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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 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 their files, the Allied demand for unconditional surrender produced an almost hour-by-hour record of the nightmare empire built by Adolph Hitler. This record included the testimony of Nazi leaders and of concentration camp inmates, the diaries of officials, transcripts of secret conferences, army orders, private letters—all the vast paperwork behind Hitler's drive to conquer the world.The famed foreign correspondent and historian William L. Shirer, who had watched and reported on the Nazis since 1925, spent five and a half years sifting through this massive documentation. The result is a monumental study that has been widely acclaimed as the definitive record of one of the most frightening chapters in the history of mankind.This worldwide bestseller has been acclaimed as the definitive book on Nazi Germany; it is a classic work.The accounts of how the United States got involved and how Hitler used Mussolini and Japan are astonishing, and the coverage of the war-from Germany's early successes to her eventual defeat-is must reading


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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 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 their files, the Allied demand for unconditional surrender produced an almost hour-by-hour record of the nightmare empire built by Adolph Hitler. This record included the testimony of Nazi leaders and of concentration camp inmates, the diaries of officials, transcripts of secret conferences, army orders, private letters—all the vast paperwork behind Hitler's drive to conquer the world.The famed foreign correspondent and historian William L. Shirer, who had watched and reported on the Nazis since 1925, spent five and a half years sifting through this massive documentation. The result is a monumental study that has been widely acclaimed as the definitive record of one of the most frightening chapters in the history of mankind.This worldwide bestseller has been acclaimed as the definitive book on Nazi Germany; it is a classic work.The accounts of how the United States got involved and how Hitler used Mussolini and Japan are astonishing, and the coverage of the war-from Germany's early successes to her eventual defeat-is must reading

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Wyatt Nordstrom

    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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    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 shoulds. 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 The Magic Mountain, an allegorical tale shaped largely by Mann's reaction to World War I; last year, Tolstoy brought me War and Peace, 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 The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich 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. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich 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. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich 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 The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    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”.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    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 In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on an uninhabited planet.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, William L. Shirer The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany is a book by William L. Shirer chronicling the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from the birth of Adolf Hitler in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945. It was first published in 1960, by Simon & Schuster in the United States, where it won a National Book Award. It was a bestseller in both the United States and Europe, and a critical success outsid The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, William L. Shirer The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany is a book by William L. Shirer chronicling the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from the birth of Adolf Hitler in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945. It was first published in 1960, by Simon & Schuster in the United States, where it won a National Book Award. It was a bestseller in both the United States and Europe, and a critical success outside Germany; in Germany, criticism of the book stimulated sales. The book was feted by journalists, as reflected by its receipt of the National Book Award for non-fiction. But the reception from academic historians was mixed. عنوانها: ظهور و سقوط آدولف هیتلر؛ جهان پرفراز و نشیب آدولف هیتلر؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نهم ماه فوریه سال 1994 میلادی عنوان: گردونه تاریخ جلد 39 : ظهور و سقوط آدولف هیتلر؛ نویسنده: ویلیام شایرر؛ مترجم: کاوه دهگان؛ تهران، فرانکلین، 1341؛ در 182 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، علمی فرهنگی، 1372؛ در 231 ص؛ موضوع: ادبیات نوجوانان - داستان آدولف هیتلر از سال 1889 تا سال 1945 میلادی - سده 20 م عنوان: جهان پرفراز و نشیب آدولف هیتلر؛ مترجم: هرمز همایون پور؛ تهران، کتاب روشن، 1389، در 248 ص؛ شابک: 9789649681290؛ کتاب در چهار بخش است: ظهور آدولف هیتلر؛ هیتلر آلمان را فتح میکند؛ هیتلر اروپا فتح میکند؛ سقوط آدولف هیتلر آدولف هیتلر در روز بیستم ماه آوریل سال 1889 میلادی، در شهر اتریشی: «برانائو - آن - ده این» واقع در مرز اتریش با آلمان، زاده شد. آدولف نخست میخواست به سلک هنرمندان درآید، اما پدرش سرش داد کشیده، و گفته بود: «هنرمند!»؛ «نه! نه! تا وقتی من زنده ام هرگز!»؛ او هرگز نقاش نشد. گرچه هیتلر تا آخر عمر، هماره خویش را از جرگه ی هنرمندان میدانست. همین سرسختی پسر در برابر پدر، هنگامی که او هنوز پسرکی کلاس ششمی بود، نشانگر اراده ی استوار او، تا پایان عمرش نیز با او همراه بود؛ سپس وارد سیاست شدن؛ توطئه آبجو فروشی؛ کتابی که نوشت؛ عشق و عاشقی، حرکت به سوی قدرت سیاسی، پیشوا و دیکتاتور؛ پیروزیهای بی خونریزی، راه اندازی جنگ جهانگیر دوم، پیروزیهای شگفت انگیز نخست، نقظه عطف؛ نظم جدید هیتلر، توطئه برای کشتننش؛ فروپاشی آلمان، مرگ آدولف؛ اینها هرچند عنوانهای واقعی بخشهایی از کتاب نیستند برای جستجوگران شاید راهنمایی باشند از اینکه چه رخدادهایی را خواهد خواند. ا. شربیانی

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Esdaile

    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 pinch 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    The detail with which this book deals with the Third Reich and the unspeakable evil that was Hitler's Germany is almost too much to take. Some of the discriptions, particularly towards the end of 'medical' experimentation, are simply too shocking and too challenging to read in one sitting. If you need to be reminded of just how evil the bastards in charge of Germany in the 30s and 40s really were then this is the book you need to read. Like I said, the detail is mind-blowing - the story of this The detail with which this book deals with the Third Reich and the unspeakable evil that was Hitler's Germany is almost too much to take. Some of the discriptions, particularly towards the end of 'medical' experimentation, are simply too shocking and too challenging to read in one sitting. If you need to be reminded of just how evil the bastards in charge of Germany in the 30s and 40s really were then this is the book you need to read. Like I said, the detail is mind-blowing - the story of this period of history still seems incomprehensible. I dare you not to be horrified by this remarkable book

