431 of 450 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 1999
Don't be intimidated by the 1100+ pages of "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich." It reads more like a novel than a dry historical narrative and -- trust me on this -- this book is awesome.
As a reporter for CBS, William Shirer lived and worked in Germany during much of the Nazi movement. Until he left in 1940, he saw firsthand Hitler's rise to power, the consolidation of that power, and the use of that power. As a fallible human being, his prejudices may show through at times, but this is not necessarily a weakness. In today's climate of political correctness, works by historical revisionists -- that purport to show that Hitler and the Nazis weren't so bad -- are not only published, but they're even taken seriously. Perhaps our modern view of Hitler has been distorted by allied propaganda and Hitler and Goerring were fun loving and lovable guys, they say. At the extreme, some revisionists even claim that the Auschwitz death camp didn't even have gas chambers - they were added later as a tourist attraction! Yeah right.
In that sense, Shirer's book, published in 1959 is refreshing. He doesn't hold back one bit with his opinions.
Hence, Quisling is "pig-eyed", Rohm is a "pervert", Goebles is "dwarfish", Goering is "corpulent", Ribbentrop is "vain as a peacock", Brauchitsch is "unintelligent", Eva Braun has the "brain of a bird", and so forth. Such epithets may offend the sensibilities of some modern day readers, but they certainly spice up the telling of what could otherwise be a boring tale. (If you don't know who these people are, buy the book. Believe me, if you read it all the way through, you will become a formidable expert in Nazi trivia).
Because "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" was finished a mere 14 years after the fall of Nazi Germany, some facts that have come to light after its publication are necessarily missing. The premier example of this would be the breaking of the secret Nazi military codes by the British. But writing this book in 1959 also had its advantages. Many of the participants were still alive when William Shirer was doing his research. Hence, when encountering a slight inconsistency in General Franz Halder's war diary [The Chief of Staff of the High Command (the OKH)], William Shirer wrote to the old General and received "a prompt and courteous reply."
Perhaps Shirer's most vivid firsthand account of all is the several page description of the French surrender in the rail car at the forest at Compiegne:
"I look for the expression in Hitler's face. I am but fifty yards from him and see him though my glasses as though he were directly in front of me... He glances slowly around the clearing, and now, as his eyes meet ours, you grasp the depth of his hatred."
But these personal accounts only take up a very small portion of this absolutely fantastic book. Particularly well covered was Hitler's rise to power -- a story that is not often told. The Hitler that Shirer paints during these early years is a very astute political observer who shrewdly plays the German people like a violin. He promises the people what they want, plays on their fears, and is extremely ruthless to anyone who dares to oppose him.
In later years, Shirer's Hitler's political savvy falls apart. At one point Shirer calls his inner circle a "lunatic asylum". Except for very occasional bursts of brilliance, Hitler has no idea what the heck he is doing politically much less militarily and yet his fanatical followers still go along with him. Hitler's megalomania goes on overdrive until, like a Viking in a Wagner opera his body is burned in a last stand against the Russian army just blocks away from his bunker.
While making my way through "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", I can't tell you how many times I would read about a pivotal event and wonder "WHAT THE HECK WAS GOING THROUGH THESE GUYS MINDS?" I always knew the Nazi's were nuts as well as scary. This book provided all of the details I needed.
935 of 1,020 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2012
This review is not of the excellent scholarly work of William Shirer but of the Kindle version of this book. Clearly the book was converted electronically without even cursory proofreading. Problems that I encountered include, but are not limited to:
* Readability is impaired by the incorrect placement of commas instead of periods and apparent random insertion of periods in the middle sentences, usually due to incorrect interpretation of a comma but in some cases this appears to be random insertion.
* There are many instances of random incorrect capitalization of words within a sentence.
* Many words are not correctly recognized. For example "Uve" is printed in the Kindle conversion when the correct word would have been "Live" or the conversion interpreted "attack" to be "a tack" with the apparent two spaces between the two incorrect words.
* Since this was a conversion from the original printed book most, if not all, of the hyphenation that was used for word wrapping now appears in the middle of a line instead of being combined into the correct single word.
* Footnote hyperlinks are often misplaced and in one chapter the footnote links were not even present. The hyperlinks for footnotes often overflow in the text and in the worst extreme an entire paragraph is converted to hyperlink meaning that a user would not be able to select individual words, lines, etc. This version also attempts to hyperlink certain key names, locations and events to the Index, however the hyperlinked text far too often is only for part of the word or phrase which is extremely annoying when part of the word and/or phrase is in blue and the rest is in normal font color.
