In The Garden Of Beasts by Erik Larson is a fascinating yet horrifying account of American ambassador to Berlin, William Dodd, after his appointment in summer of 1933.
The book charts the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. Hitler is described by Dodd’s daughter as “a clown who looked like Charlie Chaplin… could not imagine him lasting very long or being taken very seriously.” How very wrong she proved to be.
William Dodd thought Hitler, Goring and Himmler were all unsuitable for their posts. He disliked them all. Unfortunately a reign of terror was just beginning.
The atmosphere of fear grew over the years. It is ironic that people could be prosecuted for mistreatment of animals, even going to prison, but human life was not seen as so precious.
We see how Von Pappen believed Hitler could be controlled like a puppet and so handed Hitler power on a plate. As history shows, this spectacularly backfired.
The book comprehensively covers the reign of terror as witnessed by William Dodd and his family. The Germany Dodd had known and loved in his youth was long gone. Dodd warned of the dangers of Hitler and the Nazis but was largely overlooked.
We hear of the Night of The Long Knives and the purges to remove all opposition. We witness the consolidation of Hitler’s power.
As a historian with a passion for World War II I have read widely around the subject. Erik Larson’s book is comprehensive and chilling, especially as we read with hindsight, knowing what is to come.