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nick T. Borrelli

    Three historical periods always have fascinated me and I usually will read anything published with regard to them. The first is The American Revolution, the second is The Civil War and the third is Nazi Germany/WWII. William Shirer has penned the definitive account of this horrendous time in world history and I believe it is the most comprehensive and compelling telling ever published. I did read Richard Evans' trilogy but I still view Shirer's book as better. I thought that Evans speculated too Three historical periods always have fascinated me and I usually will read anything published with regard to them. The first is The American Revolution, the second is The Civil War and the third is Nazi Germany/WWII. William Shirer has penned the definitive account of this horrendous time in world history and I believe it is the most comprehensive and compelling telling ever published. I did read Richard Evans' trilogy but I still view Shirer's book as better. I thought that Evans speculated too much and also focused more on Germany itself rather than giving a more expanded view of the entire world stage during this time. Shirer does this while also having the benefit of proximity - The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was published a mere 15 years after the fall of Germany. Shirer was also a foreign correspondent working inside Germany when the Nazis took power. That's the thing that really grabs you when you read this book. The fact that Shirer actually witnessed the gradual oppression and brutality as it was taking place gives a certain sense of realism to a time that seems so unreal looking back on it now. This book begins at the end of WWI when Germany was embarrassed and sanctioned mercilessly by the allied powers. Shirer uses this example to define what initially motivated Hitler to restore Germany to greatness - intense love of country and a desire to see that Germany exacted its retribution on the "criminals" of Versailles. Hitler simply could not tolerate the fact that Germany was militarily and diplomatically emasculated after the Treaty of Versailles. He set a course to use any means necessary and to point the finger at any scapegoat he could to begin a campaign of ethnic nationalism. Also contained in this gut-wrenching history book is a thorough description of how piece by piece and country by country, Hitler used his demented vision to take over the entirety of Europe and North Africa. The book ends with Germany's ultimate defeat and The Nuremberg Trials where many of the top Nazi leadership were tried and sentenced for war crimes. Simply a stunning book that is a can't miss for anyone who wants to know how this period of time came about. I read it with mouth agape for large portions as I could not believe that this evil was allowed to grow and thrive for as long as it did. It's not an easy read, but a necessary one I believe.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    I had read this book about thirty-five years ago. Since then I have gone through several books on World War II – Churchill’s great memoirs volumes, Toland and Fest biographies of Hitler, books on the Nuremberg trials… So I thought that Shirer’s book would be a simple re-hash – it wasn’t. If I were to be asked to recommend only one book on Nazi Germany this would be it. I was also very moved by the elegance of Shirer’s writing. His prose is stirring and makes these cataclysmic events of the twentie I had read this book about thirty-five years ago. Since then I have gone through several books on World War II – Churchill’s great memoirs volumes, Toland and Fest biographies of Hitler, books on the Nuremberg trials… So I thought that Shirer’s book would be a simple re-hash – it wasn’t. If I were to be asked to recommend only one book on Nazi Germany this would be it. I was also very moved by the elegance of Shirer’s writing. His prose is stirring and makes these cataclysmic events of the twentieth century very vivid. It is all here – Hitler’s rise to power in the 1920’s, the appeasement of the European powers during the 1930’s, the sordidness of the Hitler-Stalin pact and then the war itself with, for a time Britain and Churchill standing alone. Enveloping all this is the hatreds of Hitler and the Nazi party; above their hatred of the Jews and then the Slavic and Russian peoples, their hatred of democratic values (what we would now call human rights), their hatred of the Versailles Treaty. Shirer makes no excuses for these and puts the blame squarely on Hitler and the German people. Versailles was never the humiliation it was made out to be. As Shirer points out this ‘stab in the back’ myth was also propagated by Weimar as well. Hitler knew how to rally the nationalistic fervor and pagan impulses of the bulk of his people. All the personalities are in here – and they are a powerful and colourful lot – but sad, as both German and non-German acquiesce to the force of the German leader. Chamberlain’s fruitless efforts to achieve peace are overlooked today as he is framed with the word appeasement; but what politician today would be as honest as he was. Shirer quotes Chamberlain’s honest and touching ‘declaration of war’ speech when Poland is brutally invaded by Germany –quite possibly one of the most poignant passages in the book as the world is now stepping over the precipice into war. Shirer uses many of Hitler’s speeches to illustrate how the German people adored their beloved leader. One is struck by how a people could swallow these words so whole-heartedly – words that are so diametrically opposed to the best values of the Western World. The speeches are filled with hatred for Jews and ridicule for the leaders of the Western World. Hitler’s reply to Roosevelt in 1939 before the war – though so successfully manipulative – is haunting in retrospect. There are perhaps a few things left out. One is the destruction of the Polish resistance uprising in Warsaw that Stalin left to the Germans to ruthlessly suppress – with the Russian army just outside Warsaw watching as the Germans slaughtered the Polish resistance movement. And there is maybe too much, I feel, on the Stauffenberg plot to kill Hitler. But again Shirer is correct in pointing out the hypocrisy of these ‘anti-Nazi’ conspirators who waited too long (Germany was obviously losing the war at this stage and its cities were decimated). Were they not morally inept – were they doing this to seize political power only? Were they really morally repulsed by the Nazi regime – or just mere opportunists? As mentioned if one reads only one book on Nazi Germany this has it all. But as a warning – reading over 1,100 pages on Nazism can wear one down – it becomes very depressing. However you are left with a greater understanding of this tumultuous era.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I actually do hate this book, which would earn it 1 star according to goodreads' rating system, but my personal ethics prevent me from going quite so far. The reason I hate it, really, is because it remains wildly popular (you can find it in pretty much any bookstore that has any non-fiction in English at all), in spite of the fact that literally mountains of far better works on the subject have been written. When I come back and look at it objectively, however, I have to admit that it’s not rea I actually do hate this book, which would earn it 1 star according to goodreads' rating system, but my personal ethics prevent me from going quite so far. The reason I hate it, really, is because it remains wildly popular (you can find it in pretty much any bookstore that has any non-fiction in English at all), in spite of the fact that literally mountains of far better works on the subject have been written. When I come back and look at it objectively, however, I have to admit that it’s not really as terrible as I imagine it to be, it’s just outdated and flawed. As an introduction to the lay-reader about National Socialism, it’s probably a decent enough starting-point. It gives a reasonable chronology and narrative of events which, if you know nothing at all about Germany or World War Two (and I didn’t when I read it, really), gives you a pretty good handle on the basics. Beginners have to start at the beginning, and this is pretty much it, so far as most people are concerned. Shirer was working primarily off the masses of documents collected for the Nuremberg trials, which contained much important material, but had not been properly indexed or sorted, so to a large degree he looked for things he was already familiar with, “where the light was better,” as it were and missed anything that would have problematized his account. In fairness, he avoids giving credence to some of the wilder ideas that were current in the fifties and sixties, referring to the death of Geli Raubal as a “suicide” for example and does not completely buy into the theory that the SS planted a bomb at the Bürgerbräukeller that nearly killed Hitler. He states that there is “ample evidence” that the Nazis were responsible for the burning of the Reichstag, but even here he is more cautious than some writers of the period. The reason that this book continues to appeal to Americans, however, is bound up in its flawed nature. It is written from an extremely biased pro-American perspective that verifies the myth of the “greatest generation” and the heroism of the Allies, and unquestioningly demonizes the other side. Ironically, it manages to do this without really delving into the actual horrors of the Holocaust, presenting a rather more cartoonish version of the evil of Nazism: the bad guys are Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers, while the good guys are Indiana Jones and GI Joe. It’s easy enough to see how that would appeal to people looking to be “entertained” by history, but it doesn’t constitute actual historical study. Shirer was an American journalist, who lived in Germany until he had to leave as an “enemy alien” after Germany declared war following Pearl Harbor. He has a certain perspective on events, for that reason, but not necessarily an un-biased one. He often can’t help slipping invectives and personal feelings into the text. Ribbentrop, we are repeatedly told, was “stupid”, while Röhm is consistently described as a “homosexual pervert.” Other redundant tropes include the use of “much-vaunted” to describe the Luftwaffe and, of course “fanatical” to describe the loyalty of Hitler’s closest followers. These adjectives add little to our understanding of the time, are not justified by historical analysis, and serve to tell us more about Shirer and his audience than about the Third Reich and its leadership. On the whole I would recommend reading other, less partial accounts, but must admit that this is not the worst one available.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Reading this book is an ordeal. It is very long and very depressing. Charting the Third Reich from the birth of Hitler to the collapse of Germany, Shirer tells the whole story with the sweep of a novelist and the detail of an accountant. He wrote the book after having access to huge stores of documents captured by the Allies after the war. Diaries, schedules, testimonies from the Nuremberg trials, the minutes of meetings, and much more were the raw material marshalled to create this tome. As is o Reading this book is an ordeal. It is very long and very depressing. Charting the Third Reich from the birth of Hitler to the collapse of Germany, Shirer tells the whole story with the sweep of a novelist and the detail of an accountant. He wrote the book after having access to huge stores of documents captured by the Allies after the war. Diaries, schedules, testimonies from the Nuremberg trials, the minutes of meetings, and much more were the raw material marshalled to create this tome. As is often noted, Shirer was a journalist, not a historian, a fact that helps to explain much about this book. He lived in Berlin as a foreign correspondent from 1933 to the end of 1940, reporting on the rise of Hitler and the beginnings of the war, until the threat of the Gestapo forced him to return home. This firsthand experience lent color to his narrative, but also focused his attention on readily observable events. Rather than talk of larger trends—social shifts, economic pressures, cultural developments—Shirer focuses almost exclusively on the doings of individuals in power, such as he had been reporting on. This focus makes the narrative vivid and pleasingly concrete, but also results in a superficial analysis. A historian would naturally spend more time on the rampant inflation of the times, the institutional weakness of the Weimar Republic, the wider political trends in Europe, the mechanics of a totalitarian state, and so on. Further, Shirer’s explanation of why Germany embarked on such a destructive enterprise boils down to: because it is peopled by Germans. That is, he locates a kind of cultural essence in the German people, an essence stemming from the Reformation and especially Martin Luther, added to by Hegel and then by Nietzsche, which came to full fruition in National Socialism. But this sort of cultural essentialism is, for me, just intellectual laziness. It can be used to explain anything or everything, since these posited cultural qualities are vague and unobservable. In any case wider historical analysis plays a very small part in this book, which is mainly a record of the decisions and actions of the leading men of the Nazi regime. That is to say that this book is a political and not a military history. The Second World War is discussed, of course, but only insofar as its developments affected or were caused by the Nazi leaders. Shirer is mainly concerned with charting the rise to power of these ruthless men: how they outsmarted the Weimar Republic leaders, fooled the international community, bullied and threatened their way to conquests, and finally instigated a war that resulted in their own ruin. The balance of the book is tilted heavily towards the rise of the Third Reich. This can make for some dreary reading. In retrospect it is stupefying to witness how blind, inept, and spineless were Hitler’s opponents, first within Germany and then beyond its borders, until the final crisis spurred the world into action against him. Though Shirer's sturdy prose is normally quite plain and unadorned, he has a steady instinct for the dramatic and writes several unforgettable scenes. Nevertheless the scale of detail Shirer saw fit to include sometimes weighs down the narrative into benumbing dullness. The endless, petty diplomatic maneuvers that preceded the beginning of the War—negotiations, ambassadors, threats, ultimatums, calculations, second thoughts, and so on—made it a relief when the soldiers finally started shooting. These political dealings of the Nazis constitute the vast bulk of this book. It is a masterclass in how far a little cunning, shameless lying, and absolute ruthlessness can get you. It is also a lesson in the need to cooperate to take decisive action against common threats. In the years since Vietnam, many have concluded that the main lesson to be drawn from America’s foreign policy is the folly of interventionist wars. After the First World War, the Western powers were understantly ever more chary of violence. And yet, at least in Shirer’s telling of the history, a timely show of force could have nipped Hitler’s rise in the bud. If England and France had upheld their treaties and defended their territories and their allies, Hitler could not have amassed so much power at a time when the German military was still small. (Though it must be said that Shirer’s intellectual weakness appears here, too, since he attributes this inaction to pure cowardice.) In any case, this does bring out an interesting dilemma in foreign policy concerning the benefits and risks of violent intervention. In the case of Hitler, timely action could have prevented a disastrous conflict. And yet in many other historical cases, such as with Saddam Hussein, the threat of non-intervention was vastly overestimated, while the cost of intervention vastly underestimated. The word “estimate” is key here, since these decisions must necessarily be based on guesses of future threats and costs—guesses which may easily be wrong. Since it is impossible to know with certainty the scale of a threat that a situation may pose if left unchecked, there is no surefire way out of this dilemma. This, of course, is just a part of a wider dilemma in life, since so many of our everyday decisions must necessarily be made based on guesses of what the future holds. You can see that this book, though a popular account, is not lightweight in its details or its implications. Yet it does show its age. Published in 1960, it was written before many valuable sources of information became available, such as the French archives. It also shows its age in its occasional references to homosexuality, which Shirer treats as a perverted vice. This is, of course, morbidly ironic, considering the Nazi persecution of homosexuals (something that Shirer fails to mention). But all in all The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains a gripping popular overview of this nightmarish time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    WarpDrive

