The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

Hitler boasted that The Third Reich would last a thousand years. It lasted only 12. But those 12 years contained some of the most catastrophic events Western civilization has ever known.No other powerful empire ever bequeathed such mountains of evidence about its birth and destruction as the Third Reich. When the bitter war was over, and before the Nazis could destroy thei...

Title:The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0671728687
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages:1614 pages

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany Reviews

  • Wyatt Nordstrom
    Nov 06, 2007

    Well, I did it. After two years, I have finally finished this beast. The first 600 or so pages are pretty slow, but it flies after that...

    We all know the story- a misanthropic, racist, vegetarian, megalomaniac failed artist writes a book that taps into age-old German prejudices, seizes power, and embarks on a quest for European domination. In the process he starts the biggest war in history leading to the deaths of tens of millions of people, subjugates about a dozen other countries, and systema

    Well, I did it. After two years, I have finally finished this beast. The first 600 or so pages are pretty slow, but it flies after that...

    We all know the story- a misanthropic, racist, vegetarian, megalomaniac failed artist writes a book that taps into age-old German prejudices, seizes power, and embarks on a quest for European domination. In the process he starts the biggest war in history leading to the deaths of tens of millions of people, subjugates about a dozen other countries, and systematically exterminates the majority of European Jewry. The "Thousand Year Reich" only lasted a total of 12 years, 4 months, and 8 days, but during that brief span it wrought havoc and destruction on scale never witnessed before or since.

    William Shirer was a journalist, *not* a historian, but his narrative style coupled with the fact that he lived in Germany during the majority of the time Hitler was in power lends this book both readability and a level of believability that no historian could possibly achieve. Several parts are indeed personal narrative in which Shirer lends his own perspective on what he saw happening, though he is careful to point out which sections are taken from historical records and which are colored by his own experience. The book is thoroughly footnoted (to the tune of about a footnote per page- it takes almost as long to read the notes as it does the main text), indexed, and overflowing with "I didn't know that" moments. It doesn't dwell on minutiae, nor does it give a blow-by-blow account of the war, but nevertheless it attempts to tell a huge story, and the result is a huge (1300+ pages in the printing I own) book.

    The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was published in 1957, a bare 12 years after the "Fall" that occurs at the end of the story. However, it is very easy to see why it remains today- 50 years after its release- the definitive work on the Nazi regime. I highly recommend it to anyone who shares a passion for history or who is fascinated by the factors that lead to societies devolving into statist forms of government. I also recommend it to anyone who believes that appeasement and "negotiation" is an acceptable means for handling such regimes (that means you, Barack Obama...). Sections of it (if not the entire book) should be required reading for all high school students. Only by understanding the past may we secure our future.

  • Erik Graff
    Mar 21, 2008

    This was the first, really serious grownup book I ever read.

    My sole brother being almost eight years younger and no cousins being in the States, I was virtually an only child, condemned to the weekly dinner parties of my parents and paternal grandparents and their friends, most of them held elsewhere than our own home. At one particularly excruciatingly boring party held at Great Aunt Synnove's I was scanning the magazines and bookshelves for something to occupy the time. Being ten, the great sw

    This was the first, really serious grownup book I ever read.

    My sole brother being almost eight years younger and no cousins being in the States, I was virtually an only child, condemned to the weekly dinner parties of my parents and paternal grandparents and their friends, most of them held elsewhere than our own home. At one particularly excruciatingly boring party held at Great Aunt Synnove's I was scanning the magazines and bookshelves for something to occupy the time. Being ten, the great swastika on the cover of one otherwise unknown book caught my eye. Nazis! I picked it up, checked out the maps on the inside covers and started to read . . . When, finally, they, the Old Ones, were ready to go, I was far enough into it to not want to stop. Aunt Synnove was kind enough to loan it out.

    The reading went on for probably a couple of weeks. I recall reading about the Lutheran pastor, Niedemeyer (not looking it up--it may be misspelled, but I remember this in detail after all these years), who, almost alone amongst German churchmen, stood up publicly against the Nazis--and this in the backyard, at the juncture of our rickety garage and decaying white picket fence amidst the early flowers of springtime. I recall, days later, now on my sun-warmed bed downstairs at grandmother's cottage in Michigan, reading with fascinated horror about the death camps and the "scientific experiments" conducted in them.

    Now a thirteen year old friend of mine has picked up Shirer, buying it in hardcover himself at a local used bookstore. He, not normally a big reader (he has a sister, two brothers and lots of cousins and friends), says he likes it because Shirer writes so clearly. Now, while all of us are, as citizens, in moral positions uncomfortably similar to those occupied by Germans sixty years or so ago, it is good to see that a book like this and the story it tells can still be read with interest by the young.

