|Print List Price:||$18.00|
|Kindle Price:|| $14.99 |
Save $3.01 (17%)
|Sold by:|| Random House LLC |
Price set by seller.
Your Memberships & Subscriptions
Download the free Kindle app and start reading Kindle books instantly on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. Learn more
Read instantly on your browser with Kindle for Web.
Using your mobile phone camera - scan the code below and download the Kindle app.
Follow the Author
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Kindle Edition
|New from||Used from|
Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
|$7.95 with discounted Audible membership|
Audio CD, Audiobook, Unabridged
Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the White City, delivers a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
From the Publisher
|The Splendid and the Vile||The Devil in the White City||Dead Wake||Thunderstruck||Isaacs’s Storm||Lethal Passage|
|An intimate chronicle of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz—an inspiring portrait of courage and leadership in a time of unprecedented crisis.||The true tale of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the cunning serial killer who used the magic and majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death.||The enthralling and emotional story of the sinking of the Lusitania, whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.||A true story weaving two men’s lives together with love, murder, invention, and the end of the world’s “great hush.”||The true story of the deadliest hurricane in history.||This devastating book illuminates America's gun culture – and tells the story of how a disturbed teenager was able to buy a weapon advertised as "the gun that made the eighties roar."|
“Reads like an elegant thriller…utterly compelling… marvelous stuff. An excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller, and probably will be.”—The Washington Post
“A master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction.”--People (3 1/2 stars)
"Larson has done it again, expertly weaving together a fresh new narrative from ominous days of the 20th century."--Associated Press
""Mesmerizing...cinematic, improbable yet true."--Philadelphia Inquirer
"[L]ike slipping slowly into a nightmare, with logic perverted and morality upended….It all makes for a powerful, unsettling immediacy."--Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair
“Dazzling….Reads like a suspense novel, replete with colorful characters, both familiar and those previously relegated to the shadows. Like Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories or Victor Klemperer’s Diaries, IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS is an on-the-ground documentary of a society going mad in slow motion."--The Chicago Sun-Times
“[G]ripping, a nightmare narrative of a terrible time. It raises again the question never fully answered about the Nazi era—what evil humans are capable of, and what means are necessary to cage the beast.”--The Seattle Times
"In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City...a vivid, at...
- ASIN : B004HFRJM6
- Publisher : Crown; 1st edition (May 10, 2011)
- Publication date : May 10, 2011
- Language : English
- File size : 7625 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 466 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0307408841
- Best Sellers Rank: #20,722 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- #4 in History of Germany
- #9 in 20th Century World History
- #11 in Biographies of Political Leaders
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on March 10, 2016
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
by ERIK LARSON
1. Introduction. This book is divided into ten parts, with a total of fifty five chapters. The writer of this review has a strong need for both an Index and a Table of Contents. Since the author of this book does not include the chapters in his Table of Contents, an expanded version is produced below. Note that Das Vorspiel is defined by such words as: prelude; prologue; preliminary match; foreplay and audition. Note also that the photo credits refer to the pictures on the book title pages that are part of the title page for each PART.
Opening Quotation xi
Das Vorspiel xiii
The Man Behind the Curtain 3
PART I: Into the Wood
Chapter 1: Means of Escape 9
Chapter 2: That Vacancy in Berlin 16
Chapter 3: The Choice 23
Chapter 4: Dread 27
Chapter 5: First Night 40
PART II: House Hunting in the Third Reich
Chapter 6: Seduction 53
Chapter 7: Hidden Conflict 61
Chapter 8: Meeting Putzi 70
Chapter 9: Death is Death 74
Chapter 10: Tiergartenstrasse 27a 83
PART III: Lucifer in the Garden
Chapter 11: Strange Beings 93
Chapter 12: Brutus 103
Chapter 13: My Dark Secret 113
Chapter 14: The Death of Boris 120
Chapter 15: The "Jewish Problem" 128
Chapter 16: A Secret Request 132
Chapter 17: Lucifer's Run 138
Chapter 18: Warning from a Friend 145
Chapter 19: Matchmaker 154
PART IV: How the Skeleton Aches
Chapter 20: The Führeur's Kiss 157
Chapter 21: The Trouble with George 163
Chapter 22: The witness Wore Jackboots 169
Chapter 23: Boris Dies Again 174
Chapter 24: Getting Out the Vote 175
Chapter 25: The Secret Boris 179
Chapter 26: The Little Press Ball 184
Chapter 27: O `Tannenbaum 194
PART V: Disquiet
Chapter 28: January 1934 209
Chapter 29: Sniping 216
Chapter 30: Premonition 218
Chapter 31: Night Terrors 223
Chapter 32: Storm warning 229
Chapter 33: "Memorandum of a Conservation with Hitler: 231
Chapter 34: Diels, Afraid 242
Chapter 35: Confronting the Club 245
Chapter 36: Saving Diels 249
Chapter 37: Watchers 254
Chapter 38: Humbugged 255
PART VI: Berlin at Dusk
Chapter 39: Dangerous Dining 263
Chapter 40: A Writer's Retreat 268
Chapter 41: Trouble at the Neighbors 277
Chapter 42: Hermann's Toys 278
Chapter 43: A Pygmy Speaks 283
Chapter 44: The Message in the Bathroom 290
Chapter 45: Mrs. Cerruti's Distress 292
Chapter 46: Friday Night 297
PART VII: When everything changed
Chapter 47: "Shoot, Shoot" 304
Chapter 48: Guns in the Park 309
Chapter 49: The Dead 313
Chapter 50: Among the Living 319
Chapter 51: Sympathy's End 323
Chapter 52: Only the Horses 330
Chapter 53: Juliet #2 336
Chapter 54: A Dream of Love 340
Chapter 55: As Darkness Fell 349
EPILOGUE: The queen bird in Exile 359
CODA: "Table Talk" 365
Sources and Acknowledgments 367
Photo Credits 435
End Quotation 449
There are also very interesting maps inside the front and back covers. The back cover map is entitled: "Pharus Plan Berlin." It has a highlighted section for the Tiergarten Area. The front cover map is for this area in 1933. Ten locations are flagged, including 27a Tiergartenstrasse; Soviet, French and British embassies; the U.S. Embassy Chancery, and the U.S. Consulate; and the German Foreign Office, the Reichstag Building and the Gestapo Headquarters.
