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The Third Reich: A New History F First Paperback Edition Edition

54 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0809093267
ISBN-10: 080909326X
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Editorial Reviews Review

Humans have a fascination with evil. We long to identify it, quantify it, and understand it. To this end, newspapers frequently splash photographs of murderers with the caption "The face of evil." Heading most lists of the 20th century's most evil people would be Adolf Hitler, but, as Michael Burleigh's tour de force makes clear, evil is not always as cut-and-dried as we would like. The Nazis could not have come to power and committed Germany to a policy of war and genocide without the tacit consent of the German people. This makes Germany as a whole responsible for the crimes committed in its name, but it is clearly wrong to label every German as evil. Through his painstaking research and direct prose, Burleigh slowly builds up a picture of a people desperate for identity and economic prosperity, who, bit by bit, closed off their conscience as the price of their dreams. There was no one cathartic moment when Germany, under the Third Reich, lapsed from goodness into badness; rather, there was an incremental realignment of a collective morality. Burleigh's explanation of this phenomenon is so simple, yet so obviously right, that you can only wonder that it didn't become the generally accepted currency years ago.

Instead of viewing Nazi Germany in purely social, political, and economic terms--though he doesn't ignore these spheres--Burleigh wraps them all into a picture of a country gripped in a religious, messianic fervor, and that which had previously felt inexplicable suddenly seems clear. If you want the nitty-gritty details of the Second World War and the genocide, they are here, retold as well as, if not better than, many of the other histories of this period. But it's Burleigh's take on the people of Germany that makes this book so special. Above all, with similar genocidal wars currently being fought in Kosovo, Rwanda, and Iraq, it makes you think, "Would I be able to resist becoming complicit in such regimes?" This is a must for every 20th-century historian. --John Crace, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

After literally thousands of books have been written on the Nazis and their history, the author who attempts another one has to have a compelling reason. Burleigh, professor of history at Washington and Lee University and author of several books on Germany, focuses on the moral breakdown that gave Hitler control of an industrial society, which then, along with the rest of the world, suffered the catastrophic consequences. Though the topic is not new, the treatment is first-rate, making this indeed a new history. For example, as he does elsewhere, in the case of the Roehm purge, he omits many of the well-known details in order to explain its significance with clarity and even verve. Burleigh treats Christian opponents of Hitler with more kindness than they usually receive, and his treatment of anti-Semitism as something quite minor in the lives of most Germans of the period will no doubt stir up controversy, as will his unusual emphasis on non-Jewish victims of the Nazis. The author emphasizes the perspectives of individuals who lived through these events, giving his book a democratic flavor uncommon since William L. Shirer's famous history. But the primary value of Burleigh's book lies in its overview of the interpretations made by others. However, the book is not without flaws: Burleigh's prejudices toward conservatives lead him to write of the feckless German officers as more heroic than they were and to sneer at the left-wing opponents of the Nazi regime who suffered far more in their struggle. And his writing is sometimes too clever. His reference to the sadistic and murderous Franz Alfred Six as a "1968er avant la lettre" is an example of both flaws at once. Such lapses are minor annoyances, though. Burleigh has produced an important work of synthesis that recapitulates an impressive array of sources. It deserves to become the jumping-off point for scholars who want to take their studies of this uniquely horrible era in new directions. Illus. not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 992 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; F First Paperback Edition edition (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080909326X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809093267
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Burleigh is the author of Blood and Rage, Earthly Powers, Sacred Causes, and The Third Reich, for which he was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 68 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"The Third Reich: A New History" does not emphasize Hitler , nor the politics or personalities within the Nazi party itself, and, consequently, Burleigh rushes through the Nazi seisure of power. The book, rather, concentrates on the impact National Socialism had on the lives of people both within Germany and throughout Europe. To learn about Hitler, the Nazi organization itself, or how Hitler molded the party to his will, you will need to go to other sources; Bracher, Stern, and Kershaw, for example. But to read about the destructive effects the Nazi regime had on the lives of everday people, there is no better source than this new book. As one reviewer remarked, Burleigh has demonstrated an "extraordinary mastery of an immense monographic literature." Through it all Burleigh maintains a judicious and balanced approach to his subject, yet he does not hesitate to pass judgment. Burleigh's keen and always balanced evaluation and insight make the work more than a mere compilation.
Early on he presents an excellent analysis of the various classes, occupations, and professions and why National Socialism appealed to them. With keen psychological and sociological insight he is excellent in his presentation of the various Nazi strategies for appealing to the differences in people. He shows, for example, how the Nazis were selective in their use of antisemitism. Yet, the heart of Burleigh's book is what he considers the defining characteristic of the Nazi experience; "the supercession of the rule of law by arbitrary police terror." He is strong on the Nazi approach to the law and the politicization of the police.
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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful By John Barry Kenyon on November 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Burleigh has written a most scholarly, and yet richly readable, new history of the Third Reich. It is "new" in the sense that he combines a theoretical approach - nazism as a pseudo religious force in its mass appeal inside and outside Germany - with abundant material on the lives of everyday people. His chapter headings are thematic, rather than strictly chronological, and include sub sections such as "See You In Siberia" and "The Generals Who Dithered". The nazi attempts to dominate and exploit the economic life of Europe and beyond are particularly well discussed. The volume is a useful contrast with Ian Kershaw's recent, excellent biography of Hitler since Burleigh has written a more international account: his particular remit is to analyse the impact of nazism as a huge political force across frontiers. He is impressively adroit in tracing the pro and anti nazi sentiment in eastern Europe and Russia. There is, for instance, some fascinating insight into the Tatars of the Ukraine who were deported by Stalin's police in cattle truck journeys lasting up to three months. The author's final chapter covers the years 1943 to 1948 where it is explained that denazification had a short life from 1945 since the allies and the Russians soon had much greater global problems to address. There are a few slips in the text, for example the main Nuremburg war criminals were not hanged "at dawn" (page 804), and this reviewer felt that nazi and anti nazi media propaganda could tell us more of the international dimension than is revealed in the book. None the less, this is an insightful tome, full of sound judgments and interesting sidelights on virtually every page. Just for the record, Burleigh has no truck with revisionist sentiments about the personalities and policies of the Reich. Here is the story of a criminal gang who brought Europe to its knees.
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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on December 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After carefully re-reading this book I came to the inescapeable conclusion that if ever there was a book whose theme revolves brilliantly around the single question of individual complicity with, participation in, and responsibility for the manifestations of evil, it is this one. In a work of amazing breadth and depth, historian Michael Burleigh masterfully weaves together a magisterial and complex theory regarding the nature of economic, social, and cultural life in Nazi Germany, and in so doing provides a convincing and seductive notion as to why the Germans succumbed as a people to the mind-numbing evil of the National Socialist regime. He contends that like communism, National Socialism provided a seductive political alternative to traditional religion, and by doing so seduced the German people into a pact with the devil.
The book spins along with a breathless narrative that shows how the prevailing conditions in post WWI Germany, the history of prejudice, envy and fear of the Jewish people, and the lack of integration in various aspects of German life contributed to the existence of a unique cultural vulnerability, which the Nazis subsequently masterfully orchestrated and gradually integrated into what he contends was a secular religion, replacing the existing welter of beliefs with the singular faith and belief in the sacredness of the "Fatherland" as personified in Adolph Hitler. There is much evidence presented which supports such an interpretation.
Yet, while all of this is brilliantly developed and related by Burleigh, in truth there is also much here that is not new or novel.
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