out and let the world know what was really going on in Germany. Soon after, the entire world would know what was taking place under the Nazis and realize that Dodd had been right all along.

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