2. Major Inputs . This is a large book with 60 segments, 55 chapters plus five other components.. Many of these will be reviewed. A picture of the "American Family" is shown on the PART I cover.
Chapter 0. The Man Behind the Curtain. Perhaps the worst exhibition of Nazi brutality against Americans occurred on Thursday, 06/29/1933. An expatriate, a Joseph Schachno, 31 year old physician from New York, came to the consulate, but in terrible condition. The skin had been literally whipped off his body. "From the neck down to his heels he was a mass of raw flesh." George S. Messersmith (GSM)--the America's consul general for Germany since 1930, was visiting the consulate that night and learned his wounds were nine days old. Messersmith ordered him taken to a hospital and issued him a new U.S. passport. He soon fled to Sweden and then to America.
There had been beatings of Americans before, but not as brutal. For GSM this new beating was another indicator that life under Hitler had changed Germany in a fundamental way. He understood it, but was convinced that few others in America did, including the State Department. Messersmith was sure that Hitler was secretly leading Germany to another war of conquest. However, Germany still did not have a U.S. ambassador in residence. The former ambassador had left in March at the end of FDR's inauguration. The new appointee was not expected for another three weeks. GSM did not know him, but he knew that "the new ambassador would be entering a cauldron of brutality, corruption, and zealotry and would need to be a man of forceful character, capable of projecting American interest and power, as power was all that Hitler and his men understood."
However, the new man was said to be most unassuming, and had vowed to live a modest life in Berlin. He was even shipping his beat up old Chevy to Berlin, to "a city where Hitler's men drove about town in giant black touring cars each nearly the size of a city bus."
Chapter 1: Means of Escape. The American Family in this story were the Dodds. William E. Dodd (WED) was a professor of History at the University of Chicago, and a summertime farmer in Virginia. He loved his farm with a passion. His wife, Martha, known to one and all as Mattie, did not enjoy it nearly as much. They had two children: William, Jr. and Martha Dodd (MD), both in their 20s in 1933, when this story began.
While Dodd loved teaching history, the routine demands of his job bothered him. Although he had worked out a reduced schedule with his department, staff departures and pressures coupled with the Depression had left him working as hard as ever. He was also very concerned that he should have been along further in his career, but the above demands left him little time for writing in rather uncomfortable conditions, such as a very cold office.
On 03/15/1933, Dodd went to DC to meet FDR's new Secretary of State, Cordell Hull. They talked of a possible assignment to Holland or Belgium. Suddenly, "forced to imagine the day-to-day reality of what such a life would entail" Dodd backed off. He told Hull he could not accept such a position. "But his name remained in circulation. "And now, on that Thursday in June, his telephone began to ring."
Chapter 2: That Vacancy in Berlin. No one seemed to want this job. FDR offered it to several other and better qualified individuals than Dodd, but they all declined. FDR also had far more important items on his agenda: the depression; serious unemployment; the drought; an unusually hot Washington springtime; an "all consuming fight to pass his National Industrial Recovery Act, a centerpiece of his New Deal," and a congress eager to close down for their summer vacation. On Wednesday, 06/07/1933, FDR met with several close advisors. One of them in attendance was Commerce Secretary Roper. After considerable discussion Roper threw out a fresh name of a longtime friend. "How about William E. Dodd?" FDR reacted that this was not a bad idea and he would consider it.
Now Dodd did not have the usual credentials for such a post. He was not wealthy or politically influential. He was not one of FDR's friends. But he did speak German, and was said to know Germany well. He was also a historian of sober temperament. FDR took Secretary Roper's recommendation seriously. On 06/08/1933, he called Chicago and told Dodd: "I want to know if you will render the government a distinct service. "I want you to go to Germany as an ambassador." He added, "I want an American liberal in Germany as a standing example." Dodd told FDR he needed time. FDR gave him two hours.
The university officials urged him to accept. After an intensive, but brisk discussion with his wife, they agreed he should accept. Dodd called the White House, a half hour late, and informed FDR's secretary he would accept the job. Two days later his appointment was placed before the Senate, and was confirmed the same day. Next, he invited his two grown children to join them in Berlin, promising them the experience of a lifetime.
