The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany Paperback – October 11, 2011
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"A monumental work, a grisly and thrilling story." --Theodore H. White
"One of the most important works of history of our time." -Orville Prescott "The New York Times"
"One of the most spectacular stories ever told." -John Gunther
Hugh Trevor-Roper "The New York Times Book Review" A splendid work of scholarship, objective in method, sound in judgment, inescapable in its conclusions.
John Gunther One of the most spectacular stories ever told.
Orville Prescott "The New York Times" One of the most important works of history of our time.
Theodore H. White A monumental work, a grisly and thrilling story.
About the Author
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Shirer, unlike so many of today's "journalistic" books, provides a narrative that is probably 90 percent objective. Throughout the book, Shirer bases his reporting on sources captured after the Nazi defeat. These include memoranda, entries from personal diaries, and even some one-on-one interviews with former Nazis. You can see the era's bias such as those against homosexuals (often referred to as "perverts") come into play, but given WHEN the book was written, this is not unexpected nor does it diminish the significance of the report. When Shirer expressed a personal opinion, like those from his diary, he made it blatantly clear that these were his impressions. So what I appreciated most about this book is that Shirer cited almost everything he wrote about (I wish they had used letters or numbers for the chapter endnotes instead of asterisks in the Kindle edition) and often included exact verbiage (translated from German, of course) from the documents he reviewed.
While his coverage of the Fuhrer and his growing megalomania is frightening enough, I found that his reporting on Joseph Goebbels' role in creating an atmosphere of belief in the Nazis in Germany the most frightening--and foreboding--of all. Goebbels understood from the getgo that people believe what they want to believe, and he used this understanding effectively. Goebbels controlled ALL media, all messaging, all symbolism for the Reich. As a media professional myself, I was stunned at his ability, as early as the 1930s, to understand the power of popular media. Not only did he use thuggery to silence opposing views, but his media savvy in movie-making, radio broadcasts, timing, event-staging, and even bunting were used to inspire a demoralized population into believing or at least not contradicting the unthinkable. He successfully usurped music, philosophy, and even religion to create a mass delusion among the German people. In my opinion, this may have been one of the main reasons a decent population eventually was caught up in the whole hegemony of Hitler. Certainly, there are other important contributing factors--the economy, a weak government, the depression, etc.--but Goebbels leveraged all of this things to create the big lie that others, particularly the Jews and the Slavs--were responsible for the fate of Germany. To me, this insight has the most relevance for today when Hollywood creates its own version of history, where "journalists" have no problem slanting news (on both sides of the aisle) to their point of view, where politicians have no problems with telling people what they want to hear, and where both political parties have stooped to a level of name-calling and dehumanization of the other. These were tactics that were found in the political milieu of Nazi Germany. While we have not reached that level, it is important to understand just exactly what and how Goebbels created a societal belief that supported the war machine and extermination of so many innocent people. And part of that media message was always terror and intimidation.
Besides this insight, Shirer provides us with personal glimpses into some of the key players of the Reich. He documents how "fateful" incidents impacted the decisions of the combatants' strategic decisions and the outcome of the war. The book is long and detailed but provides a good look at this unfortunate time in history. While most of the "greatest generation" have long since left this world, this book reminds us of the circumstances that created the twelve horrific years of the Third Reich. It is vital that we remember those years and the lessons learned from World War II. Unfortunately, I think many people will think the sheer volume of this book is overwhelming. But once into the book, I think readers will find it hard to put down. I know I did.
Top international reviews
The book also details the shortcomings of the so called Allied politicians & military leaders, who must take an large amount of the blame for the
success of the Nazis in rising to such giddy heights of power.
A must read for anyone interested in those dreadful years.
The author has a perfect grasp of the events, both as an eyewitness & having taken details from captured documents & writes in an easily read manner.
I thought I would never get through the pages but I did and learnt so much of which I was so totally unaware. The power of evil that existed then could so easily exist today and were it not for Nuclear Deterrents as William Shirer points at the close of his superb book has put a stop to further horrors.
We hope anyway. A great read.
Does not dwell on the horrors, of which there were thousands, but let's you see the decisions and possibly how close history may have changed.
A sobering thought.....
This is a stage of history that I knew very little about, and as I read on I was constantly amazed at what had gone on and how hitler got away with so much.
The chapter about the human side of the war upset me greatly and I had to put the book down for a couple Of days even though I had heard the stories before.
Yes this book is huge but it is gripping - the nazis own documents are quoted from often and so you are reading a true historical record. It inever boring though, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has that gap in their knowledge about recent european history.
I won't spoil it, but will just say Shirer stayed in Germany, until he decided to leave ahead of the Gestapo, who were compiling evidence on his 'spy' work.
The Berlin Years (by the same author) is also recommended.
From form factor perspective, the physical book is too bulky, hard to read and carry around.
I strongly encourage the Audible version of it, which you can listen to during commuting. Since this is a reference book as well, I wanted to be able to search in it, do annotations, etc. I have ended up buying the Kindle version as well.
In a nutshell, as a person having bought all three formats, I strongly recommend it.