    This is a classic. A very detailed, almost day-by-day account of this momentous period of World history. Relevant primary sources, including documents used in Nuremberg, are persuasively referenced throughout the account. The book is an important reference to whoever is interested in the period; however there are a few issues with it: - you can see that the author was a journalist writing as though he were a historian. On the positive side, this makes for a fresh, vivid and compelling narrative, This is a classic. A very detailed, almost day-by-day account of this momentous period of World history. Relevant primary sources, including documents used in Nuremberg, are persuasively referenced throughout the account. The book is an important reference to whoever is interested in the period; however there are a few issues with it: - you can see that the author was a journalist writing as though he were a historian. On the positive side, this makes for a fresh, vivid and compelling narrative, but on the negative side there is, in parts of the book, a substantial lack of depth and of nuance, and the underlying complex background of economic, cultural, social aspects is not explored at a level that a professional historian would naturally go down to. Thus, rather than a "history" of Nazism, this should probably be described as a "chronicle" of Nazism - the lack of accompanying maps is really frustrating at times. This is especially relevant when describing particular military events such as the invasion of Norway and of Belgium/Holland/France, where, without the support of an accompanying map, it is close to impossible to gain a real appreciation of the developments of the war. Overall, however, it is an interesting book recommended to whoever is interested in this period. It might not be the most rewarding book for readers interested in deep historical analysis, but it provides a very interesting, vivid account of this period.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Todd N

    This book was a Christmas present from a friend, though I also bought a copy on the Kindle so that I could read it outside of my house without having to lug around a brick-like book with swastikas on it. The Kindle version is especially handy if you are not quite at the bring-Nazi-related-stuff-to-the-office stage at your job yet. (The down side of the Kindle version is that the it is horrible at handling footnotes, and this book has many that are important to the story.) This is a strange and un This book was a Christmas present from a friend, though I also bought a copy on the Kindle so that I could read it outside of my house without having to lug around a brick-like book with swastikas on it. The Kindle version is especially handy if you are not quite at the bring-Nazi-related-stuff-to-the-office stage at your job yet. (The down side of the Kindle version is that the it is horrible at handling footnotes, and this book has many that are important to the story.) This is a strange and unique book not only because Mr. Shirer lived in Germany for more half of the Third Reich (or Reich 3.0 as we call it in Silicon Valley) but also because he had access to a massive amount of top secret documents that were captured after the war. This included Hitler's own appointment book and many importnt documents detailing military and political strategy. What do you get the fascist dictator who has everything? A decent paper shredder. That and Moscow. He also appeared to be on friendly enough terms that he could write to (Nazi) General Halder for points of clarification. Because this book is about 1100 pages of main text, it's a good thing that Mr. Shirer is one of the so-called "Murrow Boys." He worked closely with Murrow at CBS and did other reporting. These guys are known for their clear, direct prose, though it gets a bit purple here and there in this book. I'm prepared to forgive him for that given the circumstances. I love reading big, epic histories like this, but here is the main problem I had while reading this one: All of the big histories I have read before this one were all ancient histories. The temporal distance between then and now allows me to detach and think about what happened then abstractly. So Alexander killed a bunch of Persians and Rome leveled Carthage and sowed their fields with salt, but f I felt anything while reading about these events it was sort of a vague sense of awe. But it isn't really possible to get behind Hitler or Germany in this way. For one thing WWII is still very personal. For example, my great-uncle was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor (which I know was done by the Japanese not the Germans). One of my dad's earliest memories is everyone in his family crying when they got the news. The father-in-law of the friend who gave me this book was in Poland during WWII, and I've heard him tell some chilling stories. And I think everyone has friends whose families in Europe fled or were partially wiped out during the rise of the Third Reich. For another thing Hitler wasn't that great of a military leader. His major triumphs were mostly political, and aside from the first year or so he didn't appear to have much of a handle on war strategy. In the introduction Mr. Shirer says in the introduction that Hitler is the last of the warrior conquerers in the vein of Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon, but I don't agree with that. So in 2,000 years -- about the distance between us and ancient Greece and Rome -- the events in this book will probably be seen as a particularly nasty blip in an otherwise unpleasant century, scientific discoveries notwithstanding. But for people living now this is a thoroughly fascinating and well-written book. It's divided into six books of unequal lengths. World War II doesn't start until half way through, at the beginning of the fourth book, so there is a lot of lead up and Hitler shenanigans until then. The first part of the book covers Hitler's background, early life, and philosophical influences. This is where Mr. Shirer lays out his controversial thesis that The Third Reich grew out of something inherent in the German people rather than Germany merely getting caught up in the fascist vibe that was going around Europe in the '20s and '30s. He traces the seeds of Naziism all the way back to Luther. I don't know enough about history to have an opinion on this. It also covers the early days of the Nazi party. [[[Aside: I didn't realize "Nazi" is an abbreviation for National Socialist. I'm definitely going to start calling people national socialists when they annoy me, as in "grammar national socialists."]]] Reading this part is sort of like watching The Bad News Bears with the knowledge that Walter Matthau is going to be responsible for the deaths of millions of people. The early Nazi party sounds like a bunch of loser-y misfits, and soon enough a lot of them outlived their usefulness so Hitler had them killed. The big thing with Hitler was the way he understood and could influence politics. So if you found that whole plot line in Star Wars about how Senator Palpatine became the Emperor, then you should probably skip directly to the second half when Germany invades Poland. Personally I found it fascinating the way Hitler played England and France like chumps and annexed more and more land. You can definitely see the weaknesses of a democratic society compared with a totalitarian society, but this is nothing that isn't already covered in Greek history. There is a chapter about what day to day life was like during the Third Reich. It turns out that controlling media and propaganda are very important for maintaining a fascist dictatorship. Because I'm slow sometimes, my first thought as I read was that it sure was a lot like 1984. The last few chapters in the third book are pretty tough going because it contains exhaustive detail about a lot of ambassadors running around making and breaking alliances. This is the only part of the book that is not that well-written and even somewhat repetitive. I did learn this odd fact: At the last minute an executive from General Motors personally flew to Germany to try to prevent war from breaking out. It's unclear what his motives were, but nothing came of it anyway. The second half is the quickest 500 pages I have ever read. I've never been much interested in military strategy or wars after 1066AD, but this was just fascinating reading. We should all go to bed each night happy that Hitler screwed the pooch so bad in the way he directed the German Army. There are many points in the war where it is clear that the Axis powers could have forced a very different outcome. A few off the top of my head: holding back tanks at Dunkirk, starting the Moscow campaign a few weeks too late, not putting enough resources into Africa, holding back the Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic, holding back the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. One chapter that you may want to skip is chapter 27, which is about the New Order. This covers the treatment of Poland, the plans for Russia, the slave labor camps, the concentration camps, the death camps, the Einsatzgruppen, the infamous medical experiments, and many other horrifying things that are associated with the Nazis. One footnote claims that Himmler, the head of the S.S. mind you, almost fainted at the sight of one execution of 100 prisoners. I won't think any less of you if you skip this part. This is the first time I have ever read something that gave me nightmares. The book ends a few days after Hitler's death. I read this chapter before starting the book, because I was always curious about the bunker and how that all went down. Badly, it turns out. Why did Hitler have his dogs killed? Why did Goebbels do what he did? I got on Wikipedia and was surprised to find that the location of the Fuhrerbunker actually has a marker. Definitely recommended. It's a very important book. My brain is still digesting this book more than a week after I finished it, and I think it permanently altered my consciousness.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    Excellent. The book is really long and goes into a lot of details, but that shouldn't be held against it. It seems like general knowledge about this subject is kept to the antisemitic atrocities, and stories tend to focus on concentration camps, military conflict, or underground movements and hiding. This leaves the Nazis as just some mystical thing that happened once upon a time. If there is any contextual knowledge known it is probably just remembered from highschool that the German people were Excellent. The book is really long and goes into a lot of details, but that shouldn't be held against it. It seems like general knowledge about this subject is kept to the antisemitic atrocities, and stories tend to focus on concentration camps, military conflict, or underground movements and hiding. This leaves the Nazis as just some mystical thing that happened once upon a time. If there is any contextual knowledge known it is probably just remembered from highschool that the German people were down and Hitler promised to lift them up. The book really gets into the socio-historical and upper level political action that led to the regime, its process, and collapse. It does a great job covering all the related material. Shirer both narrates the historical facts and progress of events and, when relevant, he discusses particular topics (e.g. Philosophical roots, the church in Germany, resistance movements, assassination plots, etc.). I'm no historian, but this is a worthy read, and I've seen no fault in it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    Believe it or not, I have read this massive book twice. Shirer, who spent much of the years leading up to WWII in Germany, fills in all the blanks and tells a tale of a country spiraling into madness and the ultimate failure of the "1,000 Year Reich". Suffice it to say, this is probably the finest book ever written on the history of Nazi Germany and is a "must read" for all history lovers. "Berlin Diary" also by Shirer is a good preface to this book. Magnificent!!!!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Everyone has that holy grail of a book. Some people work like dogs to finish books by the great Russian literary masters; others tough it out through the oeuvre of Steinbeck. They may not enjoy it, but, by G-d, you are not a real reader until you slam that back cover onto that tome of pain and frustration. I finally finished my grail: the 1500+ page The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. I labored for two months, reading mostly at home to avoid the embarrassment of busting out Everyone has that holy grail of a book. Some people work like dogs to finish books by the great Russian literary masters; others tough it out through the oeuvre of Steinbeck. They may not enjoy it, but, by G-d, you are not a real reader until you slam that back cover onto that tome of pain and frustration. I finally finished my grail: the 1500+ page The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. I labored for two months, reading mostly at home to avoid the embarrassment of busting out a book with a giant honking swastika on the front. I dropped it in the middle to blow through a cheap historical novel, only to pick it up again. I laughed, I cried, I did a victory dance when I turned the last page. Rise and Fall, despite the paragraph above, was worth the pain. Years of Holocaust classes give you the suffering of millions, but they rarely share the gallows humor that should accompany the tales of the Nazi elite, a motley band of misfits. There were times during my reading that the leadership of the Third Reich reminded me of nothing more than one of those coming of age sports films where a strong, yet flawed leader tries to mold a championship-winning team out of a bunch of sad sack losers. Shirer does nothing to dissuade the reader from this conclusion. Indeed, he goes out of his way to show the gluttonousness, pride and absolute stupidity within those smart uniforms. The rest of the cast doesn’t fair very well either. Shirer heaps a fair amount of scorn on the rest of Europe’s leadership, portraying them as teams (if we are to continue the sports movie line of comparison) who alternately wrung their hands as the visiting German team charged down the court or flung the ball into Nazi hands before running in the opposite direction, shrieking like a school girl. Few people manage to make it out of the book with their reputations unscathed—mostly the desperate leaders of doomed Eastern European countries and Colonel Klaus von Stauffenberg (it’s hard not to come out with a little respect for the guy—he lost an eye, an arm, and several fingers on his surviving hand and still tried to blow up Hitler). The sheer amount of information the Nazi regime left behind after their defeat is astounding. Journals, letters, and secret missives give us a glimpse behind the propaganda, behind the war machine that decimated much of Europe. Couple that with Shirer’s uncanny ability to actually be present at many of Hitler’s most important public moments and the reader is presented with the human interaction along with the solid facts. Accounts of Hitler’s raging tantrums sit comfortably beside the fact that the man was quite fond of sweets; the Fuhrer’s cold-blooded executions of his own staff rest near his ability to forgive a dithering Mussolini nearly anything. Shirer brings the Third Reich that we know and adds the gut-wrenchingly human side, making forgiveness all the more impossible to give. Verdict: Library this one. (Author’s note: As a Jew, I’ve been dealing with Holocaust for years and that occasionally does things to you, so I must ask that you understand my black humor is an attempt to mentally encompass this devastating era in both European and Jewish history. There’s only so many times you can read about death camp prisoners having their skins made into lampshades before you have to switch off.)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*