Chapter 3: The Choice. With the Depression well underway, Dodd's children were lucky to have jobs. Bill was a teacher of history, but far more interested in automobiles. In contrast, Martha was an assistant literary editor at the Chicago Tribune. Sne had fared much better, than her brother, in her work. Martha was her father's great pride, but her life style was of great concern to him. The rest of this chapter is very like Hedy's Folly, when Hedy was between 16 to 19. MD had many flirtations, many engagements, at least one affair and her first marriage in 01/1932. However, they even kept this marriage secret and spent most of the first year apart. She soon began flirting again, and had begun an affair with Carl Sandburg, a longtime friend of her parents. Later her marriage failed, in part, because she couldn't bear the idea of leaving her parents, particularly her father. Hence, when her father invited her to join their trip to Berlin, it was irresistible.
Chapter 4: Dread. On 06/16/1933 Dodd met FDR at the White House. They talked about several issues of importance to the new ambassador. Repayment, Jewish concerns, Dodd's salary and entertainment needs.
He left the White House and headed to the State Department, where he wanted to study the Messersmith reports. They depicted Germany descending from a democratic republic to a brutal dictatorship. Many of the reports were long, as GSM was known as "Forty page George." One of the memos however, suggested that the higher echelons of the Nazi Party were becoming more positive and more co-operative. Very shortly after that memo, another memo on June 26, rescinded it. However Messersmith did not see this. It concluded that Germany was quietly readying itself to become "the most capable instrument for war that ever existed."
His departure to Germany included stops in North Carolina, Virginia, New York and Boston. He met with his father, many friends and many politicians, bankers, bureaucrats, reporters and photographers. Some inputs included that Germany's Jews were at least partly responsible for their own troubles. One input expressed great admiration for Hitler, and advised Dodd to "Let Hitler have his way." Aboard ship the reporters pressed Dodd to pose as if waving good-bye. He did so, but the resulting picture caused a minor outcry as it appeared to capture Dodd in a mid Heil. By now Dodd's misgivings flared and he began to dread leaving his old life in Chicago. His daughter wept.
Chapter 5: First Night. MD continued to cry over the next two days. She was crying--not from a concern on where they were going, she had no idea on what life in Hitler's Germany would be like--for what she was leaving: her friends, her job, the comforts of their house and her affair with Carl Sandburg. As days passed the voyage was grand, with bright days and calm seas. And she got to know FDR's son, who was also aboard. They danced and drank champagne and danced some more. Now Sandburg instructed her to keep notes on everything. Above all he urged her, "find out what this man Hitler is made of, what makes his brain go around, what his bones and blood are made of." While MD had thought of Hitler as "a clown who looked like Charley Chaplin," clearly, Sandberg was far more concerned. Another friend advised MD to avoid writing for newspapers as such work would destroy the concentration she would need for serious writing. He also told her to keep a diary of "what things looked like--the rumors and opinions of people during a political time." Later such a diary would be of great interest to you.
Jewish events and issues occurred on this week long voyage. On the second day Dodd met Rabbi Wise, who he had met three days earlier in NY. They spoke repeatedly about Germany. Dodd also spoke at length about American history. At one point he told the Rabbi that: "one cannot write the whole truth about Jefferson and Washington--people are not ready and must be prepared for it." Wise was disturbed by this statement. He noted that if people must be prepared for the truth about Jefferson and Washington what will Dodd "do about the truth when he learns it about Hitler." As the voyage ended Dodd realized that his role was no longer one of a mere observer and reporter. He believed he might even moderate Hitler's views. The best approach was to be sympathetic and try to understand Germany's perception that it had been wronged by the world.
The Dodds landed at Hamburg on 07/13/1933. Dodd had assumed, erroneously, that arrangements had been made on the "Flying Hamburger" which would make the trip to Berlin in a bit over two hours.
Chapter 10: Tiergartenstrasse 27a. This address is the first location flagged on the front cover map. It's only immediate neighbor is the U. S. Chancery. However, other important locations,are not far off. The matter of an official residence for the U.S. Ambassador had long been an embarrassment. Fire had destroyed one plan near the British and French embassies. Dodd was not unhappy, as he liked the idea of a home outside of the embassy. Hence MD and her mother toured Berlin's grand residential areas. On this walk they discovered such items as:
(1) many parks and gardens, with planters and flowers on every balcony;
(2) on the outskirts, tiny farms, perfect for MD's father;
(3) squads of uniformed young people, marching and singing;
(4) much more threatening formations of Storm Trooper recruits and
(5) "the leaner, better-tailored men of the SS, in night black, accented with red," like some blackbirds.
One area they particularly liked, had a property available. It was owned by a wealthy Jewish banker, an Alfred Panosky (AP). Now there were many Jews--some 16,000 or nine percent of Berlin's Jews--who lived in this area. Although many Jews were being evicted, AP was not one of them. This house was a four story mansion. It was across the street from a park But Dodd learned that AP was leasing only the first three floors. The fourth floor would be occupied by himself and his mother. He really did not need the income from this lease, but since Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, no Jew was safe from persecution. He offered this house specifically to Dodd, with the intention of gaining an increased level of protection. He felt that Storm Troopers would not attack a house shared by the American ambassador.
The Dodds would gain a fine residence, and a street presence sufficiently impressive to communicate America's power and prestige. The interior was sufficiently grand to allow the entertainment of government and diplomatic guests without embarrassment. He wrote to FDR: "We have one of the best residences in Berlin at $150/month--due to the fact that the owner is a wealthy Jew, most willing to let us have it." Dodd loved the quiet, the trees, the garden and the prospect of walking to work each morning. He probably also loved the high steel fence and gates. On 08/05/1933 the Dodd family moved into their new home. Dodd noted later if he had known AP's motives for this lease, he would never have accepted it.