  • Julie Christine
    May 15, 2011

    Three years ago I implemented a personal tradition: to read a "Monster Classic" each year. This is my term, referring to a piece of writing that is great in reputation and girth. The how and when of it is to begin the Monster mid-summer and read it in fits and starts over the course of several months, with a goal of finishing before the end of the year. The why of it isn't so simple. Most avid readers I know have daunting lists of books they want to or feel they should read. I'm no different, bu

    Three years ago I implemented a personal tradition: to read a "Monster Classic" each year. This is my term, referring to a piece of writing that is great in reputation and girth. The how and when of it is to begin the Monster mid-summer and read it in fits and starts over the course of several months, with a goal of finishing before the end of the year. The why of it isn't so simple. Most avid readers I know have daunting lists of books they want to or feel they should read. I'm no different, but life is too short for

    I'm after something that will change the way I look at writing, at storytelling, at the world.

    Without intention, my Monster Classics have been built on the premise of, or are greatly informed by, war. Two years ago I read Thomas Mann's

    , an allegorical tale shaped largely by Mann's reaction to World War I; last year, Tolstoy brought me

    , that gorgeous and profound tale of Russia during the Napoleanic era.

    This summer I turned from fiction to narrative non-fiction. World War II has long fascinated and disturbed me. I've sought, without success, to reconcile the incongruous romance of this war - the films, music, literature that conjure a sense of the heroic and of solidarity, the "Greatest Generation" united as Allies - with its human suffering so incomprehensible that the mind struggles against its limits to accept what the eyes witness in words and photos.

    I selected

    for perhaps the same reason that millions before me have: to understand how one man created a machine of slaughter out of a country in shambles. After 1264 pages in six weeks, I am still bewildered. Of course I knew the external conditions: the carving up of Germany after WWI, the political disaster that the Treaty of Versailles put into motion, the desperate economic conditions in Germany as the Depression ground what little economy it had left into grist. But this diminutive Austrian who so captured the imagination and bent the will of a once-proud nation -- how did he do it? Why did he? And why did so many follow him into the hell of his creation?

    William Shirer, a longtime foreign correspondent, worked in the Third Reich from 1934 to 1940, leaving only when it became clear he and his family were no longer safe. He returned to Germany in 1945 to report on the Nuremberg trials.

    was published in 1960, barely a generation after the end of the war.

    Because of Shirer's proximity and access to the majors players of the Third Reich and certainly because war was exploding all around him, the book has an immediacy and intimacy that sets it apart from a traditional historical examination of events. It also contains Shirer's interpretations, suppositions and ruminations.

    As an American of German-Italian-Norwegian descent, I had a very hard time with Shirer's characterization of Germans as possessing a predilection for cruelty and war. There are few nations that remain exempt from this pointed finger. But it begs the question that even Shirer could not answer: how did the atrocities of the war escape the outrage of the German people? Shirer presents clues and circumstances which serve as a caution to us all. And many of which I recognize in today's socially and politically polarized America that feeds on propaganda and is increasingly indulgent of politicians' idiocy and rejection of facts.

    is thick with military history - this is a book about war. That may seem obvious, but do not expect a sociological narrative. Shirer is a great journalist, which assumes certain skill in telling a story that will appeal to a lay audience. But this book, after its introduction to Hitler and his early life, uses the major events, invasions and battles of World War II to show the creation of an empire.

    It is a testament to Shirer's skill that I became so caught up in the details of Hitler's conquests and defeats. Although I have read books about individual battles, I have never followed a comprehensive history of the European theatre. It was astonishing to read on-the-ground reports as nearly all of Europe fell at Germany's feet in a short period, then to sit above it all and witness Hitler's increasing megalomania that spelled out his downfall.

    It is dense. It is detailed. It is exhausting, exhaustive, overwhelming and shattering. To read

    is to have your heart broken again and again. Yet, to hold history at arm's length is to guarantee that it will be repeated.

