The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: WWII, History, and 1600 Pages
Written: Aug 7, 2012
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Extensive History of WWII and Nazi Germany, Research, Observations
The Bottom Line: William Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" is the best to explore Nazi Germany, for those who've read extensively about WWII.
I think William Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany," is now for the record, the longest book I've ever read. At over 1600 pages, this is going to take some time, and I almost gave it up at the beginning. This was out of sheer boredom, as the author described a little bit about Hitler's growing up, and the formation of the Nazi movement after WWI. You are going to get bored here, and there's no getting around that. However, if you stick with it, this book does have value, as William Shirer was in Germany and other areas, during the WWII period as a journalist. He saw up close history unfold, and chronicles it here, along with the list of characters and events that Hitler and his minions were responsible for.
This is without a doubt, the most comprehensive book, on how the Nazi's became so influential in Germany. It also explains the "why's" better. Yes, I've read "Hitler's Willing Executioners" among others, but I've always wondered where the hatred for Jews and Slavs came for, along with how someone as disgusting as Adolf could come to power. It certainly was an elaborate chess game, from the beer hall riots, to prison and Mein Kaumpf, to being Chancellor and then of course dictator of this nation. I was so bothered by philosophers whom I had no idea were anti-Semitic in their views, and how this spread like a cancer not only in Germany, but much further than that. A disgusting viral bomb of hatred, that led to not only folks like Hitler obtaining power, but also for support as this man led his nation to overtaking other nations and the deaths of millions.
The Treaty of Versailles gets a lot of mention in here, as does Kaiser Wilmheim. Yet what really shocked me, was the audacity of Adolf Hitler. A man man, yes. However, a calculating one. He basically took over a host of countries at the beginning, through astute "political agreements," that led to no bloodshed at all. His chess matches with Austria, Czechoslovakia, and how he bounced off of "allies", to get what he wanted is remarkable. While everything he said and did left me sick to my stomach, I realized how he was able to use alliances and distrust to his advantage, along with how the world "did look the other way." My opinion of people like Neville Chamberlin was already low enough, but if he didn't see the storm coming only about a million times, I honestly wonder what kind of blinders he was wearing. He wasn't the only one, but the stark contrast between him and Churchill, is articulated perfectly in this book.
Here you will find yourself, in the middle of the Nazi Leadership, as Shirer's research is impeccable. While this book is old by today's standards, it came out in the years after WWII, and still holds value. Here you see the inner circle of Hitler, Roehm at the early parts, Heydrich, Himmler, Goebbels, and Company. You also learn more about his generals, and his various alliances with Stalin and Mussolini. They had quite a close relationship at times, but at the same time, Hitler really did brush him more often than I thought. You get to see the anger, along with the tirades from Adolf when Mussolini and others "let him down," as do you get a first hand view of the action when the levee broke against the Soviet Union. Some of the discourse between Hitler and Stalin goes on for quite the time, but its really a visual of how the Nazi dictator used his "friends", and then summarily turned against them. This led to his downfall of course, and not a moment too soon.
I was disgusted, by how Hitler and his cronies, along with the German military and ordinary citizens treated Jews. There's a little bit about pre-WWII actions, but what made me ill was how Shirer detailed the concentration camps. Even after "Willing Executioners" and others, including "Aushwitz" from a survivor, I just am still bothered and saddened by what I read here. For human beings to be just lined up, women and children, and fired upon with impunity breaks my heart. That's in here, as are the gas chambers, and how the agents who ran the camps, had no problems dropping the Zyklon B. You also see how Slavs and other people were exterminated, as Hitler's view of the Aryan race, came into play across the military and his countrymen.
Be prepared to put this book down, due to disgust, but also some parts that are boring. However, it is a very good book, on how Hitler rose to power, and what became of it. You learn how Germany skirted the Treaty of Versailles, and the world paid for it. The footnotes in here are incredibly long, and in depth at a level I've never seen before. Mr. Shirer's work, is one that I am glad that I did spent the time with. It answers many previous unanswered questions, and gives me a better feel of what the world was like in the rise of the Third Reich. With his firsthand knowledge, along with his writing skill, I am pleased to recommend this book with the caveats that you will drink some coffee, and not get done with this for weeks. With that being said, it is one that should be must read material for WWII knowledge, and it is among the best in its genre.
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