On entering the house, the Dodds walked "first into a large vestibule, flanked on both sides by cloakrooms and then up an elaborate staircase to the main floor. It was here here that the grandness of this house became apparent. At the front there was a ballroom with an oval dance floor and a grand piano. Next was a reception room, then a vast dining room, with walls covered with a red tapestry. Though the house struck Dodd as far too luxurious, he loved the Wintergarten at the south end of the main floor, a glassed-in chamber that opened onto a tiled terrace overlooking the garden. The family's favorite room was the library, with a great old fire-place and stained glass windows set high in one wall.
This house became known as a place where people could speak without fear. "Martha and her father fell into an easy camaraderie. "They traded jokes and wry observations." They laughed at the Nazi's. MD noted that her mother was in good health, but a bit nervous. On balance she was enjoying it all. Her father was also doing well, she reported he was "flourishing incredibly," and seemed "slightly pro-German." MD added, "We sort of don't like the Jews anyway."
The Dodds soon discovered they had a high level and much-feared Nazi as a nearby neighbor. He was a Captain Rohm, commander of the Storm Troopers. Every morning he would ride a large black horse in the Tiergarten area. However Dodd continued to walk to work, alone and unguarded.
Soon the Dodds--and a new friend of MD, correspondent Quentin Reynolds (QR)--set out to see more of Germany. They headed south to Leipzig where they split up, with MD and friend and brother continuing south towards Austria. Their trip was laden with an incident that would provide the first challenge of MD's rosy view of the new Germany.
Chapter 11: Strange Beings. QR, MD and her brother decided to head to Nuremberg first. They encountered groups of the SA parading and singing and carrying their Nazi banners aloft. Often, onlookers would turn to them and shout "Heil Hitler." The excitement of the people was contagious, and MD "Heiled" as vigorously as any Nazi. While both her brother and her new friend were dismayed by her behavior, MD confessed: "I felt like a child, ebullient and careless, the intoxication of the new regime working like wine in me."
They found their hotel. QR had been here before, but recalled it as a quiet town. However, tonight they found the town full of revelers. He asked the clerk if there was going to be a parade. The clerk answered that it was going to be kind of a parade. "They are going to teach someone a lesson." Although the noise was loud outside, they could tell it was even louder, three blocks away. The "parade" finally came into view. First a column of SA troopers, in brown uniforms, carrying torches and banners. Next came two huge troopers, "half supporting, half dragging" the figure along the street. As they got closer they could see the figure was a young women. Now the genial Nurembergers became transformed and teased and insulted this women. The troopers then lifted her high so that the sign around her neck became visible. It stated: "I have offered myself to a Jew."
When the procession moved on MD stated "I wanted to follow." She had been shaken by this incident, but she would not let it dampen her view of the country and the new spirit brought forth by the Nazis. They headed to the bar. QR vowed to get drunk. QR, as a correspondent, knew this event was far more important. Other correspondents had reported on such abuses before, but their stories had all been based on after-the- fact investigations. Here the act had been witnessed first hand by a correspondent, namely QR, with important supporting witnesses. His editor advised QR to send it by mail and to keep the ambassadors name out of the dispatch. When he returned to Berlin he was summoned immediately by the German foreign-press chief. He charged there was no proof at all in QR's story. When told that QR had two witnesses, and found out who they were, he was speechless. The U.S. made no formal protest, and an official of the German foreign office apologized, but dismissed this incident as isolated. MD accepted this view and remained seduced by the life in the new Germany. However the State Department was not satisfied that Dodd was handling this incident and others appropriately. "Forces opposed to Dodd began to coalesce."
Chapter 12: Brutus. On 08/30/1933 Dodd drove to the palace to present his credentials. Hindenburg conveyed a sense of strength and virility that belied his 85 years. Hitler, Goebbels and Goring were not there. Dodd and the "Old Gentleman" conversed on topics from Dodd's university experience in Leipzig to the dangers of economic nationalism. Dodd and the embassy officials soon left the building to find soldiers of the regular army lining both sides of the street. It was over and Dodd was now "a duly accepted representative of the United States in Berlin." Two days later Dodd found himself confronting his first critical crisis.
On 09/01/1933, H. V. Kaltenborn (HVK), an American corresponent, called GSM, the consul general to give his regrets that he could not stop by for one final visit, as he and his family were heading back home. Their train left at midnight. He told GSM that he still had seen no evidence to verify the Consul's criticism of Germany. He accused him of doing Germany wrong in not presenting Germany as it really was.
They decided to do a last bit of shopping at a huge department store. As they left this store a formation of Storm Troopers were parading down the boulevard in their direction. HVK instructed his family to face the windows, and not salute. Several troopers accosted him, and the crowd began insulting him and his family. They began walking back to their hotel when a young man grabbed their 16 year old son and struck him in the face, hard enough to knock him down. HVK grabbed the assailant and marched him to a nearby policeman, but the crowd got more agitated. Finally an onlooker interceded, and the parade moved on. From his hotel HVK called Messersmith and reported the incident. In turn he arranged for them to be escorted to the train. However, he saw this as a positive event as HVK could no longer go back and tell his radio audiences that the American officials were misrepresenting the situation.
