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

by Erik Larson

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Student Question

Can you provide a brief understanding of Berlin from sections I-IV of In the Garden of Beasts?

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Berlin under Hitler was a time of violence and fear.

The book begins by describing the story of a man who was beaten extremely severely by a squad of police.  He is sent to the hospital and then given a new passport to go to America.  Nazis have struck an American.

Stationed in Germany in 1933, George S. Messersmith, “America’s Counsel General for Germany since 1930,” has a firsthand look at life under the Nazi regime.

There had been beatings and arrests of American citizens ever since Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in January, but nothing as severe as this—though thousands of native Germans had experienced equally severe treatment, and even worse. (ch 1)

When William Dodd arrives as ambassador, he does so with the intention of proving that things are not so bad in Germany under Hitler.  Yet he soon sees how the Jews are being treated, and feels conflicted.  He wants to give a good report of Germany, but things are looking grim.  The Nazis are becoming more and more totalitarian, and their regime comes with plenty of abuses.  Beatings and arrests of anyone who is suspected of being against the party are common.

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