* Many letters are incorrectly translated - most of these are the confusion between "1," "I" and lower case "L" but as noted above this occurs with other words or letters.
* Despite the updates to the Kindle for Android software, page numbering was not available, just the not formally defined position.
Overall the book as originally written and published deserves 5 stars, or more, but the Kindle conversion is what I am rating at 2 stars. It would have been a single star but having previously read the 30th anniversary printed version I am better able to make the corrections within my mind although it sometimes takes several re-readings of a sentence or paragraph to determine what was really written. Correction - after previewing my review changed the rating to a single star.
What is needed is to have each and every conversion of a book from print professionally proof-read before releasing this. To date I have only read two Kindle books and both share the same poor quality of conversion to Kindle format.
What is Amazon's policy if a Kindle book is eventually corrected and replaced with a more readable version? Do previous purchasers receive the correct version via sync and are they informed of this in the event that they were unable to finish the poorly converted version?
Another problem is that the dates published for virtually all titles are only the date of release in Kindle version and do not reflect the actual date of release of the actual text being read or the edition. Others previously noted that this poor quality conversion was not either the 50th anniversary edition as indicated in the product description or the updated 30th anniversary edition but an apparent conversion of an earlier edition. While this sometimes can be gleaned if one carefully reads each and every word of the description but a more honest presentation of this information would be to make that a separate line item in the product details, not buried in the product description or in reviews.
Correction - I have read three Kindle books and all share the same problems although one was to a much lesser degree.
UPDATE: I copied and pasted this review into a support email to Amazon using their webform. They responded asking that I provide citation to the problems and their locations but I am not willing to be an unpaid volunteer proofreader. My reply was limited to a single example of most of the problems that I reported but the problems are spread throughout the entire Kindle version fo this book as well as another that I wrote a review of. I am reading these books on a 10-inch tablet using Kindle for Android.
UPDATE: April 26, 2012 - Amazon still hasn't taken any action except to find or manufacture over 350 additional reviews to dilute the negative reviews of the extremely poor kindle conversion. Somehow the number of reviews went from 31 to 385 in just 3 days. What a coincidence!
UPDATE: May 2, 2012 - received a response from Amazon.com's Executive Customer Relations. It stated that there was an update in progress by the publisher with a subsequent conversion to Kindle format by Amazon which should hopefully correct many of the errors that so many of us have reported, a time frame for replacement was not offered which is probably best as unforeseen delays would artificially create ill feelings.. They also responded favorably to a suggestion to clearly indicate the edition or date of publication as this is very important for historical books. Finally, the addition of so many extra reviews is being attributed by Amazon to merging reviews of other versions. While I may not agree with the last as the reviews of various editions were previously mixed before the Big Bang occurred it is also possible that the complaints and poor reviews may have triggered some of this as well as correction of existing errors. Again, Thank You to everyone that chose to post accurate feedback of the problems with the Kindle edition.
UPDATE: August 8, 2012 - I could not get the version to update including many instances of deleting the title and finally Amazon forced a send. It took three more tries but I now have a version with page numbering. Having so recently labored through the defective version I am unable to re-read this new version to determine if most of the errors have been corrected or new ones added. Getting this updated required significant complaining finally resulting in addressing an email to Jeff Bezos and associated reassignment to higher level customer service representatives as the lower level representives declined to initiate investigative action.
FINAL UPDATE (April 10, 2013): I managed to reread the entire Kindle edition and the majority of the incorrect words and character mistranslation (or scanning) has been corrected. The problems with footnotes and text hyperlinks was not addressed at all such as partial words being highlighted (and therefore in a different color, etc.) remain, selection and assignment of hyperlinks to such vital single characters such as a "c" and "h," incorrect hyphenation because the words had been hyphenated in the print editions for word wrapping, random insertion of periods (although reduced), incorrect translation of the number one v. the lower case "l" v. uppercase letter "I" remain, etc. Words that are only partially hyperlinked therefore have a tendency to take the reader to a completely unrelated place in the index. Of course no one can forget the 114 Uves lost as a result of the torpedoing of the Athenia. I will not change my rating but when on sale this volume is acceptable with the understanding that this is the 30th Anniversary Edition, not the 50th which would be more updated. Amazon somehow fails to indicate the actual edition despite a commitment from Amazon management that the edition and actual date published would be added to the product details for historical books since that would be extremely important. The product description states "This first ever e-book edition is published on the 50th anniversary of this iconic work" but that is misleading, at best, as the book clearly identifies this as being the 30th Anniversary Edition (see the Afterward which is dated May 1990). It is extremely sad and disheartening to see that such a great and important work has been so poorly and carelessly formatted into e-book format eveen after so many complaints and communications with Amazon staff. I can only hope that the heirs of William Shirer will somehow run across this information and perhaps apply appropriate pressure to force this great historical work to be corrected, updated to the 50th Anniversary Edition and the false or misleading advertising be corrected.