GSM asked Dodd if it was not time to issue a warning against travel in Germany. Officially Dodd was against this, and managed to keep several attacks out of the newspapers. At home, over dinner, he condemned the attack, but "if he hoped for a sympathetic expression of outrage from his daughter, he failed to get it." MD continued to think the best of Germany. Her father would call her "a young Nazi."
Another correspondent, Pulitzer Prize winner, Edgar Mowrer, was also leaving, but to Japan. He had wanted to stay in Berlin, but GSM declined to support him. At the station GSM embraced him. As he boarded the train he turned to Messersmith and said: "And you too, Brutus."
In addition to managing various situations such as above, Dodd had to get started on the demands of protocol that came with the job of being the American Ambassador. This meant going to parties at other embassies and giving parties at the American Embassy. Dodd and his wife were not major party goers, or heavy wine drinkers. And they very much preferred early retirements. Fortunately it was not all drudgery. Goebbels was known for his wit. MD, for a time considered him charming. Her mother, Mattie, enjoyed being seated next to him. Goring, in contrast, was hard to take seriously. "He was like an immense, if exceedingly dangerous little boy." His huge size and his love of new, Goring designed, uniforms made him the brunt of many jokes. The final demand of protocol was the installation of Hitler as official head of Germany. A 14 car Sondurzug was planned to take all the ambassadors to Nuremberg, but this was cut back to nine as regrets came in from all the major embassies. Attendees included representatives from Haiti, Siam and Persia.
Chapter 13: My Dark Secret. MD soon found herself sought after by men of all ranks, ages and nationalities. Her divorce from her first husband was still pending, but she considered herself free to disclose or not disclose her status as she wished. "Outwardly she looked the part of a young American virgin, but she knew sex and liked it - - -." Their house was always full of students, embassy secretaries, correspondents and men from the SA, SS and Reichswehr. These later officers carried themselves with aristocratic élan. She found them "extremely pleasant, handsome, courteous and uninteresting."
What follows is a rather detailed list of her affairs. Some of these affairs were actually conducted in their house, taking advantage of the fact that her parents retired early. This amount of detail is in order to help complete a character sketch of MD, perhaps the most dominant person in this book. One German she found most interesting was Ernst Udet, a flying ace from WWI. Since then he had become famous as an aerial adventurer and stunt pilot. MD went falcon hunting with Udet and his fellow ace, Goring, at his vast estate. What follows is a brief listing of other affairs that MD had during this period.
' Putzi Hanfstaengl (PH), according to his son.
' Thomas Wolfe, when he visited Berlin. Wolfe described her "like a butterfly hovering around my penis."
' Armand Berard, 3rd secretary of the French embassy, 6½ and "incredibly handsome." He treated her at first as a "sexual ingenue." She had great power over him and even her most casual act could drive him to despair.
' In their estranged periods she would see other men, and make sure he knew it. You are the only one who can break me, "but how well you know it and how you seem to rejoice in doing so." Next was a
' Max Delbrück, biophysicist. "He was slender, had a cleanly sculpted chin and masses of dark, neatly combed hair, for a look that evoked a young Gregory Peck. His accomplishments included a Nobel Prize.
Family correspondence is surprisingly free of any criticism of her behavior. Others noticed and disapproved including the Consul General, GSM. Specifically he knew of the Udet affair, and believed that MD had been involved in other affairs with top Nazis, including Putzi Hanfstaengl. GSM assessed these as mostly harmless except for that with Hanfstaengl. Her "seeming lack of discretion caused diplomats and other informants to be more reticent about what they told MD, fearing that their confidences would make there way back to Hanfstaengl." GSM wrote in a memo that "she had behaved so badly in so many ways, especially in view of the position held by her father." Their butler framed his criticism more bluntly: "This was not a house, but a house of ill repute."
MD's love life took a dark turn when she met a Rudolf Diels, the young chief of the Gestapo. Diels moved with ease and confidence, yet he entered a room unobtrusively, "seeping in like a malevolent fog." When he arrived at a party he "created a nervousness and tension that no other man possibly could." MD described his face as "the most sinister, scar-torn face I have ever seen." On balance his appearance was striking, like "that of a damaged Ray Milland." However, MD was drawn to him immediately, his "lovely lips, his jet-black luxuriant hair, and his penetrating eyes."
Diels was said to have much charm. He was said to be sexually talented and experienced. "Involved affairs with women were a regular thing with him." Another thing that MD found compelling about him was that everyone else was afraid of him. He was noted as the "Prince of Darkness." MD's father liked Diels. He found this Gestapo chief to be a helpful intermediary in several areas such as extracting foreign nationals from concentrations camps.
I was convinced we were about to see a classic case of what happens when an irresistible force (MD) meets an immovable object (Diels). However, exactly the opposite happened. They had a rather tender afair. They took long walks together in the Tiergarten area.. They drove for hours in the country and they went to movies and nightclubs. MD loved being known as the women who slept with the devil. Her father did not know of this. GSM suspected it. The more MD got to know Diels the more she could see he too was afraid. He told her that Goring and Goebels loathed each other and spied on each other and both spied on Diels.
However, it was through Diels that she began to temper her view on the Nazi revolution. She began to see "a vast network of espionage, terror, sadism and hate, from which no one" could escape. Not even Diels.