  • Esdaile
    Jul 21, 2012

    I have a very strong feeling of enthusiasm and at the same time of aversion for this book, which I read when I was 16. William Shirer wrote a no-holds barred account of the rise of Adolf Hitler from the perspective of a fanatical (in the full sense of the word) opponent of everything Hitler stood for. Shirer was also a journalist writing as though he were a historian, so his writing reads easily and persuasively but is not necessarily a font of historical accuracy. Whatever one's own position, t

    I have a very strong feeling of enthusiasm and at the same time of aversion for this book, which I read when I was 16. William Shirer wrote a no-holds barred account of the rise of Adolf Hitler from the perspective of a fanatical (in the full sense of the word) opponent of everything Hitler stood for. Shirer was also a journalist writing as though he were a historian, so his writing reads easily and persuasively but is not necessarily a font of historical accuracy. Whatever one's own position, this is far and away a more honest book than many of the cold cynical assessments made after the events by historians who also have a private agenda but who unlike Shirer do not make it obvious or claim to be objective when they are no such thing. Shirer is however in my opinion,right to stress more than is often stressed, the novelty of the Nuremburg Laws, which essentially disenfranchised a large section of the population on the basis of a postulated alien ethnicity. These laws undermined the fundamental principles of citizenship as understood in Europe since the American and French revolutions and were profound and potentially murderous in their implications. Shirer also laid stress on medical experimentation on human subjects, which in my humble opinion is as close to Hell as human beings are likely to get on earth. I do not think there are any medical experiment "deniers" : of course, medical experimentation on human beings is in no way something unique to the Hitler dictatorship, but Shirer is right to highlight it as a particularly pernicious abuse of power by politicians and doctors, one which should serve as a reminder to us, if we really need a reminder, of the arrogance and ever lethal potential of the notions of so many representatives of both. It is all very well talking about controlling decadence, crime or whatever, but who controls the controllers, is a question that should never be for a moment forgotten.

    I give this two stars but the two stars award is misleading in the sense that I would give his work 4 or 5 stars for readability as a breathtaking introduction to the history of the Third Reich, and 4 or 5 stars for highlighting certain aspects of that history so full of suffering and desolation, but 1 star for reliability, balanced view, veracity, objectivity. Shirer will have no track with the notion that Polish fears of Russia could have been justified, that Churchill wanted war, that in a sense whatever one thinks of him, Hitler was right in claiming that the war was between a Jewish and anti-Jewish world view, that Roosevelt was deeply anti-German and pro-Jewish, that the Soviet Union was planning a preemptive strike on Germany, that the Poles had been put up to provoking Germany and did provoke Germany and that Hitler in this case as later, with the British bombing of civilian targets, fell into a trap and allowed himself to be provoked just in the way his enemies planned he should be provoked; Shirer says nothing as I recall, about the appalling condiitons which induced many to vote for the NSDAP, and there are plenty more imbalances in this work, and half-truths and untruths besides, for there is plenty of history that Shirer does not mention, but I do not have the book any more and I read it 40 years ago. Shirer's is a book to be read by anyone interested in the time, but to be read with rather more than the proverbial pinhc of salt. I was going to award this book three stars but I'll put that down to 2 to counter-balance the wave of quasi psychophantic enthusiasm with which so many Goodreads readers have greeted it. It is a deeply flawed book after all, for readibility it is up there in the top rank, for historical balance, down far below.

  • Lyn
    Oct 31, 2013

    Darkness.

    You boil this book down, strip it to the foundations, and what the reader finds is darkness of the human soul. Bred in the alleyways and gutters of Vienna before the first World War, this was the angry and hateful opposite of God’s shining light, the ancient shadows that live in the basement of our souls, given life and expression on the palette of a failed artist.

    Shirer’s scholarly, exhaustive masterpiece paints the portrait of the Third Reich from its beginnings in the back rooms an

    Darkness.

    You boil this book down, strip it to the foundations, and what the reader finds is darkness of the human soul. Bred in the alleyways and gutters of Vienna before the first World War, this was the angry and hateful opposite of God’s shining light, the ancient shadows that live in the basement of our souls, given life and expression on the palette of a failed artist.

    Shirer’s scholarly, exhaustive masterpiece paints the portrait of the Third Reich from its beginnings in the back rooms and beer halls of Munich to the terrible, gruesome end in all its grisly, dark detail. The author, a journalist in Germany before and during the early years of the Nazi regime, describes how this political movement began and how it came to power on the backs and in the bloodied fists of brown shirted ruffians.

    To draw a modern parallel, it would be as if our country was taken over by a street gang, as if the Bloods and Crips gained political power and ascended the White House and took over. From the September 1938 Sudetenland grab and the failings of Neville Chamberlain, to the horrid crimes that went on behind the lines, to the final days that saw a once proud Europe reduced to rubble, Shirer also details World War II from the Nazi perspective.

