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

by Erik Larson

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What are some conflicts in In the Garden of Beasts?

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Ambassador Dodd and his family, particularly his adult daughter Martha, first come into conflict with the conviction, especially on the part of Messersmith, that the Nazi regime is evil, dangerous, and intently bent on starting a war. The two Dodds want to believe, as the regime itself keeps insisting, that the reports of its violence and sinister underhandedness are greatly exaggerated. Dodd, after all, is the US ambassador to Germany and, therefore, he has a vested interest in staying on good terms with the new government. The young Martha is initially taken in by the young, attractive Nazis she sees everywhere, who seem to represent a bold new future.

Later, both Dodd and Martha come into conflict with the Nazi ideology itself, as it becomes increasingly apparent that the regime is every bit as evil, creepy, and sinister as Messersmith has insisted, if not more so. This realization puts Dodd into conflict with the racist US State department, staffed with upper-crust white, Protestant Ivy Leaguers, as he increasingly insists the US must do more to help the Jews in Germany as well as to counter Hitler's incessant rearmament. The State Department does not want to let more Jews into the country and is glad to paint Dodd, an outsider, as unfit for his role. Martha, too, becomes increasingly fearful of and in conflict with Nazi ideology and moves toward communism. 

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One conflict is the difficulty George Messersmith has of convincing the American government that Germany is planning to escalate individual confrontations into a war.

Another conflict is antithetical as Dodd tries to convince Americans that Germany is a blissful of peace and loveliness.

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