In the Garden of Beasts Book Group Discussion Questions

We will be discussing Erik Larson’s In The Garden of Beasts tomorrow for the Las Vegas Non-Fiction book group. Here are the questions I will use to keep the discussion going:

Which aspects of life in Berlin surprised you the most as you read this story? How does
this version compare to others you have read?

What have learned about the period leading up the World War II that you had not known?

How does the fact that you know the eventual outcome of Nazi Germany affect the way you experience the book?

When William Dodd first went to Germany he thought that Hitler would have a positive influence on Germany. Many others, German and Non-German also believed this. Why do you think this was?

Martha thought that Germany seemed to be a modern, civilized society when she arrived in Berlin. To what extent was it at that time?

What did you think of Martha as a person?

What was it that made Dodd begin to suspect the rumors he had been hearing about Nazi brutality were true?
Why did Dodd’s warnings about Hitler fall on indifferent ears in the US? What was the primary concern of the US in its relationship with Germany?

Did America’s own anti-semitism play any role in dismissing the growing chorus of concern ?
What was Hitler’s formula for establishing control, despite limited military and economic means?

How did the slow buildup of popular support occur? What was the role of random arrests, propaganda, and a minority scapegoat?

In what ways has Hitler’s formula been repeated elsewhere in the world?

What were events/episodes you find most chilling in Larson’s account of the rise of Nazism?

What do you think of William Dodd and his family? Did you find anything about them admirable?
How does Erik Larson portray Hitler and other higher-ups in the Nazi party in this book?

Discuss the book’s epilogue, “The Queer Bird in Exile.” What does Martha’s legacy as a fighter for equality say about her spirit, and her temperament? How did she finally overcome her naïveté?

How would you have been affected by an experience like hers in Berlin?

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