In the Garden of Beasts

In the Garden of Beasts

[love, Terror, and An American Family in Hitler's Berlin]

Downloadable Audiobook - 2011
Average Rating:
Rate this:
The telephone call that forever changed the lives of the Dodd family of Chicago came at noon on Thursday, June 8, 1933, as William E. Dodd sat at his desk at the University of Chicago. Now chairman of the history department, Dodd had been a professor at the university since 1909, recognized nationally for his work on the American South and for a biography of Woodrow Wilson. He was sixty-four years old, trim, five feet eight inches tall, with blue-gray eyes and light brown hair. Though his face at rest tended to impart severity, he in fact had a sense of humor that was lively, dry, and easily ignited. He had a wife, Martha, known universally as Mattie, and two children, both in their twenties. His daughter, also named Martha, was twenty-four years old; his son, William Jr.--Bill--was twenty-eight.
Publisher: Westminster, Md. : Books on Tape, 2011
Edition: Library ed
ISBN: 9780307914606
Branch Call Number: Online Audio Book
Additional Contributors: Hoye, Stephen
OverDrive, Inc


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

HCL_staff_reviews Oct 27, 2017

In 1933 Germany elected a new chancellor and a surprising resurgence appeared to occur in the once-decimated superpower nation. For newly-appointed American ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd, and his family, Berlin is a city of enchantment and reports of brutality towards communists and Jews seem to them exaggerated. But as their stay in Germany continues, the darker truths of the new Germany become impossible to ignore. Larson follows up <i>Devil in the White City</i> with another intimate account of a big historical topic and the personal nature of the narrative illuminates Nazi Germany unlike any other nonfiction book I've encountered. Compelling, readable and fascinating from beginning to end. — Anne P., Washburn Library

mryanhess Oct 13, 2017

If you're looking for an intimate portrait of how real people witnessed the rise of a brutal dictatorship, this book will satisfy...and terrify. I found it especially interesting to watch the characters steadily realize what the Nazi's were leading the world toward...and how few listened to them.

TechLibrarian Aug 26, 2017

I listened to this audiobook a few years ago. At the time I only thought it was so-so--it's quite suspenseful, as the plot and tension build slowly. I could appreciate that it was all meticulously researched using primary sources, and this gave great insight into the characters. I've been thinking about it lots over the past few weeks, as current events seem eerily similar. Thus, I thought I'd write a review and add it to my list of recommended reads. I think it's important that everyone understand this history.

Jul 22, 2017

Fascinating and terrifying book! Felt like the author was reading the book to me -

Jul 04, 2017

Innocents Abroad: Between the Wars. This story of ambassadorial intrigue as the Nazis take power in republican Germany -- in other words, fiddling while Rome burns -- is not as interesting as it should be. The elements are all there, but the author does not have the skills, or call it the killer instinct, to bring the generally well-meaning but confused and complacent U.S. ambassador and his daughter to life. I wonder how the film will turn out; they're going to have to do back flips to portray them as heroic, or even very sympathetic. Maybe they won't, and instead will portray them as they were. Wouldn't that be interesting?

Feb 09, 2017

In the Garden of Beasts is richly described, from the scenery to the characters, in a manner that gives a horrifying immediacy to a crucial turning point in history. From our vantage point in the future, we are forced to see through the eyes of people living in the time, who had no idea of the horrors to come. It is an uncomfortable but revealing perspective.

Full review:

Jan 04, 2017

This book was recommend to me by others also wanting to discover how an educated and tolerant society like Germany in the mid 30's was so wholly consumed by the Nazi machine. It goes along with "Hitler's Willing Executioners" as a must read to gather some perspective on how this comes about, and if it could, again.

Dec 01, 2016

One of the scariest books but unmatched for historical fiction...the real history of pre-war Germany and the parallels in the USA of the very recent times (21st century), make one shudder. This should be required reading for all who have attended public school in the last 30 years.

AL_CHRISTINES Oct 16, 2016

This book drops you into the middle of Berlin during the rise of the Nazi party. An intriguing story of outsiders living in the changing and ultimately, terrifying time before the outbreak of a world war. At times the many "characters" were difficult to remember, and sometimes I felt Larson got a little too caught up in details, but this was a great addition to those interested in WWII.

Mar 28, 2016

I hadn't read Erik Larson before (I know, I know), and I am happy to say this guy lives up to the hype. It's a compelling story with plot and intrigue and characters you care about, but it also avoids one of my pet peeves - made up conversations between historical figures. Plus, the subject matter is at once alarming and thought-provoking - it seems like a pretty straight line from the anti-Semitism of the US to the complacence about Hitler's rise to power to the Holocaust, but hindsight is 20/20, right? I also wish there were no implications for the current day, but that wish is part of the dangerous complacence, isn't it? The point is, this book provoked FEELINGS, which I was not expecting. Also, I would like a whole book on Martha Dodd, the ambassador's daughter. Dang, she got into some stuff.

View All Comments


Add a Summary

Nov 16, 2017

a fascinating look into life in Berlin when Germany was slowly being drawn into Hitler's web. at that time, everyone was oh so hopeful the extremists could be reasoned with, and that things would not be "that bad". lesson learned.

Feb 09, 2017

In the diplomatic service, Berlin would normally be considered a plum ambassadorial appointment, a great European capital exceeded only by London or Paris. But in the spring of 1933, the recently elected Franklin Roosevelt was having trouble filling the position. The political situation in Germany was turbulent, and Adolf Hitler had just been appointed Chancellor. Meanwhile Roosevelt had more consuming problems closer to home, dealing with the Great Depression. Just before congress closed session in June 1933, Roosevelt appointed William E. Dodd, a historian from the University of Chicago, to the post. At least four previous candidates had declined the position. Dodd, his wife Mattie, and adult children Bill and Martha, decamped for Berlin, becoming first-hand witnesses to the rise of National Socialism during their four year tenure in the German capital.

ajmccreary Jul 01, 2016

Chronicles the tenure of a history professor turned US ambassador to Germany during the early 1930s; the dalliances of his daughter with Jewish literary figures, Nazi power brokers, and Soviet spies; and the reluctance of all -- but especially of those back in Washington -- to fully register the implications of Hitler's rise.

Jun 08, 2013

This book takes place in Germany prior to WW II. Get a glimpse of what was happening in Germany as Hitler rose to power.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

ajmccreary Jul 01, 2016

ajmccreary thinks this title is suitable for All Ages


Add a Quote

Feb 09, 2017

There existed at this time a widespread perception that Hitler’s government could not possibly endure.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Subject Headings


Find it at PEPL

To Top