Saturday, September 29, 2012

In The Garden of Beasts Erik Larson

The last book I read was 3 months ago. It took me 3 months to finish this book! Took that long cos I only read when I was at the gym. Another reason why I am putting on weight.... less gym time.

In The Garden of Beasts is a nice read. Hitler's Germany... Most kids in our schools who don't read anything beyond their textbooks won't know him. Neither will they know the atrocities he committed to his own citizens, especially the Jews nor how most chose to keep silent despite his mad actions.

The author brings us back to Berlin through the lives of the American ambassador's family. William E. Dodd was appointed the Ambassador to Berlin at a time when there were few takers for that post. He moved his family there; his wife, an indiscriminate flirt of a daughter, Martha and son, Bill. We are brought into the world she flirted in; powerful men, well-known figures. The novel gives a good firsthand account of the gathering dark of Hitler's rule. One wonders too if the course of history could have been changed had the rest of the world taken a stand. Oh! how everyone missed the real danger posed by Hitler and his regime. All the signs were there, yet the world chose to hope that Germany would change herself. None of that happened.

In Germany itself, the people kept their silence. This rather reminds me of the silent majority that is us too. Hitler was a megalomaniac, and he coordinated everything. Even candy fruit drops had swastika symbols embossed on them! An estimated 6 million Jews died in his hands. It's a fact that some have gone to some lengths to deny. He plunged Europe into war. He left a trail of destruction. We meet the people who worked with him in this book, Diels, Rohm, Goring, von Papen and many more. We are brought to the streets of Germany a decade before war, how animals seem the happiest creatures there because they were well treated, better than people who betrayed each other to the Secret Police.

So through the eyes of an ambassador who felt oddly out of the diplomatic circle, the experiences of his family members, Erik Larson brings us through one of the most tumultuous era of the 20th century and also a subtle reminder of how history is allowed to repeat itself over and over again because the silent majority often hope that things will change without them having to do or say anything. Book 16 for this year.

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