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The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle Hardcover – March, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 984 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (March 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393048004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393048001
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the Gotterdämmerung for Hitler's Germany approached in April 1945, the surviving members of the Führer's inner circle of bureaucrats were still competing for his favor and conspiring, each in his own furtive way, to succeed him. Why anyone aspired to preside over the ruins is less a mystery after reading Read. From the unpromising beginnings of Nazism in the 1920s, ambitious misfits gathered around Hitler, whose demagogic genius in exploiting the humiliation of WWI's defeat seemed likely to propel him to power. Each was, in Read's words, "totally besotted" with Hitler and "bitterly jealous" of his attention to others. Not all survived the Darwinian struggle for favor and succession. Ernst Rhm was murdered by fellow Nazis. Rudolf Hess took a solo flight to captivity. Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated. But three of the original disciples-Hermann Gring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler-remained to the end, competing for power even when, with defeat imminent, the prize had lost all value. Four latecomers also hung on for dubious glory: the foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop; chief architect and war production genius, Albert Speer; Hitler's private secretary, Martin Bormann; and Adm. Karl Dnitz, whom no one expected to be anointed Hitler's successor. That the internecine rivalries persisted beyond the end suggests the warped minds of Hitler's crew of bureaucratic criminals. Despite his penchant for cliche ("the ripest of plums suddenly dropped into the Nazis' laps, completely out of the blue"), Read (coauthor of The Fall of Berlin, etc.) tells the story of two decades of assiduous jockeying for power in luridly absorbing if overwhelming detail. 16 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

From the ample literature about Adolf Hitler's sycophants, Read synthesizes this hefty chronological narration of the most notorious half-dozen's competition for the dictator's favor. He expresses his repugnance for this crew of cretins and cynics but understands the great interest in their horrific career trajectory as they emerged from obscurity to warmongering, genocidal prominence. Read recounts how the economic and political crises of early 1920s Germany affected Hitler's future paladins, and their motivations in picking his Nazi party from the stew of right-wing organizations as the vehicle for their ambitions and the outlet for their hatred. Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goring-- these principals as well as the second tier of the inner circle are all here, proving their usefulness to Hitler, murderously crushing opponents within and outside the Nazi party, engineering the Holocaust, and otherwise setting the world on fire. An able integration of extant material, Read's chronicle stands as a viable alternative to collecting it individually, or simply as an introduction to the gangsterlike personalities of the leading Nazis. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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A very good read, very well written, with no holds barred...!
Focusing only tangentially on Hitler, Mr. Read brings to life his close associates - in particular Goebbels, Himmler, Goering and Ribbentrop.
This book contains many more facts that help the reader understand the personal motives behind most of the intrigues of the main characters.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By S. MACPHERSON on October 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book to gain a better understanding on the men who surrounded Hitler on his path to power and ultimate fall. What I found was that this book was satisfying even as a straight forward history of the European theatre of World War II. I have read a lot about Hitler himself (Kershaw's excellent two-volume biography is highly recommended) and, of course, Goring, Goebbels, and Himmler all played an important role in all the readings. However, this book focuses primarily on those three men and their lives.

While it was interesting to learn more about these three men, what I found most compelling is the author's total distaste for Von Ribbentrop, who I did not know so much about before reading this book. It was almost comical to read about Ribbentrop's bumbling approach to foriegn affairs and his total lack of tact in dealing with other nations. The author even goes so far as to implicitly blame Ribbentrop for World War II itself, given his failure to adequately advise Hitler as to the British intentions over the invasion of Poland.

As for Goring, it is clear that the author researched his subject to the point of even having a grudging admiration for him. The author spends a lot of time discussing Goring: his weaknesses in early life as he struggles with addiction, his flamboyant lifestyle once power is assumed, and his total preoccupation with atttaining as many titles as possible in the Reich (not that he was alone in this regard). Goring is to a point painted as being swept along unwillingly in the excesses of the Hitler regime, ie the Holocaust. The author, however, did a good job of showing that in the final analysis this is not true- his economic policies for subjugated nations called for hordes of slave labor, for example.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bill Lee on September 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
We all know how the story ends, but most people aren't sure as to how it actually began. The cast of characters is all there -- the flamboyant flying ace turned politician; the awkward young man who overcomes a physical disability to ascend to the highest tiers of government; the idealist; the ideologue; the cunning grand vizier; the souls who fought a losing battle with their eyes set on Valhalla. In under 1000 pages, Anthony Read has written a modern masterpiece of Third Reich scholarship. Meticulously documented, "the Devil's Disciples" is a compelling read by any standard, but all the moreso for the undertaking it represents. Read crafts a captivating narrative of the German political scene from the First World War to Nuremberg and examines the most prominent figures in the Nazi Party and the subsequent government that came from it.

One of the most relieving things about Read's book is that it carefully avoids the abject moralism so prevalent in other works about the National Socialist period in Germany. Read is careful never to make a person seem too sympathetic or too incompetent, pointing out the individual's strong as well as weak personal qualities. Read's portraits of Hermann Göring and Josef Goebbels are by far the highlights of the book. With surgical precision, Read discerns the motivations and personalities of both men and offers fresh insight into their lives and careers. For once, Adolf Hitler takes a backseat to his subordinates, with awe-inspiring results.

For anyone interested in the history of the Third Reich, "the Devil's Disciples" is essential. By all rights, this book should be considered equal (or superior) to Shirer's "the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich." Once you start this book, you won't be able to put it down. An enthusiastic 5/5.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on September 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The product details states this book is 352 pages while it actually is 923 pages of text not counting the index. Anthony Read has covered the rise of the Third Reich from its beginnings during the Weimar Republic between World Wars I and II until its capitulation in the spring of 1945. All of Hitler's infamous henchmen are here as various ones, each one jealous of the others, vie for favorable standing within the party to gain favor with the Fuhrer. If you are looking for a book on Hitler and his cohorts, this mammoth volume will bring it all to life for you.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jack on July 8, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read over 100 books covering the Nazi period, including reading William Shirers book, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,three times. During this last 10 years every book I read was compared with Shirers. This is book by Anthony Read is perhaps equal or better than Shirers because its both a history book and a concise biography of the main "devil's disciples". This book at 900 pages provides more understanding of events than Shirer achieved in his 1600 pages although Shirer delivered a masterpiece. The reason for this is may be that Shirer in writing in 1958-60 did not have access to some of the detailed later sources as Anthony Read has. What makes this book so great is that Read spends great effort to explain the "Why & How" in addition to the "Who, What, Where, When" covered by most historians. This book provides insight into the squable that Goebbels had with Gregor Strasser that made it easier for Hitler to drive a wedge between Strasser and Goebbels who were very thick in the beginning and might have eventually split the Nazi's Berlin northern group from the Nazi's Munich "mafia" group.
This book gives a greater understanding of Gorings love and devotion to his first wife, Carin, than I got from reading a well researched biography of Hermann Goring by another author. Carin's death has been explained in other sources as: TB, epilepsy, heart failure. AR explains how they were all connected. Hermanns love for her explains why her son, Thomas, from her first marriage was so devoted to Goring.
The book also explains how crafty Hitler was in engaging many of the other political parties before backing out of any commitment at the 11th hour after the other parties were forced to disclose that most of them needed Hitler's Nazi Reichstag delegates more than the Nazis needed them.
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