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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely first-rate popular history with a grand sweep
This has got to be one of the greatest history books that I have ever read, and I have read a lot of them. While the story is centered around the development of the Steel industry in the Ruhr Gebiet in Germany, it is also about German history - from its beginnings with the "forest mythology" of the Roman era - all the way up to the 1960s. Unusual for historians,...
Published on May 17, 2004 by Robert J. Crawford

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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Flawed
I have read this book several times and while it is fascinating, it has some BIG flaws in my honest opinion. Manchester goes to some length to make the German worker look like he was being mis-used compared to the American blue collar worker in the late 19th and early 20th century. He forgets ( or chose to forget ) it was the Kaiser Wilhelm the II who got the German...
Published 8 months ago by Fiicker


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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely first-rate popular history with a grand sweep, May 17, 2004
By 
Robert J. Crawford (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War (Paperback)
This has got to be one of the greatest history books that I have ever read, and I have read a lot of them. While the story is centered around the development of the Steel industry in the Ruhr Gebiet in Germany, it is also about German history - from its beginnings with the "forest mythology" of the Roman era - all the way up to the 1960s. Unusual for historians, Manchester also has a wonderful grasp of character, which the Krupp family supplied in many, many bizarre variations over several generations. The result is a read of the greatest quality.
Most important, there is the empire of Krupp, as built up by Alfred. At 14, he inherited a steel company that had dwindled under his father's inept management to 5 employees. By sheer grit and a genius for profitable technical innovation, he built it into a vast conglomerate so powerful that it could literally make empires fall. In particular, the company specialised in the development of weapons, from breach-loading cannons to early prototypes for tanks. He even created a cannon (the Big Bertha for his wife), braced along the side of an entire mountain, that could hurl projectiles deep into France from German soil. The details are fascinating, with graceful descriptions that translate their engineering details for laymen.
Alfred controlled everything, from scribbling rules to govern the work force with a pencil nub to relationships with the various ministers of war throughout Europe. There are hilarious scenes where he dines once a year with Bismarck, a great personal friend, and their hysterical laughter at the latter's remark about Napoleon III of France ("Eigentlich ist er dumm"). His drive was so unrelenting that his many failures, such as an early insult to a crucially important aristocrat in the defense ministry (creating a problem for himself that lasted 30 years), took an enormous personal toll - he spent days in bed, depressed and immobile after a failed sale, and his family was a horrible mess.
A large part of the book is about his search for an heir who can run the family business. Here too, the characters are remarkable and often as hilarious or pathetic as their continuing genius for business. One of them was a notorious homosexual, who created an entire bacchanal in a Southern Italian castle for young boys, shooting fireworks for every climax, and when it was discovered - it was illegal in Germany - he committed suicide. You also witness the family energy dissipating until the last generation, when it became a public company with the appointment of Berthold Beitz. (Here there is some personal pique in the author, who writes that the last son, also gay, was "an indolent fool.")
The tableau is so rich that it covers the many moral ambiguities of the times, such as supplying rival powers who would turn Krupp weapons on eachother, including enemies of Germany, and of course the Nazi period is examined. Through all of this, the Krupp do not come off well, even using slave labor by Hitler's victims. (The only criticism I have of the book is the excessive coverage of the Holocaust, which occupies several chapters of personal stories, indicting the last Krupp who was briefly imprisoned and then released to run the company in the 1950s.)
As a business writer, it was a great pleasure to read such a rivetting business story. This book is the fullest of meals.
Warmly recommended.
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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mountains of steel, July 20, 2004
By 
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This review is from: The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War (Paperback)
The Arms of Krupp is a brilliantly written book detailing the rise and fall of one of the most powerful families in history. The family of Krupp was the armorer of the first, second and third German Reichs. The origins of the family's wealth begin with Arndt Krupp surviving the Black Plague and purchasing land that just happened to contain the richest coal deposits in Europe. The firm or die Firma was built on 3 basic principles, innovation (many new alloys, metals, methods and weapons are attributable to the Krupp firm), political leverage, and absolute suzerainty of a single head of the family. Indeed the head of the Krupp family ruled a state with in a state.

