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The Third Reich in Power Paperback – September 26, 2006
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The second work in a planned three-volume series (after 2004's Coming of the Third Reich) this book starts with the Nazis' complete assumption of power and creation of a one-party state in 1933, and goes to September 1939 and the beginning of World War II. In sharp detail, Evans shows how Hitler seized upon his political victory and immediately began his plan for the Nazi infiltration of every aspect of German society. The Nazi propaganda blitz covered everything from local councils to social clubs to all voluntary associations. And when propaganda didn't work, coercion and fear did. At the behest of Hitler, the brownshirts and SS (secret police) ruthlessly harassed, beat, and murdered the Jews and Communists first, but later targeted anyone who showed even the slightest criticism of Nazi activities. Those Germans who disapproved of the Nazis were mainly confined to acts of passive resistance to Hitler's totalitarian rule. Nationalism proved to be the one issue capable of galvanizing the nation, as the Nazis' growing power helped to erase the shame and humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles that closed World War I.
Over the course of the book, Evans shows how everything Hitler did in this period was designed to prepare the nation for a war--"a life and death struggle"--whose aim was less geographical conquest than racial purity. Hitler's main objective was "to remould the minds, spirits and bodies of the German people to make them capable and worthy of the role of the new master-race that awaited them." Though Hitler did not work alone, Evans makes it clear that he was the overwhelming driving force behind it all, including policies regarding education, eugenics, and foreign affairs. Well written and logically organized, The Third Reich in Power is an impressive work of meticulous, readable history. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The second volume of Cambridge historian Evans's trilogy on the Third Reich (after The Coming of the Third Reich) is a major achievement. No other recent synthetic history has quite the range and narrative power of Evans's work. There are no surprises here. Instead, the reader will find careful, detailed analyses of all the major issues relating to the Third Reich between Hitler's assumption of power on January 31, 1933, and the start of WWII on September 1, 1939: the construction of the dictatorship, the propaganda, the economy, the racial policy and the planning for war. Evans shows just how difficult it was for Hitler to secure his power in Germany (it required unabashed terror to defeat the Nazis' many opponents), but also how successful was the establishment of the Volksgemeinschaft, the racial community. Once Hitler had successfully consolidated his power, every other aspect of Nazi policy, from education to the economy, became subordinated to the preparation for war. The war, Evans emphasizes, was never simply an effort to redraw the map of Europe. The vast, overarching aim of establishing a racial utopia, a newly modern, German-dominated Europe cleansed of Jews and other undesirables, could only be accomplished through war. When complete, Evans's trilogy will take its place alongside Ian Kershaw's monumental two-volume biography of Hitler as the standard works in English. Illus. and maps not seen by PW.(On sale Oct. 24)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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In the preceding volume, "The Coming of the Third Reich," Evans describes the conditions that led to the rise of Nazism up to 1933. This book picks up where the preceding one ends. In some ways, both books (which I've read) can be read separately. If you've forgotten some of the finer points of the first volume, Evans provides a helpful summary of it in this volume, as well as footnote references to that work, if you're inclined to flip back and forth.
Describing how the Nazis implemented their policies in this period, and how the German public reacted to it, is a massive subject, and in many ways summarizing this work does a disservice to it. Instead, it's perhaps better to focus on the themes that emerge.
First, Evans shows that various policies were willingly embraced by the German public in many ways, but only up to a point. This is clear on certain things like policing and justice, schools, and industry. Cops stood by while SA men beat up Jews, teachers taught anti-Semitic works to their students, and workers and business owners all benefited from Nazi arms production. However, Evans also carefully distinguishes between these public manifestations of support and some unintended consequences; namely the individual's retreat into a focus on job security, enjoying vacations thanks to Strength Through Joy, and sharing their reservations and doubts in private with loved ones at home. Germans did support the regime, but only so far. So, despite what you might think from years of watching enthusiastic, Sieg-Heiling Germans in documentaries (and there were those, no doubt), Evans shows that the Nazis failed to get complete, whole-hearted support from everyone. The Third Reich aimed to be a totalitarian society, but didn't quite achieve that. There's a timeless lesson here about the human desire for total control and how humans frustrate that goal.
Second, it becomes clear that the Third Reich was focused on war. And not just a European war, or just a war for lebensraum in the east. These were first steps toward what Hitler really wanted: Germany's global domination. I think it's helpful to understand Hitler's desire for autarchy (economic independence), as it informed much of his foreign policy thinking and even some of his wartime decisions later. The Third Reich's leaders were motivated, and constantly hamstrung, by a lack of workers and raw materials as they prepared for war. Their solution: take these resources by force, as loot. (Among other things, the corruption and looting that went on, from the top down, as an adjunct of Nazi policy is a sub-theme). We start to see this in Austria and Czechoslovakia, and it's easy to make the connection to later developments like slave labor and oil-seeking enterprises like Case Blue. From all this arises one of the essential contradictions of German war planning (such as it was): wanting autarchy, and using war to get it, but never having enough material resources to fight this ever-expanding war successfully. The German war effort was flawed by this fundamental problem as soon as it began, and we see the origins of it here.
Third, while the Germans cheered Hitler's early foreign policy successes (the Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia), this was partly from a sense of relief that war had been avoided. While the Nazis sought war (Hitler very clearly so by mid-1939), the German people deeply wanted to avoid it. This perhaps reveals the biggest gap between the Nazis and their own people. Again, Evans shows us that Nazi power had its limits; not everyone was a convert eagerly goose-stepping his or her way over the cliff.
Fourth, Evans argues quite convincingly that the Nazi state was a modern one, not a traditional conservative one, or even a reactionary one. This difference is clear when comparing the Nazi regime to other European dictatorships of the time. Nazi modernity manifested in a number of ways (it's easy to point to synthetic fuel, ballistic missiles, and jet aircraft here), but perhaps the clearest and most central to the Nazi political state is the party's desire for a racial utopia. Evans carefully shows how the Jews were excluded from German society, step by step, and also picks apart the fundamental contradictions of Nazi policy, as shown most clearly in the Nuremburg Laws. Ultimately, the Nazi definition of Jewishness was in the eye of the beholder, and in the end this was defined as much by religious practice as it was by race. The German pursuit of a perfect society built on a new man and woman was flawed from the beginning.
Evans is a clear writer, and he ably pulls together narrative, analysis, and quotes to keep this history informative, lively, and ever human. Typical sources include reports from Social Democratic spies, who sent their observations back to the politicians in exile. Ironically, perhaps, Gestapo reports on the public mood, and the work to be done in molding public opinion further, provide abundant source material for the historian.
Evans is even witty at times, which helps break the tension. He also has a patient manner in describing these things; sort of like that ideal teacher you wish you always had. At the same time, the book tends to be thematic and not a straightforward chronology, so this may pose a challenge to some readers, as it was to me at times. Accordingly, some familiarity with events in the 1930s will be helpful before diving into this account, which focuses on events in Germany. The maps looked informative, and they were helpful at points, but they were often too small to see on a Kindle White.
This book is just as great and well written as the first, although I enjoyed the history of the rise of the Third Reich a little bit more. His writing style is wonderful. It doesn't feel like a long book and he keeps the topics flowing. It reads very freely and easily from one chapter to the next. I sit down to read for just a few minutes and I'm always sucked in to keep going.
Almost every chapter in this book has been incredibly interesting. It slows down a little bit with the chapter about how the Nazis Aryanized the artwork. But I got through it, and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed it too.
I really enjoyed reading about the social, political, and economic events of this era. It's been a wonderful book.
Buy this whole trilogy and read it. It has been very enlightening so far.