Chapter 14: The Death of Boris. MD still had another affair, the most important in a very long list. It was with a doomed Russian. She first caught a glimpse of him at one of the many parties Sigmund Schultz held at her apartment. She lived their with her mother and her two dogs. At a party in mid-September 1933 MD glanced across the room and saw this tall good looking man. He was very attractive, around 30, with short blond-brown hair, strikingly luminous eyes, and an easy fluid manner. One of MD's friends--Agnes Knickerbocker, wife of correspondent H. R. "Knick" Knickerbocker--described his movements as those of one who could go from sternness to laughter in a split second. They exchanged glances for only a few seconds, but still an important event.
Several weeks later the Knickerbockers invited MD to join them for drinks and dancing at a popular nightclub. Knick introduced MD to the "tall man" from across the room. His name was Boris Winogradov. He asked her to dance. She quickly learned that his natural grace did not extend to the dance floor. He told her "I don't know how to dance." They both laughed. He also told her he was with the Soviet Embassy. And he confessed he had noticed her several times before, and asked if he could call on her. They met at her home. He brought her a gift, a disc entitled: "The Death of Boris." It was about a death scene in an opera, sung by a famous Russian singer. After that MD gave Boris a tour of her house, and they very gradually started to become acquainted. What did she do in Chicago? What were her parents like? This period was a bit more awkward due to their language differences. Their common language was German, but both were amateurs in this language. However, they became regular companions. They left diplomatic receptions early. They met for secret meals at fine restaurants. And they would often go dancing at the club where they first met. And like Diels, he would often take her for long rides in the country, sometimes staying out until daybreak.
Now and then reality intruded into this emerging romance. He was especially dismayed at how readily the world accepted Hitler's protestations of peace, while he was clearly guiding Germany towards war, with the USSR the likely target. His embassy also disapproved of this relationship. In turn MD's father was concerned that they might get married. At this point Martha seemed to have no hint as to what might be his official role:, namely an operative of the NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB.
Conclusion to this partial review.
As noted at the start this is only a partial review. While the intent initially was to review maybe 10 chapters, this turned out impossible to do, as each subsequent chapter "begged to be included." For example while this presentation stops at Chapter 14, it includes 11 chapters. I will try to add to this later.
She especially enjoyed being "seduced" by worldly men only for them to discover when the clothes came off that Martha was no blushing young girl. "I rather enjoyed being treated like a maiden of eighteen knowing all the while my dark secret."
Martha was first engaged at age twenty-one although she broke that off after a few months and took up with a local novelist whom she threw over for a Chicago businessman, James Burnham. No sooner had she become engaged to said gentleman, then she met a banker from New York, Mr Roberts, at a social occasion at the home of her parents. Martha found Mr Roberts irresistible. But Martha was one smart person. Although she carried on with Mr Roberts in New York, she remained engaged to Mr Burnham in Chicago.
Finally she married Mr Roberts. However, being a trifle uncertain about their marriage, the two kept it a secret from everyone. I think you might predict what the result of this early ambivalence was. When she went to Germany in 1933, she and Mr Roberts were getting an amicable divorce. This was good because in Berlin she seduced the head of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels, or he seduced her. Either way, they both had a talent for the sensual and it didn't take long for them to disrobe. Along with him, Martha carried on with a French diplomat, with a senior general in the Luftwaffe, with the heir to the Prussian throne, with various newsmen, diplomats, visitors from the US, and different men high in the German government and Nazi Party.
As the author of a An Honorable German, a World War Two naval epic told from the point of view of a German U-Boat commander, I have read several thousand books on the Third Reich. I can say that this one captures a slice of life which is relatively unknown. An Honorable German
"This was not a house, but a house of ill-repute" said the Dodd's stuffy German butler. (He was on the payroll of the Gestapo but so clumsy at spying everyone knew it.) Martha didn't slink around to cheap hotels to have affairs. If your place wasn't convenient, then her place was fine. It is a measure of the sexual repression of the era and the fear of uninhibited female sexuality that what she did caused various small scandals.
Finally, Martha became infatuated with a Russian diplomat and by all accounts they fell in love. This wasn't good since Boris was an agent of the NKVD (later KGB). And this is where I began to have some doubts about the facts of this book. Erik Larson is a talented writer and thorough researcher. I've read several of his other books, Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History and The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, both of which I give three stars or even 3.5. But he skips over something which countless authors and historians have written about: Martha Dodd spied on the US for the Soviets at the behest of her lover, Boris. While Larson certainly mentions this as a possibility he doesn't make an effort to reconcile what he is writing with the vast number of historians who insist Martha Dodd was an out and out agent of the Soviet NKVD who spied on her father.
In fairness, the book isn't about Martha. It's about her father and her family and the first year of their life together in Berlin. Yet the author depicts her as just a naughty girl. Although she could be vapid, mildly anti-Semitic, selfish, vain, and annoying, Martha was also fascinating, artistic, clever, and a keen observer. Martha came to see the true nature of the Hitler régime and of the terrible nature of anti-Semitism. She later married a wealthy Jewish businessman, Alfred Stern. Because of their sympathy and work for the Soviet Union, both were under surveillance by the FBI and in 1957 a Soviet defector accused them both of espionage against the US. They were indicted and fled the country living variously in the USSR, Cuba, and Czechoslovakia. Martha settled in Prague for the last decades of her life and died there in 1990. Espionage charges against her were finally dropped in 1979.