Unlike most industrial families, the Krupps appear to understand very early on that the health and welfare of the workers is a necessity of the survival and prosperity of die Firma itself. That fact makes Krupp's treatment of the slave labor (Jewish and Eastern "stucke") even more appalling. Indeed, Krupp violated even the pathetic SS prisoner treatment rules, formed an internal Gestapo, and tortured workers accused of ridiculous crimes (stealing food) considering the treatment they were given.

William Manchester spends a great deal of time on the Holocaust and Krupp's involvement in it. Indeed, Krupp raided captured factories across Europe and enslaved tens of thousands. In my opinion, this period represents the heights of wealth and the depths of morality for the firm and the family. Krupp sold his Reich marks to get real capital and at the same time employed the Nazi slave labor program to maintain production. Wealth generated on the backs of the conquered territories and enslaved peoples.

But the single most damning legacy of the Krupp dynasty is Bushmannhof ? a concentration camp for children of Krupp's slave labor program. Not even children really but infants. No fence was erected around this camp as its prisoners couldn't have escaped even if they were big enough to walk. Witnesses at Nuremburg stated that infants lay naked on rubber sheets too weak to do anything until death came to claim them. In theory, mothers could come visit once per week, but this was impossible and no alternative was ever even considered. In total war, innocence is no protection. While Gustav and Alfried Krupp ate with solid gold place ware in a bombproof bunker. Children of workers forced to keep the rolling presses moving were dying of starvation and preventable diseases.
They were buried in the earth beneath small numbered plaques. Never to laugh, never to play, they were born but to die under the suzerainty of Krupp.

But memories are short, Alfried was released to help forge the swords of the cold war and indeed, at his death in 1968, the Krupp firm was turned into a publicly held company and the only Krupp Heir - his son Arndt - continues to prosper due in a large part to the Lex Krupp, a law issued by Adolph Hilter.

And the little numbered plaques have probably crumbled to nothing by now.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars war is good for business, December 28, 2005
This review is from: The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War (Paperback)
This work is the cardinal profile of the rise of the `military-industrial complex' in 19-20C Germany. The Krupp legacy (family and firm) is skillfully traced in a lucid, comprehensive account equal to the finest modern history.

Without Krupp, Germany would never have been unified in 1871. Without war, Krupp would never have grown into the wealthiest concern in the world. Each served the other. And tens of millions died.

What price did Krupp pay for key instrumentality in aggressive war? Not much. Gustav (key Nazi donor, appointed `Leader of Industry' in 1933) was judged too infirm for trial in 1945. Alfried (who joined the SS in 1931) spent 3 years in jail (released to much applause in 1951). The firm self destructed 1967-8 (Arndt II, playboy degenerate, wasn't up to the task of renewing the symbiotic relationship).

Krupp armed regimes that killed civilians without remorse. It used slave labor to produce weapons, and operated camps that (given the regimen) supported extermination. All without apology.

Perhaps the most cynical salute to profit is Krupp's ultimate negotiation of a £40,000 settlement in 1926 for patent royalties from Vickers for 640,000 shells the Brits fired at Germans in WW1 (Gustav insisted 4,160,000 shells were fired -- killing 2,080,000 German soldiers -- and £260,000 was due). Thus Krupp, the preeminent German weapons firm, was paid for the death of German soldiers in a lost war.

