A Lunch Community

The evil that men do

  • Mar 24, 2011
Rating:
+5
It has been observed that for evil to win all that needs happen is for good men to do nothing. That was what the United States government did, at least officially, for much of the lead-up to World War II. Too often chances to speak out and try to stop the madness that was engulfing Germany were ignored. Too frequently the atrocities were overlooked. Too many times our response to the crisis over there was nothing, nothing, nothing...

But there were exceptions. George Messersmith, who worked at the Berlin embassy, was one of those who tried, often in vain, to bring about some change in the US policies, though he was often ignored as having too vivid of an imagination. So, too, were various Jewish groups in the USA, though they were often ignored for being Jewish. And, eventually, so did William Dodd, the United States ambassador to Germany, though he was ignored because, frankly, too many people didn't want to believe any of what was happening in Berlin.

Before reading this book I had a slightly better than average knowledge of the history of World War II and what lead up to it. But even for me there were things to learn. I'd never heard of Dodd or Messersmith. Never heard of Rudolph Diels, or Ernst Hanfstaengl. I knew, at least a bit, about the Night of Long Knives and some what lead up to it, including Ernst Rohm's penchant for pretty young men, but I didn't really grasp much of what was going on that lead up to it.

Now, thanks to Erik Larson's latest work, I know these people and I have a much, much improved understanding of what was going on in Germany from 1933 to 1938. Larson gives you a great "on the ground" view of what was really happening, what people thought was happening, what everyone said was happening and why the differences between these things matter. You really get a feel for how Berlin functioned, or didn't function, during this time period.

Larson's previous work, "Thunderstruck", where he tried too hard to link the stories of Dr Crippen and Marconi, didn't really work for me, which was a disappointment, since "Devil in the White City" remains one of my favorite books. I'm happy to say this book is at least as good and engaging as "Devil in the White City". This is an excellent, well-written, suspenseful book. Even though I did know the fates of some of the people involved, Larson's writing was still engaging enough to keep me interested, and to occasionally make me wonder if my memory of their lives was wrong (it wasn't).

Anyone with even a casual interest in the events leading up to the war will find this an invaluable read. It's easily the best book I've read this year, and likely to stay that way. A truly wonderful read!

What did you think of this review?

Helpful
0
Thought-Provoking
0
Fun to Read
0
Well-Organized
0
Post a Comment
More In the Garden of Beasts: Love,... reviews
review by . April 10, 2013
Larson turns his story telling skill to an amazing slice of history from a time most Americans, Germans, and citizens of the world would like to forget.  In 1933, as America was still deep in Depression and Hitler was still consolidating his grip on the throat of civilization, Roosevelt nominated William E. Dodd to serve as the American ambassador to Berlin.  Perhaps no diplomat was ever more poorly matched for his position. A plain speaking and simple living Southern academic (from Clayton, …
review by . June 02, 2011
Larson again brings his special talent for writing an historical account that reads like a novel. Bill Dodd, historian was picked by FDR to fill a position that nobody wanted. That is, become the US ambassador in 1933 Berlin as Hitler was establishing his stronghold on the German government. He went with his wife Martha and his adult daughter (also Martha)and experienced firsthand attacks on Americans and the ever increasing rules that were placed on the German Jews.     His …
review by . May 14, 2011
It is easy to describe Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin as dark and foreboding. It is that. Especially since most people know what happened in 1933 Germany as the rest of the world made no move to alter history. The book weighs upon you. However, Larson does an admirable job of balancing those disturbing events of 1933 with moments of beauty, wonder, and righteousness using pre-war Berlin as a backdrop and using the new American …
review by . April 04, 2011
This is an interesting book that tells of the first FDR ambassador to Nazi Germany and his family as they resided in Berlin in 1933 and after. The ambassador, a former college professor, and his wife and son and daughter move to Berlin and make their way through the Nazi regime. The daughter, particularly, is one of the main focuses of this book. She's in her mid-twenties and somewhat promiscuous, having affairs back in Chicago (possibly with Carl Sandburg and Thornton Wilder) before she left …
About the reviewer
C R Swanson ()
   I'm an aspiring writer and reviewer. I run a blog, I'm working on a novel and spend my free time reading and playing video games. I also spend waaaaay too much time and money on movies. … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

You
CRSwanson
Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this book

Wiki

Praise for Erik Larson
  
THUNDERSTRUCK
“A ripping yarn of murder and invention.”—Los Angeles Times

“Larson’s gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant tactility and filling it with surprising personalities makesThunderstruckan irresistible tale.”—The Washington Post Book World

“Gripping….An edge-of-the-seat read.”—People
 
DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY
“[Larson] relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel….a dynamic, enveloping book.”
The New York Times

“A hugely engrossing chronicle of events public and private. Exceedingly well-documented, exhaustive without being excessive, and utterly fascinating.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“An irresistible page-turner that reads like the most compelling, sleep-defying fiction.”—Time Out New York

 ISAAC’S STORM 
“A gripping account…fascinating to its core, and all the more compelling for being true.”—New York Times Book Review

“Superb...Larson has made the Great Hurricane live again.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Gripping….TheJawsof hurricane yarns.”—Newsday

Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2011:In the Garden of Beastsis a vivid portrait of Berlin during the first years of Hitler’s reign, brought to life through the stories of two people: ...
view wiki

Details

ISBN-10: 0307408841
ISBN-13: 978-0307408846
Author: Erik Larson
Genre: History, Nonfiction
Publisher: Crown
First to Review

"The evil that men do"
© 2014 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
The catholic reader is part of the Lunch.com Network - Get this on your site
()
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since
reviews
comments
ratings
questions
compliments
lists