    DNF @ 35% This is clearly very well researched and if you want a definitive book on Nazi Germany this is it. I would definitely recommend it as a college textbook. It doesn't work for me, I think mainly because through high school and college we learned so much about WWII and in particular Hitler, the Nazis, the Holocaust, and the European side of the war. So I feel like I already know everything this book is talking about and I find myself wondering what's the point of carrying on with something DNF @ 35% This is clearly very well researched and if you want a definitive book on Nazi Germany this is it. I would definitely recommend it as a college textbook. It doesn't work for me, I think mainly because through high school and college we learned so much about WWII and in particular Hitler, the Nazis, the Holocaust, and the European side of the war. So I feel like I already know everything this book is talking about and I find myself wondering what's the point of carrying on with something I already know? Most WWII historical fiction I've read looks at the war and even the Holocaust, but it all does so through different lenses and even when it all focuses on the same event/s, that different lens teaches me something I didn't know prior to picking up that particular book. Not so here. Alongside this, the author seems a bit overzealous in his writing; that is to say, he's always chipping in with "this writer was told" or "this writer heard/saw" and so on in order to prove to the reader that he was there in Nazi Germany and he heard these speeches, etc. as events were unfolding. Good for you, dude. But this book isn't titled THE RISE AND FALL OF WILLIAM L SHIRER. Move along. Give me a book about something I haven't learned much about. The Rape of Nanking or the Bataan Death March, Mussolini's Italy, Stalin's Russia, the blitz in London. There are so many facets to WWII that we don't learn about that deserve equal attention.

