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Book review: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

Dear Reader,

I have just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. I love historical non-fiction like this one. I’ve read about brothels in Chicago, drama in Savannah, and even a murderer in Italy. This book however, was the first book I had read about Hitler and the Third Reich since leaving high school.

I did not choose this book because it was about Hitler, the overall subject just struck me as interesting. The book tells the story of the American Ambassador to Germany appointed as Hitler was about to ascend to power. The book is a fascinating look at that time in Germany. It spends a bit longer than I would have liked dealing with the dalliances of the Ambassador’s daughter. I admit, her romances do actually affect how people viewed the Ambassador and thus America, and thus germain to the story; they were just not that interesting to me.

The fascinating part of the book to me was the inside look at “The night of the long knives“. I, of course, was taught about this event growing up but the book brings it – and the utter brutality of Hitler and the Nazi party – into a bright and stark light by giving the statistics names and telling some of their stories. More than anything in the book, this part moved me.

Many of my friends who are left leaning politically love to throw out the word Nazi a lot or call men like Pres. Bush a Nazi because they dislike his policies. (Hell, I’ve been known to call Beth Tucker Long a Grammar Nazi for her constant corrections of my writing.) After having a small glimpse into who these men really were and what the party stood for, I won’t be doing that any more. Comparing anyone to the Nazi party – or comparing someone to Hitler to make a shocking point – shows a gross disrespect to those that had to live through the real horror. In my opinion it also shows an ignorance of history on the part of the name caller.

Beyond that, I found the book to be an enjoyable read. The author – Erik Larson – does a good job of piecing together the events of 1933-1934 through memoirs and official documents. He weaves an interesting tale and I am glad I chose it.

Until next time,
I <3 |<