In the Garden of Beasts

From Tzivi’s Sept ’11 Spotlight:

“It was because I had seen so much of injustice and domineering little groups, as well as heard the complaints of so many of the best people of the country, that I ventured as far as my position would allow and by historical analogy warned men as solemnly as possible against half-educated leaders being permitted to lead nations into war.”

This is a quote from Erik Larson’s follow-up to his best-seller The Devil in the White City. In this new book In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (which is also a very good read), Larson follows the short-lived diplomatic career of William E. Dodd, a University of Chicago historian named Ambassador to Germany by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.

The quote comes from a letter Dodd wrote to his good friend Jane Addams (there she is again!) in which he explains a controversial speech he gave right after Hitler withdrew from the League of Nations. Pushback came not from the Nazis but from Americans (primarily in the State Department) who worried that Dodd’s comments might provoke the Germans into defaulting on their outstanding loans.

I missed Larson when he came to the Harold Washington Library Center last May, but I caught up with him recently on C-SPAN’s BookTV, and I’m very glad I did. To watch the broadcast online and/or order it on DVD, logon to and enter “Larson” in the search field.


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