  21. 4 out of 5

    محمد على عطية

    يعد هذا الكتاب من أقدم و أشهر الكتب التي تناولت تاريخ الرايخ الثالث، فقد صدرت طبعته الأولى في عام 1950، و هذا ما أدى لكاتبه أن يتناول في مقدمه إشكالية الكتابة التاريخية و الفترة التي يجب أن تفصل بين الحقبة الزمنية المراد الكتابة عنها و بينزمن الكتابة نفسه. ففي حين أن مؤرخي المدرسة الفرنسية مثلاً يرون أن تلك الحقبة تكون في حدود مائة عام، و أنهم و هم في النصف الأول من القرن العشرين يستطيعون الآن فقط أن يكتبوا عن حروب نابليون، فإن الكاتب يقر بأنه و إن كان البعد الزمني يساهم في استقرار المعلومات و آ يعد هذا الكتاب من أقدم و أشهر الكتب التي تناولت تاريخ الرايخ الثالث، فقد صدرت طبعته الأولى في عام 1950، و هذا ما أدى لكاتبه أن يتناول في مقدمه إشكالية الكتابة التاريخية و الفترة التي يجب أن تفصل بين الحقبة الزمنية المراد الكتابة عنها و بينزمن الكتابة نفسه. ففي حين أن مؤرخي المدرسة الفرنسية مثلاً يرون أن تلك الحقبة تكون في حدود مائة عام، و أنهم و هم في النصف الأول من القرن العشرين يستطيعون الآن فقط أن يكتبوا عن حروب نابليون، فإن الكاتب يقر بأنه و إن كان البعد الزمني يساهم في استقرار المعلومات و آليات الحكم على الحدث التاريخي و الخروج من التحيزات الوقتية و قبل كل شيء ظهور أكبر كم من الوثائق و المصادر، فإن الكاتب يجادل بأنه بكتابته هذا الكتاب يمتلك أفضلية قد لا تتوافر لمن يكتب في ذات الموضوع في المستقبل، فهو بحكم عمله الصحافي كان مراسلاً عاملاً في ألمانيا قبل الحرب و شهد بداية تشكل الرايخ بنفسه من الداخل، هذا بخلاف المتابعة خلال الحرب حتى بعد أن غادر ألمانيا، ثم المقابلات الصحفية التي قام بها مع العديد من المسئولين و الضباط على الجانبين بعد الحرب و تغطية محاكمات نورمبرج بالطبع، فجزء كبير مما يكتبه هو بمثابة شهادة عيان بشكلٍ كبير و هو يكتب بينما ما تزال الأحداث و المواقف عالقة بذاكرته و وجدانه، هذا بالإضافة إلى كنز الوثائق الألمانية التي وقعت في أيدي الحلفاء و التي كانت متاحة له للإطلاع عليها في فترة إعداد الكتاب. و كتقييم نهائي للكتاب فإن الكتاب و إن كُتب بأسلوب شبه صحافي إلا أنه لا غنى غنه في رأيي لمن يحب الإطلاع المفصل عن هذه الفترة، لكنه من جهةٍ أخرى لا يغني عن مطالعة دراسات أكاديمية كُتبت في ذات الموضوع في وقتٍ لاحق. بدأ الكتاب بالطبع بالحديث عن مولد هتلر و أسرته و طفولته و نشأته و بذور تشكل وعيه و أفكاره و الظروف التي ساعدت على تطورها. لم تكن الأفكار القومية المتشددة و لا ما عُرف بمعاداة السامية جديداً في الساحة، كانت الأفكار مطروحة و احتك بها هتلر على عدة مستويات و مراحل عمرية، و ساهمت في اتخاذه القرار بترك النمسا إلى ألمانيا، ثم السعي للإنضمام للجيش الألماني و مشاركته في الحرب العظمى الأولى، و التي شهدت نهايتها أولى خيبات آماله. ألقى هتلر باللائمة على اليهود و على مؤسسي جمهورية فايمار التي تشكلت بعد رحيل القيصر، و التي حملها الجميع مسئولية مذلة معاهدة فرساي، و هنا كان المناخ العام الساخط بعد الهزيمة مهيئاً لظهور شخصية مثله بما امتلك من أدوات الخطابة و البيان و الكاريزما التي تأسر مستمعيه. و هكذا بدأ من ميونيخ نشاط الحزب النازي الوليد. هنا توقف الكاتب ليعرض الأصول التاريخية و الفكرية للرايخ الثالث، فنجاح هتلر فيما سعى إليه لم يكن ليحدث لو لم تكن هناك تربة صالحة للتأسيس في لا وعي الشعب الألماني تتقبل الأفكار القومية و فكرة السوبرمان و نقاء العرق الآري، هذا بالإضافة إلى الظروف المحيطة من هزيمة عسكرية و وضع إقتصادي مترد و فوضى سياسية حتى لو كانت في ظل حكومة ديمقراطية خرجت بدستور ديمقراطي ليبرالي لم تشهد ألمانيا له مثيلاً من قبل، لكن قدر لهذه التجربة أن تحمل أوزار و أخطاء و اللوم عن كل نتائج الحرب. بعد محاولته الفاشلة للإنقلاب في ميونيخ فيما عُرف بإنقلاب مشرب البيرة و التي أدت لسجنه فترة رمزية أملى فيها كتابه (كفاحي) آمن هتلر أنه لكي يصل للسلطة لابد أن يحصل على دعم و تأييد و تعاطف بعض أركان السلطة نفسها. و هذا ما عمل عليه إلى جوار توسيع قاعدته الشعبية و كذلك قاعدة الممولين للحزب من الأثرياء و الإقتصاديين . و بسعيً دئوب على مدار 10 سنوات تمكن الحزب من الاستئثار بالسلطة، و صبغ الحياة في ألمانيا كلها بالصبغة النازية. يتناول الكتاب بعد ذلك صورة الحياة في الرايخ الثالث إقتصادياً و ثقافياً و دينياً، و بعدها يعرض الوضع السياسي منذ وصول هتلر لمنصب المستشارية إلى إستيلاؤه على النمسا ثم تشيكوسلوفاكيا بالبلطجة السياسية التي قابلها إنعدام الرؤية السياسية عند أعدائه. و ينتهي الجزء الأول من الكتاب ببدء غزو بولندا الذي كان بداية الحرب العالمية الثانية. الجزء الثاني من الكتاب يتناول كله الحرب نفسها بكل ما شهدته من توسع سريع و إنتصارات مبهرة للألمان إلى إنقلاب الدائرة عليهم ثم تدمير البلاد تماماً و إنتحار هتلر. الحقيقة أنني بخلاف شغفي القديم بالحرب العالمية الثانية و كل ما يتعلق بها، فإن قراءة هذا الكتاب كانت تكتسب عندي بعداً آخر، فتجربة النازية هي أحد أهم و أوضح التجارب الفاشية في التاريخ الحديث، و مطالعةتاريخها عن كثب تجيب عن سؤالين، أولهما: كيف تستطيع الفاشية السيطرة على الشعوب بهذه الطريقة؟ و ثانيهما: هل للفاشية نمط شبه سائد بغض النظر عن إختلاف ظروف نشأة التجربة و الظروف الثقافية و الفكرية و التاريخية للمجتمع الذي نشأت به؟ سأحاول أن أجيب على هذين السؤالين بكثيرٍ من التفصيل في وقتٍ آخر و في مكانٍ آخر، لكن بشكل شديد الإيجاز أزعم أن للفاشية نفس النمط و نفس الآليات، الفرق بين فاشية و فاشية هو فرقٌ في الهيئة و الصورة لا أكثر. لذا فإنه عند مقارنة فاشية هتلر بالفاشية التي نعيشها في بلادنا الآن، فإننا قد نخجل من استخدام كلمة فاشية في حالتنا أساساً، أو قد نستخدمها مع وصفها بأنها فاشية معفنة، أو بكلمة أكثر دلالة : فاشية عِلقة

  22. 4 out of 5

    11811 (Eleven)

    The rise and fall were equally fascinating but the middle got bogged down in tactics - the number killed and wounded in every single individual battle. This book was huge. YUGE! My soundtrack for the book stands at Slayer's Behind the Crooked Cross. This was tragic on so many levels but it kept coming back to the Germans who were forced to fight and die for a cause they neither supported nor believed in. The chronology was consistently heartbreaking. The author acknowledges the problems of writin The rise and fall were equally fascinating but the middle got bogged down in tactics - the number killed and wounded in every single individual battle. This book was huge. YUGE! My soundtrack for the book stands at Slayer's Behind the Crooked Cross. This was tragic on so many levels but it kept coming back to the Germans who were forced to fight and die for a cause they neither supported nor believed in. The chronology was consistently heartbreaking. The author acknowledges the problems of writing history so so soon after the events had taken place but does an outstanding job as someone who was there to witness that history as it occurred. 4.5 stars.

  23. 5 out of 5

    M

    Finished this a while ago, but wanted to let my thoughts cogitate before writing a review. This is one of those books that I always thought that I should read, but never got round to doing. Well no excuses now, having read and thought about it - this is a very impressive, important and flawed work. Written by someone who experienced many of the events first hand and with a great many primary resources (got to love the German flair for record keeping) this is ultimately a very uneven account that Finished this a while ago, but wanted to let my thoughts cogitate before writing a review. This is one of those books that I always thought that I should read, but never got round to doing. Well no excuses now, having read and thought about it - this is a very impressive, important and flawed work. Written by someone who experienced many of the events first hand and with a great many primary resources (got to love the German flair for record keeping) this is ultimately a very uneven account that no doubt reflects the author’s prejudices and personal perspectives. It is however a seminal work charting the background and rise of Hitler and the early Nazi party that he formed, defined and ruthlessly controlled absolutely. The early parts of the book describing Hitler and his rise through to the outbreak of the War and hugely impressive if highly subjective at points. Where I feel this book lacks is the War years. While discussed and often with primary resources, this work lacks the depth of research and background that I was looking for on how the party, state and military all became one. Given the time at which this book was written, naturally the role and thoughts of the Soviet actors is opaque and the War in the east is underdeveloped compared to that with the British Empire and the USA. The description of the holocaust, with firsthand accounts, is particularly harrowing. This is as it should be. Better books have and will be published about the rise and fall of Hitler and the Nazi party, but few will have the firsthand authenticity of this work. An important book to read, if ultimately a far from authoritative account of such a massive topic.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Biswajit Chakraborty

