I finished up this book last evening, July 27. I found it very interesting, and an exceptional amount of research must have been put into this work by Erik Larson.
The story follows the life of the Ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler, William E. Dodd. The secondary title of the book is “Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin.” While the book centers around the entire family, which includes Dodd’s wife Martha, son Bill Jr. and daughter, also named Martha, it truly focuses on Dodd himself and the younger Martha. Younger Martha is, to be frank, a tramp. The attitude of her parents toward their daughter is somewhat surprising. There is little reprimand for the affairs and indiscretions that Martha engages in.
As the Dodds settle in Germany, it is evident that the mindset of the American family that they are firmly on the side of the Germans and Hitler’s new regime. The “Jewish problem” somehow justifies the early actions of the Third Reich. While the story focuses on the actions of Hitler and his henchmen, there is a background story on the struggle that a gentleman scholar had surviving in the diplomatic “good ole boys club”, which had diplomats from around the world spending exorbitant amounts of money of parties and affairs that had nothing much to do with their diplomatic causes.
Martha the Younger’s love life is fascinating, especially when she takes up with Rudolf Diels, Gorring’s protege. Diels himself seems a strange character, who, although he sports a deeply scarred face, remained handsome and charismatic. Martha would also be involved romantically with a Russian communist spy… and it is rumored that she also became part of the KGB in later years.
The book is filled with intrigue, backbiting, danger, love and politics. I’d highly recommend it for anyone interested in the on-goings and the thoughts of Americans in the early part of the Third Reich’s reign.