Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book 4: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke

In the Garden of the Beasts is a factual retelling of the lead up to World War II, when Hitler had a free hand in Berlin and the rest of the world was ignoring the situation, or purposefully choosing to discount the various stories that were coming out of Berlin. This is, of course, a book that is read knowing the ultimate outcome, but that does not take away from the desperate tone of the communications of William E. Dodd, then the United States' Ambassador to Germany. Ambassador Dodd was not part of the State Department "establishment," instead he was a university history professor with no diplomatic experience. This background, in the end, is what allowed him discern what the future would hold as he watched the events in Germany unfold in real time. 

This New York Times bestseller, authored by Eric Larson, is at times cumbersome to read due to it's many details. However it is that detail, taken directly from correspondence and witness accounts,  that provides the much needed context for World War II. It also allows us, the readers in the United States, to realize the ramifications of  having an isolationist viewpoint toward international events. It also brings home the fine line we walk - when is involvement in the affairs of other nations considered interference and when is it considered to be humanitarian? Perhaps more relevant, though, is whether or not we have learned from our mistakes. Are we listening to each other and to the world around us? 

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