    “Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens.” -A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin পরদার সামনের আর পরদার পেছনের যুদধের মধযে পেছনেরটাকেই আমার সব সময় বেশি গুরুতবপূরণ বলে মনে হয়। যদিও সামনের যুদধের কথাই আমরা সরবতর ফলাও করে পরচারিত হতে দেখি, ইতিহাসের পাতায় সামনের যুদধের নায়ক (অথবা খলনায়ক)দের কীরতি অমর হয়ে থাকতে দেখি। আর অনযদিকে পরদার পেছনের যে যুদধ, তার যে নায়ক বা খলনায়ক, তার কথা অনেককষেতরেই থেকে যায় লোকচকষুর আড়ালে। অথচ সতয হচছে এই, সমমুখ যুদধে যেখানেঅসীম শকতিধর সেনাব “Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens.” -A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin পর্দার সামনের আর পর্দার পেছনের যুদ্ধের মধ্যে পেছনেরটাকেই আমার সব সময় বেশি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ বলে মনে হয়। যদিও সামনের যুদ্ধের কথাই আমরা সর্বত্র ফলাও করে প্রচারিত হতে দেখি, ইতিহাসের পাতায় সামনের যুদ্ধের নায়ক (অথবা খলনায়ক)দের কীর্তি অমর হয়ে থাকতে দেখি। আর অন্যদিকে পর্দার পেছনের যে যুদ্ধ, তার যে নায়ক বা খলনায়ক, তার কথা অনেকক্ষেত্রেই থেকে যায় লোকচক্ষুর আড়ালে। অথচ সত্য হচ্ছে এই, সম্মুখ যুদ্ধে যেখানেঅসীম শক্তিধর সেনাবাহিনী হয়ত কোন ইতিহাস রচনা করতে ব্যর্থ হয়, আড়ালের যুদ্ধে সেখানে সাধারণ এক কলমের খোঁচায় সে ইতিহাস পাল্টে যায়, বদলে যায় যুদ্ধ নামক দাবা খেলার হিসাব-নিকাশ। “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany” বইতে উইলিয়াম শিরার হিটলার এবং তার নাৎসি বাহিনীর উত্থান, এর ফলে সৃষ্ট দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধ এবং সর্বোপরি হিটলারের পতন- এই বিশাল যুদ্ধবিধ্বস্ত সময়ের বর্ণনা দিয়েছেন মূলত পর্দার সামনে থেকে, তবে ভিত্তি হিসেবে ব্যবহার করেছেন পর্দার পেছনের ঘটনা আর তথ্য-উপাত্তকে। যার প্রমাণ আমরা পাই বইয়ের মুখবন্ধে; যেখানে লেখক সহজ স্বীকারোক্তি করেছেনঃ “Though I lived and worked in the Third Reich during the first half of its brief life … this personal experience would not have let me to attempt to write this book had there not occurred at the end of World War II an event unique in history. This was the capture of most of the confidential archives of the German government and all its branches, including those of the Foreign Office, the Army and Navy, the National Socialist Party and Heinrich Himmler’s secret police. Never before, I believe, has such a vast treasure fallen into the hands of contemporary historians.” যদিও বইটির ব্যাপারে শুরুতে আমার ধারণা ছিল যে এটি দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধের সর্বাঙ্গীণ ইতিহাস, কিন্তু মোটের উপর বইটিকে নাৎসি বাহিনী তথা থার্ড রাইখের একটা বায়োগ্রাফি হিসেবেই আখ্যা দিতে হয়। কেননা খুব স্পষ্টভাবেই দেখা যাচ্ছে যে, বইয়ের কাহিনী শুরু হয়েছে ১৯৩৩-এর ৩০ জানুয়ারি হিটলারের জার্মানির চ্যান্সেলর হিসেবে ক্ষমতা গ্রহণের মধ্যে দিয়ে, আর শেষ হয়েছে ৭ মে ১৯৪৫-এ জার্মান বাহিনীর নিঃশর্ত আত্মসমর্পণের ঘটনা দিয়ে। অথচ যুদ্ধের আনুষ্ঠানিক সমাপ্তি যেখানে হয় আরও মাসখানেক পরে, জাপানের আত্মসমর্পণের মধ্যে দিয়ে। পুরো বইটিকে লেখক ভাগ করেছেন ছয়টি অংশে। হিটলারের পূর্বপুরুষ, তাঁর জন্মপরিচয় আর তাঁর মানসিকতার বিকাশ, মোটামুটি এইসবই প্রথম অংশে চলে এসেছে। সে হিসাবে বইটিকে হিটলারের জীবনী হিসেবেও গণ্য করা যায়। সে যাই হোক, অস্ট্রিয়া-জার্মানি সীমান্তের এক ছোট শহরে সাধারণ এক পরিবারে জন্ম নেওয়া হিটলারের শৈশব-কৈশোর যথেষ্ট দুর্দশা আর দারিদ্র্যে পূর্ণ ছিল। গৎবাঁধা একাডেমিক পড়াশুনায় অমনোযোগিতা, আর্টিস্ট হওয়ার তীব্র ইচ্ছা সত্ত্বেও যথেষ্ট প্রতিভার অভাবে ব্যর্থতা, ভিয়েনা শহরে কপর্দকহীন অবস্থায় মানবেতর জীবনযাপন, এসবের মাঝে আমরা হিটলারের জীবনের শুরুর দিকের পরিচয় পাই। তবে এত দুর্দশার মধ্যেও হিটলারের একটা গুণের পরিচয় পাওয়া যায়, আর সেটা হল তাঁর বই পড়ার প্রতি তীব্র আকর্ষণ। ভিয়েনায় অবস্থানকালে, যে সময়টাকে হিটলার তাঁর জীবনের সবচেয়ে করুণ অধ্যায় হিসেবে পরে চিহ্নিত করেছেন, হিটলারের নিত্যসঙ্গী ছিল বই। তাঁর এই বই পড়ার অভ্যাস ইতিহাসের জন্য গুরুত্বপূর্ণ, কেননা রাজনীতি আর ইতিহাস নিয়ে যথেষ্ট পড়াশুনার মাধ্যমেই তাঁর মধ্যে “Racial supremacy” আর জার্মান জাতীয়তাবাদের ধারণা তৈরি হয়, ইহুদিদের প্রতি বিদ্বেষ জেগে ওঠে, ইউরোপের সে সময়ের উত্তাল রাজনৈতিক পরিস্থিতি, রাজতন্ত্রের ভাঙ্গন, এসবের জন্য তিনি দায়ী করেন ইহুদিদের, আর এসবের ভিত্তিতেই ন্যাশনাল সোশ্যালিজম তথা নাৎসিবাদের ধারণার গোড়াপত্তন হতে থাকে তাঁর মনে। বস্তুত এসময়ের পড়াশুনা হিটলারের মধ্যে যে রাজনৈতিক চেতনার জন্ম দেয়, আমৃত্যু তা অপরিবর্তিত থাকে। আর এ চেতনার আলোকেই তিনি পরবর্তীতে লিখেন “মাইন কাম্ফ”। আর এসবের মধ্যে শুরু হয় প্রথম বিশ্বযুদ্ধ। হিটলার সামান্য এক কর্পোরাল হিসেবে যুদ্ধে যান, আহত হন। জার্মান সেনাবাহিনী তার অপ্রতিরোধ্যতার ব্যাপারে নিঃসন্দেহ হলেও, যুদ্ধের ফলাফল যায় এর বিরুদ্ধে। যার ফলশ্রুতিতে কাইজারের পলায়ন, জার্মানির আত্মসমর্পণ এবং সর্বোপরি চরম অপমানজনক ভার্সাই চুক্তি মানতে বাধ্য হওয়া। যদিও এই পরাজয় ছিল জার্মান সেনাবাহিনীর ব্যর্থতারই ফলাফল, তবু হিটলার আর তাঁর মত অসংখ্য সাধারণ মানুষ রীতিমত বিশ্বাস করতে থাকে যে এই পরাজয় আসলে কতিপয় বিশ্বাসঘাতকের ষড়যন্ত্রের ফলাফল; জার্মান সেনাবাহিনী তো অপরাজেয়, কাজেই এই ব্যর্থতায় তাদের দায়ভার নেই। আর এই বিশ্বাস থেকেই জন্ম নেয় সেই বিখ্যাত “Stab in the back”মিথ। মিথ হোক আর যাই হোক, এসব ঘটনা আর জার্মানদের এরূপ অন্ধবিশ্বাসই তাদের রিপাবলিক সরকারের ধ্বংস ডেকে আনে, যার ফলশ্রুতিতে জার্মানি হয়ে