Though I read it thirty years ago, this book remains important and memorable. Highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but lengthy, portrait of an industrial dynasty, October 11, 1999
By 
Robin C. Smith (Westchester County, NY, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is an excellent and erudite study of the Krupp family from the first Krupp in the 16th century to the last in the 1960s. A brilliantly researched and marvelously told story of a family whose fortunes mirrored the rise and fall of Germany from 1850 onwards. Krupp armaments played an important role in the defeat of France under Napoleon III and in the arming of the Second Reich leading to World War One. Their role in the Third Reich is examined minutely and it is quite clear that the company was vitally important in rearming Germany after Versailles and by supporting Hitler from an early stage played an odious part in the Wermacht's wars of conquest. There is great deal of detail of the company's disgusting role in the maintenance of its own concentration camps and the firm's use of slave labor and its consequent appalling brutality. Despite being convicted at Nuremberg, Alfried Krupp spent only a few years in prison (when others who were arguably guilty of less heinous crimes were hanged) but was released soon after imprisonment to help provide steel to and to bolster the economy of Western Europe in response to the Communist threat. From there he regained his empire only to loose it when the company went bust. Manchester is very good at showing how many Germans and others in the West chose to whiten Alfried's guilt by ignoring the Nuremberg record and by feeding misinformation.
My only complaints about the book are, firstly, that it is inordinately long. I think the book could have been at least 100-200 pp shorter. I really did wonder whether I was ever going to get through it. There are many occasions when he spends a great deal of time comparing, say Alfried's actions to those of his great grandfather Alfred - I found this a little wearing, especially since we can do that ourselves by looking back in the book. On the other hand the scholarly accumulation of fact by Manchester is very impressive and part of the power of the book. Secondly, having just said this about the excessive length, I really did feel that I missed having more technical information about the products that Krupp made. For example, Manchester talks about the howitzers that bombarded Paris in 1870, but the information about them is very hazy and the picture in the book of the 1918 Paris gun is not of the Paris gun at all (more a large railcar mounted naval weapon). Big Bertha's are covered, but I for one wanted to know more about them. The picture again is very uninformative (in fact it may not be one of them at all). There is talk of 88's, Panzers and Panthers, but we never see them or really get to grips with what was so feared about them. I think it is immediately obvious from reading the book that Manchester, although an exceptional historian, journalist and writer, is not an engineer and this is a shame bearing in mind the legendary nature of many of Krupp's products. An appendix of Krupp's most famous products would have been useful.
Basically though I would recommend this book to all who have a more than a casual interest in European history, but just be warned this is not something undertaken too lightly.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant history, September 8, 2000
By A Customer
How DARE they let this book go out of print! This is one of the most brilliant histories of recent years, a classic to go along with Bill Shirer's "Rise and fall of the Third Reich" and Barbara Tuchman's "August 1914"/"The guns of August", to which it is an excellent companion. It captures both eras and characters wonderfully well. ABove all, Manchester is a passionate historian. No academic distance for hîm. The words burn with anger at the treatment of the slave workers of the Third Reich - and their murdered offspring, to whom the book is dedicated. Long it may be but it bears rereading, because nobody ought to forget this stuff.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful History Of Germany's Foremost Arms Maker, October 6, 2003
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
"The Arms Of Krupp" is the incredible biography of a powerful and incredibly rich and powerful family that was central in the advent and progress of European history for the more than four hundred years they presided as an almost imperial force within the boundaries of what is present-ay Germany. Certainly no other non-royal dynasty engenders such controversy and hotly expressed differences in opinion than does the multiple generations of this critically based family so critical to the development and technological capabilities of the German war machine. Of course, no one could do a better job at providing a definitive historical biography of the Krupp family than William Manchester. This is truly a magnificent book, a spellbinding story splendidly told by a master of English prose, rendered in a flawless, comprehensive, and objective treatment of this fascinating, often outrageous, and sometime imperious string of Krupp family member who ignited the wars raging in Europe in terms of their ability to provide the motherland with such complex, ingenious, and technically superior weapons of war.
This is, in fact, considered a masterwork of history, an eminently readable and elegantly stylish work by Manchester, a master of the trade. Manchester, a retired history professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, is widely regarded as one of this country's preeminent biographers and historian. The Krupp dynasty was extinguished in 1967, when the last surviving family member passed away. With his death the legacy of a four hundred year span of contribution to the European armaments industry came to an end, and so brought to a conclusion a tradition spanning wars and quite profoundly influencing outcomes of European history for centuries. The Krupp Arms conglomerate was technologically innovative, devising new weapons such as a superior cannon to an anti-air vehicle weapon designed to counter the reconnaissance capabilities of aerial observation balloons to exotic and much more capable submarines, which they then built for over four decades.
In so doing, they became fabulously rich, and rose to become extremely influential and exceedingly conservative voices within the realm of German political circles. No German leader could hope to marshal the resources or the weapons of war necessary to mount a military campaign without first gaining the trust, confidence and support of the Krupp family, which then cleverly and cynically manipulated this influence to vastly enrich themselves. During World War One, their cannons helped to flatten the French city of Verdun, and at one point succeeded in lobbing projectiles into Paris from as distant a location as some eighty miles away, an unheard-of innovation at the time. Aiding the Third Reich in its secret rearmament effort after the end of the First Word War, they provided a much advanced tank design that eventuated in the Panzer tank, used subsequently so successfully in Hitler's blitzkrieg through France in the summer of 1940.
They were quite influential within the German society as well, having armed the forces of Kaiser Wilhelm for battle before World War One, and then surreptitiously backed Hitler financially in the so-called terror-campaign" of 1933. Incredibly, the Krupps participated in the war crimes of the Third Reich, even controlling and operating more than 130 concentration camps during the war. Afterwards, they help to rebuild Europe in the eventual development of the European Common Market. This is a truly fascinating book written with all of the usual style and substance one come s to expect of William Manchester, and it is certainly a book I can highly recommend to anyone with an interest in European history. Enjoy!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank You Mr. Manchester - Danke Schoen Herr Manchester, October 14, 2008
By 
W. Opp (Sacramento, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War (Paperback)
William Manchester's The Arms of Krupp is a great accomplishment. The book fluidly details the history of the Krupps, one of the world's greatest industrialist dynasties and its Firma. The history of the Krupps is interesting, because it is so closely connected to the history of the German state. The author skillfully weaves the histories of the Krupps and German state, while always remaining focused on the Krupps. A lesser author would need to diverge from his/her storytelling to relate surrounding historical events. Mr. Manchester is always able to avoid such divergences and distractions with his skillful writing.