93 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2011
William Shirer was an American journalist in Germany from 1934 until presumably 1941 (when Germany declared war on the USA after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour). Shirer occasionally mentions his participation in reporting history from Berlin or the front lines and admits to having been influenced by the endless barrage of Nazi propaganda. Occasionally his sharp post-war opinions on the characters of the various leaders depicted breaks through. The book is based on the huge amounts of documentary and verbal evidence that became available after the war and the Nuremberg trials. The book represents a huge work of research - one wonders, however, whether the author's motivation is an atonement to his blindness (along with many millions of others) to the monstrosity of the Third Reich as it actually happened.
On reading the book (a rich 1200 pages!) one wonders whether it should not have been called "The Rise and the Fall of Adolf Hitler" for it centers around Hitler and his generals and seems to almost forget Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and other Nazi leaders after their initial appearances. A central conclusion from the book is, no doubt, that the Third Reich and World War2 would not have come about were it not for this one man - Adolf Hitler. All the other players in Shirer's story pale into insignificance beside the genius, charisma, madness, vision, evil, manipulativeness, leadership and single-mindedness of the one man. The only other "heros" of the book, although not covered in great detail, are Stalin and, rather more so, Churchill whose vision, inspiration and leadership changed the course of history.
Besides Hitler, Churchill and Stalin most other players in the drama of the Third Reich appear in Shirer's book as sycophants, ditherers, brutes or nonentities. The weakness and blindness of pre-war England and France are difficult to imagine. The blind neutrality and unpreparedness of the governments of Belgium, Holland and Norway is also noted. The world's blindness is all the more noteworthy considering, as Shirer carefully points out, that Hitler laid out his philosophy and intentions very clearly in Mein Kampf which he wrote in the mid 1920's. [This and The Myth of the 20th Century by Alfred Rosenberg who had a huge influence on Hitler's thinking are two 'must reads' for anyone interested in the background of Nazi thinking and philosophy.]
In hindsight, one is open-mouthed at the success of Hitler's bullying which allowed him to annex Austria and dismantle Czechoslovakia without firing a shot. Hitler also intimidated his generals who dared not disobey him even if it cost the lives of thousands of their troops and endangered their own. As the war progressed more and more of them either resigned or were fired in Hitler's increasing rage and frustration at ever increasing failures. It is quite amazing to read about the chain of events which led the ex-Austrian corporal to take over direct command of the German armed forces in the first place. There is no doubt that, during the early stages of the war, Hitler's ideas of where and how to attack and invade were smarter than those of his generals, as was his assessment of the procrastination and unpreparedness of the countries to the north and west.
However Hitler had a number of critical blind spots that were to cost him the war. He underestimated the will of the Russians to fight for their homeland as he misjudged the tenacity of the British and readiness to fight of the Americans. Hitler was more paranoid about the dangers close to home to his regime and his person. He made sure to eliminate (literally) any real or supposed opposition including the many members of the July 1944 plot. Shirer documents the various attempts within Germany during the war years to overthrow the Fuehrer which all failed from combinations of bad luck, ambivalence, mutual distrust and lack of resolve of the plotters.
The book's main themes are the rise of the Nazi Party, the build up to and then the conduct of the war until its demolition of the Third Reich. From a history of the Third Reich, I would have expected something more on the instruments of government and power under the Nazi regime. There is also little on the Nazis' innovative, systematic and extremely successful uses of deception and propaganda to further their aims. Shirer, however, chooses the more exciting stories and gives us a tantalizing insider's view of the Reich. The detail furnished by some of Hitler's loyal subordinates of meetings give us the feeling of having been there in the Chancellery or in Berchtesgaden as it happened. For those of us who grew up on the Allied story of the war, this glimpse into the enemy camp is a memorable one. I will not forget this book for a long time.
288 of 318 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2012
This is a great book for not only its detail, but also the unique perspective that the author provides. Every stage in the history of Germany during the mid twentieth century is explored in fantastic depth. The Kindle edition however appears to have never been edited. Typographical errors occur frequently enough to distract from the text. There are also numerous footnotes that are not active, or lniked to other citations making them inaccessible. It is a shame that this was offered in such a condition, it has made me far less likely to purchase Kindle editions of older works.
