In The Garden of Beasts

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In the Garden of Beasts
480 pages; Broadway
Why was 1930s America so unaware of the creeping Nazi threat in Europe? According to Erik Larson's shocking nonfiction account In The Garden of Beasts (Crown), the blame falls on those who didn't heed the warnings of U.S. ambassador to Germany William E. Dodd, a professor from Chicago who was FDR's fifth choice for the job. Well-intentioned but oddly unworldly, Dodd decamped to Berlin with his family in 1933, hoping, in his 24-year-old daughter Martha's words, "to proclaim the warmth and friendliness of the people...the serenity of the streets." Martha was more pragmatic: A beauty and a flirt, she cavorted with several men, a Nazi leader and a Communist bureaucrat among them, and she came to have a better view of her new country. Eventually, with Martha's help, Dodd overcame his naivete, but he woke up too late to stem the tide of history.
— Sara Nelson