Martha Dodd was a sexually liberated woman in an oppressive time and certainly a woman who had an independent mind and an independent life. This is still threatening to people today, including it seems, the author of the book in question. Unfortunately, Martha Dodd somehow missed the similarity between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, which is just as replete with unspeakable atrocities. It's hard to understand. But she was a very unusual woman and it's worth reading the book just to get to know her.
This is her obituary from:
New York Times
29 August 1990
Martha Dodd Stern Is Dead at 82; Author and an Accused Soviet Spy
by Glenn Fowler
Martha Dodd Stern, an American author who in the 1930's and 1940's wrote popular books about Nazi Germany and later fled behind the Iron Curtain when she and her wealthy husband, Alfred K. Stern, were accused of being Soviet spies, died on Aug. 10 in Prague, friends reported. She was 82 years old and had lived in the Czechoslovak capital for more than three decades.
Victor Rabinowitz, a New York lawyer who received word of Mrs. Stern's death, said that although the cause of her death was not reported, she had recently suffered an intestinal blockage.
Martha Dodd came to public attention in 1939 when her first book, Through Embassy Eyes, was published. It told of her four years in Berlin beginning in 1933 when her father, William E. Dodd, was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Ambassador to Germany after Adolf Hitler's rise to power.
Then in her 20's, she was at first favorably impressed by the new leaders of Nazi Germany but her later disillusionment was reflected in her book.
In 1938, a year after her return to the United States, she married Mr. Stern, a former chairman of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council of New York who had inherited through an earlier marriage part of the fortune of Julius Rosenwald, the Chicago philanthropist.
In 1941, after her father's death and nine months before the United States entered World War II, Mrs. Stern and her brother, William E. Dodd Jr., published the Ambassador's diaries. Critics said that by failing to edit the comments of Germans who were opposed to Hitler they endangered the anti-Nazi underground.
Subject of McCarthy Investigation
In the last days of the war Mrs. Stern published Sowing the Wind, a novel that dealt with the moral degradation of Germans under the Nazi hierarchy.
In the early 1950's she and Mr. Stern became persistent targets of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in his anti-Communist investigations. The couple moved to Mexico City in 1953, and four years later Boris Morros, an American counterspy, testified to the House Committee on Un-American Activities that the Sternses were part of a Soviet spy network.
When they were indicted on espionage charges in 1957, the couple fled to Prague, where they settled. They later traveled to the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries and to Cuba but never returned to the United States. Mrs. Stern did translations of books and articles. Mr. Stern died four years ago at the age of 88.
Mrs. Stern is survived by a son, Robert, who lives in Prague.
Top reviews from other countries
Dodd was born a southerner. He had studied at Leipzig University around 1900, so knew German and liked the country. He had become professor of History at Chicago University in 1909. He had been a supporter of the new American president, Franklin Roosevelt, and had hoped for a sinecure ambassadorship in a country like Holland or Belgium, that would give him time to complete a history of the American Old South. Instead, on June 8th, 1933, he was offered and accepted the Berlin Embassy, after four other men had declined the offer. At the time he was 64, and Martha was 24.
Dodd was born a southerner. He had studied at Leipzig University around 1900, so knew German and liked the country. He had been a history professor at Chicago University He had been a supporter of the new American president, Franklin Roosevelt, and had hoped for a sinecure ambassadorship in a country like Holland or Belgium, that would give him time to complete a history he was writing of the American Old South. Instead, on June 8th, 1933, he was offered and accepted the Berlin Embassy, after four other men had declined the offer. Dodd himself did not approve the ferocity of Nazi antisemitism, but thought the Germans had valid grievances against the Jews.
The family eventually moved into a house in the Tiergartenstrasse. (Tiergarten is translated as “the Garden of Beasts.)
As street violence against Jews decreased and those that did occur were disowned by the regime, Dodd reported that the Nazis were becoming more moderate – ignoring the fact that the regime was now banning Jews from more and more professions and was about to deprive them of German citizenship. Dodd did decline an invitation to attend a Nazi party rally at Nuremberg, on the grounds that it was a party and not a state occasion; but his decision met with displeasure at the State Department as being provocative.
In October 1933, Hitler withdrew Germany from the League of Nations and from a disarmament conference; but Dodd was initially convinced by Hitler’s assurance that he wanted peace. His despatch to Washington to that effect was contradicted by one sent by George Messersmith, the American Consul-General in Berlin. Dodd began to be dissatisfied with Messersmith, and suspected him of coveting his own job. He also thought, wrongly, that Messersmith was Jewish, and felt that in any case there were too many Jews working in the American embassy, and he mentioned this to the State Department. When Messersmith was in Washington on leave, he reinforced the State Department’s low opinion of Dodd. There were in fact people in the State Department who would have liked to move Dodd, but were unable to do so because he enjoyed the friendship and support of President Roosevelt.
In March 1934 Dodd went on two months’ leave back to Washington. He had to spend a lot of time defending himself against his detractors in the State Department – and trying to get Jewish leaders to moderate their attacks on the Nazis: it would only make matters worse for the Jews in Germany.
Dodd and the German government were increasingly at odds: the Germans expected the American government to clamp down on anti-German activities in the US; Secretary Hull replied that the American government, unlike the German one, could not suppress freedom of speech; and in turn made demands that Germans in the US cease anti-American activities.
Dodd was also beginning to feel that Hitler’s assurances that he wanted peace were simply a move to buy time in which to rearm, and he also now saw that the Nazi persecution of Jews, though less physically violent, was relentless. But in June 1934, jst before the Night of the Long Knives on June 30th, 1934, he believed that the regime could not last much longer.