310 of 348 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2000
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this book. It was the first comprehensive popular history of Nazi Germany to appear in English, and it is probably more responsible than any other single source for shaping the way that Americans think about Nazi Germany, World War II, and the Holocaust. More than that, this is an estimable work of history. Shirer has done an admirable job of combing through the mountains of primary source material that the Nazis left behind and assembling a coherent and comprehensible narrative from it.
Of course, it would be a mistake to view this book as simply or even primarily a work of history. It is intended as an indictment of the evil and barbarity that the Nazis perpetrated in Germany and across Europe for more than twelve years and as an indictment of the men and women in Germany, in France, in Great Britain, and elsewhere who allowed that evil and barbarity to occur. Shirer is not content to point out that Hitler and Himmler and Goering and Frank were monsters; he also is intent on showing how complicit the German Army and the German people were in what happened and how the ignorance, stupidity, and cowardice of the politicians of the West and the Soviet Union actively assisted Hitler's monstosities in coming to pass.
The reader can almost visualize Shirer shaking in outrage when he considers the evil Hitler wrought with the help of the rest of Europe. This outrage is, in many ways, both the book's greatest asset and its greatest shortcoming. While Shirer's indignation makes this a great moral work, it also causes him to be more than a little unfair to some of his subjects and to present the history as being more one-dimensional than it in fact was. Shirer never tells, for example, that one of the principal reasons that Chamberlain and Daladier were willing to appease Hitler was that the Depression had bankrupted both Britain and France. They believed that they could not afford to rearm so that they could stop Hitler militarily, and so they sought to get the best deals they could at the bargaining table. Their policy was, of course, dangerously short-sighted, but it is unfair to both men to suggest that their policy was almost solely the result of cowardice.
Then, too, is the fact that Shirer almost invariably describes Rosenberg as a befuddled dolt, Goering as fat, and Ribbentrop as vacuous. It is readily apparent to the reader that he does so because he feels he must constantly reiterate their lack of praiseworthiness, but it is disconcerting to the reader. I am at a loss to explain what Goering's girth has to do with anything, or what it was about Rosenberg's writing that made him any stupider that most Nazis. While I believe that Ribbentrop deserves almost all of the calumny that can be heaped on him, Shirer never makes a real case for his vacuity.
Finally, it must be said that Shirer appears to run out of steam towards the end of the book. All of World War II is covered in the last 25% of the book, and many important topics, including the Holocaust, get short shrift as a result.
These criticisms should not be taken to mean that I believe that this book is not meritorious or that it should not be read. On the contrary: one would be hard-pressed to find a better, more comprehensible, more accessible one volume book about Nazi Germany. It ought to be the starting point (but not the ending point) for anyone interested in World War II or Nazi Germany.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2011
For those who have never read this monumental and essential work, the issuance of a 50th anniversary edition represents an excellent opportunity to acquire and read it. For a reader and student of modern German history like me, who bought the first edition as a high-school student 50 years ago, it represents an opportunity to revisit the book and refresh one's understanding of that singular and mystifying era. But an anniversary edition should bring something new to the table in addition to being a commemorative edition to add to the bookshelf. Ron Rosenbaum, the author of Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil, does his part toward this end by adding a modern specialist historian's perspective at a distance of half a century from the original publication, and in that, this book fulfills the requirement for something new.
But because I ordered the book sight-unseen, I was disappointed in the lack of new typography, which would have made the book much more attractive. It is evident at first glance that the pages carrying the main text were printed not from masters newly composited for this anniversary edition, which would have given freshness to the appearance and readability of the book, but from masters made by photocopying the pages of the original book. This process gives the characters on the page a slightly eroded appearance, with sharp points blunted, lines and curves ragged, and interior corners filled in, lending an antique if not archaic, and definitely B-list, appearance to the typography. The resulting appearance is distinctly inferior to that of the original book, which of course was originally-composited, and far inferior to the fresh compositing and modern printing, in the same typeface, of Rosenbaum's introduction. The irony is that (or so I should think) a publishing intern with a high-resolution scanner and modern compositing software could have produced a clean new file for each page, with identical line breaks, justification, and pagination to the original, scanning errors corrected, in five minutes--the whole book thus cleaned up costing the publisher three weeks of an intern's salary. The index might have been too complex to scan and verify in a cost-effective manner, but leaving this part in photocopied form would not have been too jarring. And the whole main text would have had the same beautifully clean and sharp typography as the introduction (which, juxtaposed to the main text, only adds to the latter's visual disappointment). In summary, I'm glad to have the book, but I'd have been willing to pay more for a book done as above.