পড়ে বিভক্ত। আর এমন উত্তাল পরিস্থিতিতেই হিটলার নাৎসি বাহিনী গঠন করেন, ছড়াতে শুরু করেন ন্যাশনাল সোশ্যালিজমের প্রোপাগান্ডা। সশস্ত্র বিপ্লবের মাধ্যমে ১৯২৩ সালে মিউনিখে চেষ্টা করেন ক্ষমতা দখলের, কিন্তু সে বিপ্লব ব্যর্থ হয়। তবে বিপ্লব ব্যর্থ হলেও শেষ বিচারে হিটলার আর তাঁর প্রোপাগান্ডারই জয় হয়। এতদিন নাৎসিবাদ মূলত মিউনিখকেন্দ্রিক হলেও, এই বিপ্লবের ফলে তার চেতনা ছড়িয়ে পড়ে গোটা জার্মানিতে, হিটলার একজন ন্যাশনাল ফিগারে পরিণত হন। রাষ্ট্রব্যবস্থার ব্যর্থতা, প্রথম বিশ্বযুদ্ধে পরাজয় এসব নিয়ে উস্কানিমূলক বক্তব্যের জোরে অনেকের কাছেই হিটলার কেবলমাত্র একজন নেতা নয়, পরিণত হন নায়কে। এই ব্যর্থ বিপ্লবের পরেই হিটলার সিদ্ধান্তে পৌঁছান কোন বিপ্লব নয়, সাংবিধানিক উপায়েইসর্বোচ্চ ক্ষমতা দখল করা সম্ভব। সে লক্ষ্যেই কাজ শুরু করেন। একদিকে সোশ্যাল ডেমোক্র্যাট আর অন্যদিকে কম্যুনিস্টদের মাঝে বিভক্ত জার্মানিতে হিটলার যেন অবলম্বন করেন মধ্যপন্থা। নাৎসি পার্টিকে করে তোলেন সুসংহত। গ্রেট ডিপ্রেশনের সময় জার্মানির অর্থনৈতিক বিপর্যস্ততার মধ্যে এবং শেষ পর্যন্ত রিপাবলিক সরকারের সম্পূর্ণ পতনের মধ্যে দিয়ে ১৯৩৩ সালে চলে আসেন ক্ষমতার কেন্দ্রে। ক্ষমতায় এসে হিটলার যেন তাঁর নিজের রচিত ম্যানুয়েল “মাইন কাম্ফ”-ই হুবহু মেনে চলেন। ভার্সাই চুক্তি অগ্রাহ্য করে জার্মানিকে শ্রেষ্ঠ সামরিক শক্তিতে পরিণত করার কাজ শুরু করেন। জাতি হিসেবে জার্মানদের শ্রেষ্ঠত্ব ঘোষিত হয়। আর ইহুদি, পোলিশ, স্লাভিক প্রমুখ জাতি ঘোষিত হয় “সাব-হিউম্যান” হিসেবে। জাতি হিসেবে শ্রেষ্ঠ জার্মানদের বিপুল জনসংখ্যার সম্পূর্ণ বাসস্থান নিশ্চিত করার জন্য “Lebensraum” বা “Living space” এর ধারণা প্রচারিত হয়। বলার অপেক্ষা রাখে না, এই প্রয়োজনীয় লেবেনস্রম কখনোই জার্মানির ছিলনা, আর তাই তা নিশ্চিত করার জন্যই শুরু হয় একের পর এক রাষ্ট্র দখলের কাজ। শুরুটা হয় “Anschluss” তথা অস্ট্রিয়াকে জার্মান রাইখের আওতাধীন করার মাধ্যমে। এরপর সুডেটেনল্যান্ড এবং এর মাধ্যমে সমগ্র চেকস্লোভাকিয়া দখল। এপর্যন্ত এই দখলদারিত্বের কাজ চলে সম্পূর্ণ নির্বিঘ্নে, কোন ধরনের রক্তপাত বা সংঘর্ষ ছাড়াই, কেবলমাত্র হিটলারের কূটনৈতিক ছলচাতুরির সাহায্যে। কিন্তু যুদ্ধ শুরু হয় এরপরেই; রাশিয়ার সাথে নন-এগ্রেশন চুক্তি স্বাক্ষর করে ১৯৩৯-এর ১ সেপ্টেম্বর যখন জার্মান বাহিনী আক্রমণ করে পোল্যান্ডকে। জার্মান বাহিনী খুব অল্প সময়ের মধ্যে পোল্যান্ডের পরাজয় নিশ্চিত করে ফেলার পরে চুক্তির শর্ত মেনে রাশিয়াও পোল্যান্ড আক্রমণ করে নিজ স্বার্থের ভাগ পাওয়ার জন্য। এরপরের ইতিহাস মোটামুটি সবারই জানা। ইউরোপে জার্মান আর্মি তথা “Wehrmacht” একচ্ছত্র আধিপত্য বিস্তারে নিয়োজিত হয়। তাদের অপ্রতিরোধ্য গতির মুখে একে একে পতন ঘটে ডেনমার্ক, নরওয়ে, নেদারল্যান্ডস, বেলজিয়াম এবং সর্বোপরি ফ্রান্সের। এরপর আক্রান্ত হয় ব্রিটেন। ব্রিটেন অভিযান সাফল্য এবং ব্যর্থতার মাঝামাঝি থাকা অবস্থাতেই ১৯৪১-এর জুনেহিটলার শুরু করেন রাশিয়া আক্রমণঃ “অপারেশন বার্বারোসা”। এর ফলে জার্মানি পূর্ব আর পশ্চিম দুই ফ্রন্টেই একসাথে যুদ্ধে জড়িয়ে পড়ে। রাশিয়া অপারেশনেও শুরুতে জার্মান বাহিনী খুব অল্প সময়ে অসামান্য সাফল্য লাভ করে। আর এই প্রতিটি সাফল্যই হিটলারকে উচ্চ থেকে উচ্চতর আসনে নিয়ে যেতে থাকে, ইতিহাসে দ্বিতীয় কোন জার্মান যে উচ্চতায় কখনও উঠতে পারেননি। তবে এত সব সাফল্যের ভিড়েও হিটলারের সর্বাত্মক চেষ্টা ছিল আমেরিকার সাথে কোন ধরনের সংঘর্ষে না জড়ানোর। যে কারণে অক্ষশক্তির অপর দুই সহযোগী ইটালি আর জাপানকে তিনি বারবার সতর্ক করে দেন আমেরিকাকে কোন কিছুর সাথে না জড়ানোর ব্যাপারে। প্রথম বিশ্বযুদ্ধের শিক্ষাই যে হিটলারের এরূপ সতর্কতার কারণ তা বলার অপেক্ষা রাখেনা। এতসব সতর্কতার পরেও জার্মান বাহিনীর রাশিয়া আক্রমণের মধ্যেই ১৯৪১-এর ডিসেম্বরে জাপান আক্রমণ করে বসে আমেরিকাকে, ধ্বংস করে দেয় পার্ল হারবার। আর ফলাফল হিসেবে আমেরিকাও যুদ্ধে জড়িয়ে পড়ে। ঠিক পরের বছর অর্থাৎ ১৯৪২-এ ইতিহাসের চাকা উল্টো ঘুরতে শুরু করে। প্রথমে মস্কো দখলের চেষ্টা ব্যর্থ হওয়া এবং পরে স্তালিনগ্রাদে চরম পরাজয়ের মধ্যে দিয়ে জার্মান বাহিনীর পশ্চাদপসরণ শুরু হয়, আস্তে আস্তে বদলে যেতে থাকে যুদ্ধের গতি-প্রকৃতি। স্তালিনগ্রাদে পরাজয় আসলে জার্মানির চুড়ান্ত পরাজয়ের নির্দেশনা দেয়। কেননা এই পরাজয় পূর্ব ফ্রন্ট অর্থাৎ রাশিয়াতে জার্মানির আধিপত্যের অবসান ঘটায়; যার ফলশ্রুতিতে রাশিয়া জার্মান বাহিনীর উপর পাল্টা আক্রমণ শুরু করে। অন্যদিকে পশ্চিম ফ্রন্টেও ধীরে ধীরে মিত্রশক্তির মিলিত আক্রমণ শুরু হয়। পতন হয় ইটালির, ১৯৪৩-এ, গ্রেপ্তার হন ফ্যাসিবাদের প্রবাদপুরুষ মুসোলিনি। যুদ্ধ শুরুর পরে প্রথম তিন বছর হিটলার আক্রমণকারীর ভূমিকায় থাকলেও, এই ১৯৪৩ সালে অর্থাৎ যুদ্ধের চতুর্থ বছরে এসেই জার্মানির উপর মিত্রবাহিনীর সম্মিলিত মূল আক্রমণ শুরু হয়। পূর্ব ও পশ্চিম উভয় ফ্রন্টে মিলিত আক্রমণের শিকার হয়ে এবং পরাজয় আসন্ন জেনে জার্মানিকে সম্পূর্ণ ধ্বংসের হাত থেকে রক্ষার জন্য ১৯৪৪-এর ২০ জুলাই সামরিক আর বেসামরিক অনেক উচ্চপদস্থ ব্যক্তি মিলিত হয়ে হিটলারকে হত্যার এক চেষ্টা চালায়। বলা বাহুল্য, সে চেষ্টা ব্যর্থ হয়। আর এই হত্যাচেষ্টার প্রতিশোধ হিসেবে গোটা জার্মানিতে হিটলারের বিরোধী শেষ ব্যক্তিটিকেও খুঁজে বের করে হত্যা করা হয়। এই ঘটনাই জার্মানিকে তার চূড়ান্ত পরিণতির দিকে নিয়ে যায়। হিটলার, যার উচ্চতায় ইতিহাসে দ্বিতীয় কোন জার্মান কখনও উঠতে পারেননি, যিনি নিজেকে জার্মানির সর্বক্ষমতাময় ভাগ্যনিয়ন্তার আসনে অধিষ্ঠিত করেছেন, জার্মানির ভাগ্যকে তিনি নিজের ভাগ্যের সাথে আষ্টেপৃষ্টে বেঁধে ফেলেন। আর সে ভাগ্য ছিল সম্পূর্ণরূপে ধ্বংস হওয়া। ১৯৪৫-এর ৩০ এপ্রিল হিটলার নিজের পরিণতি নিজেই ঠিক করেন আত্মহত্যার মাধ্যমে। তাঁর নিজের হাতে গড়ে তোলা থার্ড রাইখের পতন ঘটে এর সাতদিন