But after that event, Dodd turned decisively against the Nazis and warned the State Department of Nazi ambitions and of the danger of American isolationism. Roosevelt shared his view, but the American public was more than ever isolationist. Dodd withdrew from as much contact with the regime as possible. The Germans were aware of his hostility and likewise cold-shouldered him. The State Department thought that he was now useless as an ambassador, and wanted him removed. By 1936 Dodd himself contemplated resigning, and he could have given his deteriorating psychosomatic state of health as an excuse; but he decided against it, as it “would be recognized as a confession of failure.” Instead, he took another period of leave in the United States. Roosevelt urged him to stay as ambassador for a while longer. In his absence, one Prentiss Gilbert, who was acting ambassador, attended one of the Nazi rallies in Nuremberg, something Dodd had always refused to do. Dodd wrote a letter of protest to the State Department; the letter was leaked; and the Germans indicated that he was now persona non grata. Dodd felt that if he resigned now, it would be seen as the result of German pressure, and he agreed with Roosevelt that he should stay as ambassador at least until March 1, 1938, and he returned to Berlin. But Roosevelt came under such pressure from the State Department that Dodd was asked to leave before the end of 1937. He was succeeded by Hugh Wilson, who praised Hitler, and promised Ribbentrop that he would do all he could to keep America out of war and accused the American press of being “Jewish controlled”.
Back at home, Dodd became an active opponent of isolationism, making speeches warning against Hitler and deploring the appeasement policies of the European democracies. He died in 1940.
Martha was a real flirt. She had broken off several engagements. She had married in March 1932, but the marriage was rocky from day one, and she left her husband when her doting father asked her to go with him to Berlin, though she would not be divorced until 1934. She later described herself as having been “slightly antisemitic”, and believed that Germany was being reborn by the Nazis. She was taken with Berlin and with the Germans she met, and gave no credence to the horror stories she was told. Vivacious and attractive, she was soon a member of the diplomatic set, and attended lavish parties – a contrast to the modest entertainments proffered by her father, who was not a rich man and insisted on living modestly on his salary alone. Martha had several sexual affaires. She also met some senior Nazis, the first of whom was Ernst Hanfstaengl, the Nazi foreign press chief and a friend of Hitler’s.
Another was Rudolf Diels, the relatively moderate chief of the Gestapo, with whom she probably had an affaire. Her father also liked him: Diels occasionally released, at Dodd’s request, foreigners from concentration camps and punished SA men who had attacked Americans, usually for not giving the Hitler salute. But Himmler, then the head of the SS, clearly wanted to take over the Gestapo, too; and Diels told Martha that he feared for his life. He was in fact removed from his post in April 1934; was arrested after the plot of July 20th, 1944 against Hitler, but survived; testified for the prosecution in the Nuremberg trials, and became an official in the West German government.
Martha also had an affectionate relationship with one Boris Winogradov from the Soviet embassy. He was actually an NKVD operative; but he was probably genuinely in love with her. She spent a lot of enjoyable times with him, but did not allow herself to be seduced.
She attended the trial in November 1933 of the five men accused of having set the Reichstag Fire. She was disgusted by Goering’s performance and impressed by the defendant Dimitrov, whose aggressive defence led to the acquittal of four of the five defendants. She gradually became disillusioned with the Nazis, stopped defending them, and showed a new interest in the Soviet Union. She travelled to that country, without Boris, though he was in the Soviet Union at the same time, and, to her displeasure, pleaded that he was too busy to be with her. She wanted to marry him, and had actually written to Stalin asking for his permission; but the NKVD was displeased with the lack of energy of Boris’ work with Martha, and approached her directly, hoping to recruit her. To a minor extent, it got information from her. The NKVD posted Boris to Romania and then to Poland, where Martha would meet him again in 1937, on her way back from a second visit to Russia. She met him one last time in Berlin, just before she returned to the USA in 1937. Boris had come from Warsaw, without permission, to see her.
She returned to America two weeks before her father’s final departure in 1937 – and within six months married a left-wing America, Alfred Stern. He, too, would work for what was now the KGB. By the time Martha wrote to Boris to tell him of her marriage, he had been executed in one of Stalin’s purges.
Martha and Alfred were very public about their interest in communism, and were summoned by the Un-American Activities Committee in 1956. They fled to Mexico and later settled in Prague. There she gradually became disillusioned with communism, and deplored the Soviet occupation after the “Prague Spring” in 1968. But she remained in Prague, where she died in 1990.
This is the fifth book that I’ve read by this author and I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. In the case of this particular book, international politics is the main theme centering on the rise of the Nazis. This book can be enjoyed by anyone who loves political thrillers as well as, I believe, anyone who has read and enjoyed some of this author’s other books.
and immediately relates to the development of well-founded paranoia as manifested in America and like a horrible virus spreading throughout the world
Note that this is no dull recitation of dates and places, but a proper historical page-turner. Be prepared to have a couple of late nights, because this is a book that is hard to put down. Larson has the gift of transporting his readers into the context that he is describing, and there is plenty of vintage gossip, sexual tension and cloak and dagger (all suppoirted by footnotes and references) to enliven the tale.
Readers of Erik Larson's bookj might also enjoy the writings of William Shirer (such as Berlin Dary and The Nightmare years) who was a foreign correspondent in Berlin for US newspapers during this time.