116 of 131 people found the following review helpful
I grew up near Lenox, Massachusetts, where author William Shirer spent his last twenty years, and we often drove by the old Victorian where he lived, set back from the road as it was, with a large, lovely lawn hiding the rather reclusive author from public view. I picked up this book again to reread it once more, for I find that it is a wonderful treasure trove of personal observations and actual eye-witness history, written on the run by a man married to a German woman and living in the shadow of the nazis as they climbed into power.
William Shirer's comprehensive treatment of the curious rise and horrific fall of the Nazis in post-Weimar Germany is the benchmark volume to measure all other treatments of the era by. There are so many monographs on Nazi Germany that one reels before the list looming in a relevant bibliography. Save yourself the trouble; this book gives one exactly the kind of complete immersion in and coverage of the realities of the era that too many of the other books lack. Shirer, an American journalist stationed in Berlin as a newspaper (and later radio) correspondant during the rise of the National Socialists, was there, on the ground and at the scene witnessing many of the events he describes in such detail.
He has, of course, written extensively on these experiences, both herein and elsewhere in books like 'The Nightmare Years' and 'Berlin Diary'. But this book has to be considered his masterpiece, and is worth the time, trouble and price for this hefty best-selling volume. After all, it has never been out of print in the forty years since its original publication in the early 1960s. I promise that if you read this, you'll never think of World War Two in the same way. It is indeed a long and difficult read, but one that is well worth the effort. Enjoy!
91 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2002
Lest anyone mistake the three star rating for rejection or dislike, let me say up front that Shirer's monumental work is absolutely informative, eye-opening, and, as so many reviewers have said, probaby *should* be read by just about everybody, not just those with an interest in World War Two.
That being said, there are some criticisms to be had. First is the length. I have nothing against 1000+ page books per se. Shirer's work, however, could have been several hundred pages shorter but for his near obsessiveness toward recording every detail. The days leading up to the invasion of Poland, for example, are told almost in "real time." Second is the complete lack of maps. There is very little more frustrating than to be bombarded with place names and to have only a rough idea of where these places are. Third is the lack of focus on the Germans themselves, especially once the war starts.
Some parts of this book do stand out. Shirer's two chapters on life in Nazi Germany and the occupied countries are both gripping and horrifying. Shirer's forays into his own recollections are also welcome diversions from the endless barrage of Nazi documents, memoranda, and diaries and are, perhaps, the best parts of the entire work. And Shirer's account of the Nazi party's rise is fascinating reading, and shows that, indeed, Hitler and Stalin had more in common than one would have thought.
All in all, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a worthwhile read. It is not great "literature" in the sense that Gibbon or Will Durant are (contrary to what some others have suggested), but it is an investment in time and attention that will pay off for the reader.
137 of 156 people found the following review helpful
William L. Shirer's classic "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" is the most complete single volume account of the history of Nazi Germany ever written. Shirer was a journalist, not a historian and the advantages of this show in his very readable prose and his vivid descriptions (for example, often referring to Herman Goering as "the fat Field Marshall"). The book starts with the birth of the Nazi party and how it found a spokesman early on in an ex-serviceman named Adolf Hitler. The narrative continues through until the end of the war, Hitler's suicide and the final few days under Admiral Doenitz. The only warning to the casual reader is that the book's length exceeds 1100 pages and it is crammed to the brim with facts. Also, it should be noted that the book was published over forty years ago and does not include more recent information that has come to light from, for example, the former East German archives. Nevertheless, this is still a classic work of jornalistic history.
39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2006
If you only could read and own one history book on Nazi Germany, this would be it. Don't let the 1245 pages daunt you, this is a very well written and readable book on the subject. Shirer was apparently a journalist and started research on the book when he first went to Germany in 1925. He spent 5-1/2 years writing it. The title pretty much explains it, it covers the rise of Adolf Hitler to the eventual fall of Berlin. There are other history books that cover specific aspects of the Nazi's, such as the recommended 2002 publication of Antony Beevor's The Fall of Berlin 1945, but this is the one history book on it all. Considering how the events covered set up the modern world, this should be essential reading for everyone on the planet.
I see that this is the first review for the hardcopy version of the book, which is the version of the text that I have. Those wanting to read other reviews should go to the paperback version site.