What is "In the Garden of the Beasts" about?

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Answered by: John, An Expert in the Suggested Reading Category
"In the Garden of the Beasts", takes a journey through history as it provides insight into the life of William E. Dodd and his family. A rather unexpected diplomat, Dodd rose from humble beginnings to a life of study and aspirations for authoring historical literature.

In a last ditch effort that took many by surprise, Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Dodd to take the lamentable job as American Ambassador to Nazi Germany. Dodd’s persona is unlike that of any predecessor. He brings a humble approach to the position and requests that his family, including two young adult children, accompany him in his escapade. As expected with any change, Dodd is not widely accepted by his peers (now colleagues) and is warned to change his ways on several occasions. One such occurrence took place shortly after the Dodd’s arrival in Germany. George Gordon, counselor of embassy, warned that Dodd’s frugality would prove to be a barrier that detached him from the Nazi party.



Dodd, having spent time in Germany earlier in life, set out to resolve several major issues of American interest. Issues with Germany included an exorbitant economic burden to the United States. American creditors had over 100 Million dollars in German bonds that were on the brink of default. This, as Roosevelt put it, would retard our recovery from the Depression.

Another problem was the ill treatment of the Jewish people in Germany. Roosevelt was known for being indecisive of sorts and it could not have been more clearly shown than in his inaction regarding Germany’s Jewish oppression. This issue had become very cloudy and for the most part, American’s were in disbelief of such travesty in an organized society. He looked to spend his time in Germany looking to better understand the mind and motive being the Nazi revolution and more importantly its fervent leader, Adolf Hitler.



As Dodd and his family carry on in Berlin, the “fog” begins to settle and they start to see just how terrible this regime is. The spirit of the Nazi party had been more powerful than anyone had believed. Death and destruction had become commonplace in Germany. It was so prevalent that many became numb to emotion and felt no shame in the actions. Dodd held nothing back from the German leadership but his attempts to warn Washington of the tyranny in Berlin were to no avail. The United States and European powers wanted no part in the issue. His attempts to reveal the truth and stop the atrocity were cut down by those who received them and his refusal to negotiate with Nazi powers brought about contempt in Washington.

Opposition to a zealous Dodd forced him to retire four and a half years after arriving in Berlin. His spirit and dedication had proven no use for a corrupt system but ever inspired, he returned to America spreading the truth about Nazi rule. "In the Garden of the Beasts" shows that the American government failed to back the very man they sent to resolve their problems. Dodd has left his mark on history for his resolve and push for less isolation in the United States. Many of his concepts are applicable in the international affairs of today's world. So, even though he was rejected during his time, Dodd is highly appreciated today.

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