I perceived only two shortcomings regarding this book. First, the book's evaluation of Alfried Krupp's war crimes was not as balanced as I would have hoped. Much of the book seems to be an indictment of Alfried Krupp for war crimes, e.g., enslavement of foreign workers. Although he is most assuredly inexcusably guilty of the crimes, I would have appreciated a more balanced, analytical evaluation of the Firma's decisions to commit the crimes. Instead, the author seems to simply dismiss the decisions as being evil and unexplainable.

My second perceived shortcoming in the book concerns its translation of German into English. I believe it is safe to assume that many or most of Mr. Manchester's sources were originally in German. I believe it is also safe to assume that translated sources in the book obtained extra scrutiny before publication. Unfortunately, the original German and English translations provided in the book were not always entirely consistent. In Chapter 28, the author discusses the Firma's business relationship with Egypt. The text quotes an internal Firma memorandum, which state in English, "The true goal of Krupp in Egypt is the multimillion-dollar Aswan Dam." The original German provided next to it in the book states that "Das naechste Ziel Krupps ist das Milliardenprojeckt des Assuan Damms." A correct translation of the Firma's memorandum reveals that it was the firm's "next goal", not its "true goal", to obtain the contract to build the Aswan Dam. Although the mistranslations I noted were typically insignificant in consequence, they leave me with a little doubt regarding any translated source.

Because of the above shortcomings, I wish I could give this book 4.5 stars. Unfortunately, I had to decide between four and five stars. I elected to give five stars, because Mr. Manchester's The Arms of Krupp is simply a great read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Biography of Europe's Premier Armaments Family!, July 12, 2003
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War (Paperback)
"The Arms Of Krupp" is the incredible biography of a powerful and incredibly rich and powerful family that was central in the advent and progress of European history for the more than four hundred years they presided as an almost imperial force within the boundaries of what is present-ay Germany. Certainly no other non-royal dynasty engenders such controversy and hotly expressed differences in opinion than does the multiple generations of this critically based family so critical to the development and technological capabilities of the German war machine. Of course, no one could do a better job at providing a definitive historical biography of the Krupp family than William Manchester. This is truly a magnificent book, a spellbinding story splendidly told by a master of English prose, rendered in a flawless, comprehensive, and objective treatment of this fascinating, often outrageous, and sometime imperious string of Krupp family member who ignited the wars raging in Europe in terms of their ability to provide the motherland with such complex, ingenious, and technically superior weapons of war.
This is, in fact, considered a masterwork of history, an eminently readable and elegantly stylish work by Manchester, a master of the trade. Manchester, a retired history professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, is widely regarded as one of this country's preeminent biographers and historian. The Krupp dynasty was extinguished in 1967, when the last surviving family member passed away. With his death the legacy of a four hundred year span of contribution to the European armaments industry came to an end, and so brought to a conclusion a tradition spanning wars and quite profoundly influencing outcomes of European history for centuries. The Krupp Arms conglomerate was technologically innovative, devising new weapons such as a superior cannon to an anti-air vehicle weapon designed to counter the reconnaissance capabilities of aerial observation balloons to exotic and much more capable submarines, which they then built for over four decades.
In so doing, they became fabulously rich, and rose to become extremely influential and exceedingly conservative voices within the realm of German political circles. No German leader could hope to marshal the resources or the weapons of war necessary to mount a military campaign without first gaining the trust, confidence and support of the Krupp family, which then cleverly and cynically manipulated this influence to vastly enrich themselves. During World War One, their cannons helped to flatten the French city of Verdun, and at one point succeeded in lobbing projectiles into Paris from as distant a location as some eighty miles away, an unheard-of innovation at the time. Aiding the Third Reich in its secret rearmament effort after the end of the First Word War, they provided a much advanced tank design that eventuated in the Panzer tank, used subsequently so successfully in Hitler's blitzkrieg through France in the summer of 1940.
They were quite influential within the German society as well, having armed the forces of Kaiser Wilhelm for battle before World War One, and then surreptitiously backed Hitler financially in the so-called terror-campaign" of 1933. Incredibly, the Krupps participated in the war crimes of the Third Reich, even controlling and operating more than 130 concentration camps during the war. Afterwards, they help to rebuild Europe in the eventual development of the European Common Market. This is a truly fascinating book written with all of the usual style and substance one come s to expect of William Manchester, and it is certainly a book I can highly recommend to anyone with an interest in European history. Enjoy!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For such a monumental work never to become boring, is quite a feat, October 17, 2007
By 
This review is from: The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War (Paperback)
It covers a lengthy span of time in Krupp saga. Its 900 pages have space for all kinds of detail, from the purely familiar and personal to the more general of German customs and idiosyncrasies, and finally -to me the most relevant and interesting- the historical. The historical from the ground perspective, is what I mean, not the ideological or political.