    Like Milton’s Paradise Lost and Shakespeare’s Richard III, the central figure in this epic tragedy, the most intriguing character, is a villain. But unlike Satan and the House of York English King, Hitler rose from the depths of poverty and mediocrity. Shirer reveals Hitler as intelligent and deterministic, but pathologically, sociopathically twisted to evil. The author also shows the German leader to be hopelessly, and in the end, pathetically, delusional.

    Perhaps Shirer’s most compelling observation, though, is his uncompromising portrait of the German people who allowed the monstrosity of National Socialism to come to power and to become accomplices with the Nazis in horrors on a scale previously unimagined.

    Finally, Shirer begs the question of whether we owe a higher duty than to our country, and his answer is an affirmative and decisive “yes”.

  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    Nov 18, 2016

    I went into this believing I had a well-grounded understanding of Prussian history and a basis of the Hitler regime. Ummm this book is everything I don't know.

    I feel way over my head. There are so many layers to peel like some history-containing onion. Shirer wrote an entire college course worth of information. I regret that I will not retain it all. An impressive collection of memories and experience, we should feel so privileged to have this thorough documentation of one of the most horrific e

    I went into this believing I had a well-grounded understanding of Prussian history and a basis of the Hitler regime. Ummm this book is everything I don't know.

    I feel way over my head. There are so many layers to peel like some history-containing onion. Shirer wrote an entire college course worth of information. I regret that I will not retain it all. An impressive collection of memories and experience, we should feel so privileged to have this thorough documentation of one of the most horrific eras in modern history to remind us how easily a society can fall prey to manipulation when it believes all hope is lost and all value is expended.

    I was startled to find that the experiments discussed in a previous read, Doctors in Hell, were spot on. All of them are delved into more deeply on this book. The horror takes on greater proportion when one hears it in audiobook format.

  • Nandakishore Varma
    Jun 17, 2017

    Whew! After six months of exhilarating yet exhausting reading, I have finally managed to finish this massive tome - William L. Shirer's definitive account of the rise and fall of the Third Reich under the evil and mad genius, the warlord Hitler. Hitler expected that the Reich will last for a thousand years - in reality, it lasted just over 12 years. In those twelve, the Fuehrer managed to create hell on earth for the people whom he ruled over as well as in those areas which he conquered; the war

    Whew! After six months of exhilarating yet exhausting reading, I have finally managed to finish this massive tome - William L. Shirer's definitive account of the rise and fall of the Third Reich under the evil and mad genius, the warlord Hitler. Hitler expected that the Reich will last for a thousand years - in reality, it lasted just over 12 years. In those twelve, the Fuehrer managed to create hell on earth for the people whom he ruled over as well as in those areas which he conquered; the war he initiated managed to destroy 50 to 80 million people all over the world.

    I am not going to summarise the book here- the story is well known to most, and anyway to do that would mean writing a small book itself! Rather, let me lay down what I took away from the book: the pluses as well as the minuses.

    The book is incredibly detailed. Shirer, being privy to most of the secret correspondence in the Reich archives, the majority of which survived destruction at the hands of the Nazis by a quirk of fate, puts his journalistic skills to excellent use as he tells the story of the meteoric rise and even faster demise of Hitler with consummate storytelling skill. The pace never flags and the story never fails to grip - and hardly a facet of this distressing yet fascinating era is ignored. This is the first book you should read if you want a front seat at the Hitler drama.

    I found two major drawbacks to the book. One - a lack of maps, in the absence of which following the war spatially was impossible (unless you have an eidetic memory of European geography, that is). Two - the long list of dramatis personnae among whom I got lost more than once.

    Shirer's book does not have any historical analysis - it's history from a journalistic point of view. However, for a layman such as me, it does not matter, because what matters is the story after all. How Hitler moved in from the lunatic fringe to the mainstream of German politics: how he used all dirty tricks in the political book to backstab his colleagues and steam roll his opponents: how the great colonial powers played hopscotch across the world stage, protecting their interests and cheerfully sacrificing those of others: and how man can be so unbelievably cruel to his fellow human being - these are some of the takeaways I have. And I believe that these are important in today's world, when once again the fringe is becoming the new normal. As Shirer says

  • Joseph
    Jan 07, 2017

    Listened to as an Audible audiobook.

    A very detailed history of the entity of the Third Reich. It is not a biography of Hitler or a war history, but a comprehensive study of the entire organization. Shirer was witness to many events as a reporter and uses original source material. The resistance to the Third Reich is also covered in great detail along with the many deeply disturbing aspects of the concentration camps. A definitive history of on of mankind's greatest evils.


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