There's a lot of merit in this author to keep the interest along so many pages. Some of these pages are of great style, elsewhere the interest plummets a little, which is totally understandable.

One paradox in the book that can summarize the story of Krupp is the difference between the way the greatest Krupp (Alfred) treated a poor and foreign woman appealing for help, and the way his great-grandson, would treat people like her in his not-known-well-enough private concentration camps. For Alfred it was: "Necessity knows no law", a fitting motto. Exactly the opposite would be during the Nazi times. Here's a sample of great writing: "Yet there was a time when Alfred's great-grandson not only abandoned helpless women from abroad, but exploited them, and then left them to a doom far more unspeakable than the turbid gray waters of the Rhine. The bonfire of the Third Reich was rapidly being reduced to embers. No sources of manpower were left and so, necessity knowing no law, Krupp turned to girls, to mothers, and, in the end, to the construction of a private concentration camp for children."

A must read, for the fine style in which it describes important historical subjects that must be known, the day-to-day lives of the people who lived those turbulent -to say something- times. Let's not forget those horrors. And don't try to understand them, just beware how low the human race can fall.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only this was available at Nuremburg., January 3, 2004
This review is from: The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War (Paperback)
Manchester's epic should appeal to readers of politics, economics, and military history as he skillfully intertwines the Krupp family business with multiple generations of political leaders of Europe. While 400 years is a bit of a misnomer - the Krupps weren't the Rothschilds and only truly affected the world scene from 1870 onwards - the author does a magnificent job of immersing the reader in a fascinating top down look at the political and military climate of pre-Great War Europe from their most important arms supplier - the Cannon Kings Alfred, Fritz, and Gustav Krupp. Underlying this is a well-proven thesis that Germany's military prowess relied heavily on Krupp technological innovations, and Manchester is to be commended for making this understandable to the layman.
The second half of the narrative is far darker but equally as important as he essentially reconstructs the Allied case against Krupp in greater detail than publicly available at Nuremburg for their crimes in World War II. Beyond any doubt, Alfried Krupp and the firm did monstrous things - at times far worse than the SS - to slave laborers that other German manufacturers refused. Starving to death thousands, torturing more, and outright looting conquered territory were good business for Krupp. Manchester's reconstruction bogs the pace of the book but is an overwhelmingly effective refutation of Krupp as victim. Had this been available at Nuremburg Krupp would clearly have hanged. One finishes the book hoping that some effort was made to memorialize the slave camp babies murdered by 'die Firma'.
The age of the 1968 publishing only shows up in some of the economic analysis, but even then students of economics can glean a couple of lessons about what happens when you overlever and overexpand.
Highly recommended.
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