পরে, ৭মে, মিত্রশক্তির কাছে নিঃশর্ত আত্মসমর্পণের মধ্যে দিয়ে। আর তাঁর স্বপ্নের জার্মান সাম্রাজ্য এবং এর সুপ্রাচীন শহরগুলো পরিণত হয় ধ্বংসস্তূপে। থার্ড রাইখ, নাৎসিরা গর্বভরে যাকে ডাকত “Thousand Years Reich” বলে, বাস্তবে স্থায়ী হয় মাত্র ১২ বছর। কিন্তু এই স্বল্প সময়েই তা জন্ম দেয় এমন সব ঘটনার, গোটা বিশ্বকে যা চিরকালের মত নাড়িয়ে দেয়। কেবল দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধের স্রষ্টা বলেই নয়, নাৎসি বাহিনী ইতিহাসে চিরকালের মত কুখ্যাত হয়ে আছে গণহত্যার বর্বরতম নজির স্থাপন করে। ইউরোপে “The New Order”এর নামে তারা কায়েম করে এক ত্রাসের রাজত্ব। দখলকৃত ইউরোপকে কিভাবে জার্মানির লেবেনস্রমে পরিণত করা হবে এই ব্যাপারে প্রধান অনুসারীদের দেওয়া হিটলারের তিনটি সহজ নির্দেশ এই নিউ অর্ডারের আসল রূপটি তুলে ধরেঃ “We have first, to dominate it; Second, to administer it; Third, to exploit it.” হিটলারের অন্য সব নির্দেশের মতই এই বিশেষ নির্দেশটিও তাঁর একান্ত অনুসারীরা মেনে চলে অক্ষরে অক্ষরে। দখলকৃত ইউরোপে, বিশেষত পোল্যান্ড আর রাশিয়াতে নিউ অর্ডার সবচেয়ে জঘন্য রূপ ধারণ করে। সব ধরনের আন্তর্জাতিক আইন লঙ্ঘন করে যুদ্ধ বন্দীদের দাস হিসেবে ব্যবহার করা হয়, তাদেরকে কাজে লাগানো হয় জার্মানির অস্ত্র তৈরির কারখানায়। মৃত্যু অবধি এই বন্দীদের দিয়ে কাজ করানো হয়, কোন ধরনের খাদ্য-পানীয় বা জীবনধারণের ন্যূনতম চাহিদা না মিটিয়ে। এর বাইরে চলে ব্যাপক গণহত্যা। আর ইহুদিদের জন্য নেওয়া হয় চূড়ান্ত পদক্ষেপঃ “The Final Solution”, যার মূলকথা ছিল একটাই, ইউরোপের সমস্ত ইহুদিকে স্রেফ নিশ্চিহ্ন করে ফেলা। পাইকারী হারে এই হত্যাযজ্ঞ সফল করার জন্য গোটা ইউরোপজুড়ে স্থাপন করা হয় অসংখ্য কনসেন্ট্রেশন ক্যাম্প আর এক্সটারমিনেশন ক্যাম্প। নাৎসি বাহিনীর বর্বরতার সবচেয়ে বিকৃত রূপ এই ক্যাম্পগুলোতেই ধরা পড়ে। কনসেন্ট্রেশন ক্যাম্পগুলো তাও অনেক ‘মাইল্ড’ ছিল, কেননা এগুলো ব্যবহৃত হত মূলত শাস্তি দেওয়ার জন্য, অত্যাচার-নির্যাতন করার জন্য, গুরুত্বপূর্ণ অনেক রাজনৈতিক ব্যক্তিকে আটকে রাখার জন্য। কিন্তু এক্সটারমিনেশন ক্যাম্পগুলো ছিল স্রেফ মৃত্যুপুরী। এগুলোর প্রধান ও একমাত্র উদ্দেশ্য ছিল বন্দীদের হত্যা করা। যে কারণে আমরা দেখতে পাই, এই ক্যাম্পগুলোর কমান্ডারদের মধ্যে প্রতিযোগিতা চলত কার ক্যাম্পে কত দ্রুত ও কত সফলভাবে সবচেয়ে বেশি সংখ্যক মানুষ মারা যায় সে বিষয়ে। এক্সটারমিনেশন ক্যাম্পগুলোর মধ্যে সবচেয়ে বড় এবং নিজ উদ্দেশ্যে সবচেয়ে সফল ‘অশউইৎজ’ এখনও সে বিকৃত হত্যাযজ্ঞের সাক্ষ্য বহন করে চলেছে। মাত্র এক যুগ স্থায়ী নাৎসি রাজত্বের ভয়াবহতা এবং এর ফলে ইউরোপে নেমে আসা অন্ধকার, এসমস্ত কিছুই শিরারের বইতে নিখুঁতভাবে উঠে এসেছে। বস্তুত নাৎসি জার্মানির শাসনকালের তেমন কোন দিকই লেখক বাদ দেননি। হিটলারের উত্থান এবং তাঁর চূড়ান্ত পরাজয়, এসবের পেছনের কারণও লেখক নির্দেশ করেছেন। হিটলারের ক্ষমতায় আসার জন্য লেখক দায়ী করেন জার্মানদের অসচেতনতা, সে সময়ের রাজনৈতিক অস্থিরতা, বিভক্তি এবং সর্বোপরি জার্মান সামরিক বাহিনীর স্বার্থপর আচরণকে। তবু লেখক মনে করেন, জার্মানির ক্ষমতায় থাকলেও ইউরোপে আধিপত্য বিস্তারের অনেক আগেই হিটলারকে থামিয়ে দেওয়া যেত, যদি ব্রিটেন আর ফ্রান্স সঠিক সময়ে তাঁর বিরুদ্ধে যথাযথ ব্যবস্থা নিত। উত্থানের পেছনে অনেক কারণ থাকলেও, হিটলারের পতনের জন্য লেখক মোটামুটি তাঁকেই দায়ী করেছেন। কোনরকম প্রাতিষ্ঠানিক সামরিক শিক্ষা ছাড়াই হিটলার এককভাবে গোটা যুদ্ধ নিয়ন্ত্রণ করেছেন। প্রধান জেনারেলদের বার বার নিষেধ সত্ত্বেও জড়িয়ে পড়েছেন দুই ফ্রন্টের যুদ্ধে। সবচেয়ে সংকটপূর্ণ অবস্থাতেও মানতে চাননি কারো কোন পরামর্শ বা উপদেশ। আর হিটলারের ক্ষেত্রে একটা জিনিস বার বার দেখা যায় যে, বেশিরভাগ ক্ষেত্রেই গুরুত্বপূর্ণ সিদ্ধান্তগুলো তিনি যুক্তি বা সবার সাথে পরামর্শ দ্বারা নেননি, বরং আবেগ বা সাময়িক উত্তেজনায় চালিত হয়ে নিয়েছেন। ১৫-১৬ জন জেনারেলকে একসাথে ফিল্ড মার্শাল বানাতে যেমন তাঁর এক মুহূর্ত ভাবতে হয়নি, সামান্য কারণে সে ফিল্ড মার্শালকে অপমান করে বিতাড়িত করতেও তেমনি তাঁর বাঁধেনি। আরেকটা ব্যাপার পরিষ্কার যে, হিটলার নিজেকে জার্মানির চূড়ান্ত পরিণতি বলে মনে করতেন, দৃঢ়ভাবে বিশ্বাস করতেন অদৃষ্টই তাঁকে একাজে নিয়োজিত করেছে। আর এই অন্ধবিশ্বাসের ফলেনিজেকে সকল ভুলত্রুটির উর্দ্ধে চিন্তা করতেন। যে কারণে আমরা দেখতে পাই, যুদ্ধের সবচেয়ে সংকটের সময়ে তাঁর ভুল সিদ্ধান্ত যখন তাঁর সেনাবাহিনীর পরাজয় ডেকে আনে, তখন তিনি সে পরাজয়ের সংবাদসহজে গ্রহণ করতে পারতেন না, ভয়ংকর উত্তেজিত হয়ে যেতেন, হারিয়ে ফেলতেন নিজের উপর নিয়ন্ত্রণ, নিজের ভুল স্বীকার না করে দায়ী করতেন যুদ্ধক্ষেত্রে উপস্থিত জেনারেলদের। নিজের ব্যাপারে এই অন্ধ আত্মবিশ্বাসই শেষ পর্যন্ত তাঁর ধ্বংস ডেকে আনে। লেখক উইলিয়াম শিরার থার্ড রাইখের বেশিরভাগ সময়ই জার্মানিতে কাটিয়েছেন আমেরিকার সংবাদদাতা হিসেবে, নাৎসি বাহিনীর উত্থান-পতন দেখেছেন নিজের চোখে। পরবর্তীতে যুদ্ধশেষে নুরেমবার্গ ট্রায়ালে উপস্থিত থেকে নাৎসি জার্মানির মূল যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের জবানবন্দি শুনেছেন। এসব অভিজ্ঞতা এ বইটিকে আরও সমৃদ্ধ করেছে। কিন্তু তবু কিছুক্ষেত্রে লেখকের সীমাবদ্ধতা চোখে পড়ে। যেমন মুসোলিনির প্রতি কেমন যেন একটা সহানুভূতির আভাস আমরা এ বইতে পাই। হিটলার যাকে নিজের অন্যতম আইডল বলে মনে করতেন, আমৃত্যু যার সাথে সখ্যতা বজায় রাখেন, ইটালিতে একনায়কতন্ত্র কায়েম করা, ফ্যাসিবাদের জনক সেই মুসোলিনিকে এ বইতে আমরা দেখতে পাই যথেষ্ট শান্তিপ্রিয় এবং বিচক্ষণ একজন রাষ্ট্রনায়ক হিসেবে। অন্যদিকে রাশিয়ার প্রতি লেখকের এক ধরনের শীতল মনোভাবের পরিচয়ও আমরা পাই। যে কারণে অন্য অনেক ঘটনার সুক্ষাতিসুক্ষ বিবরণ পাওয়া গেলেও, মস্কো, লেনিনগ্রাদ এবং সর্বোপরি স্তালিনগ্রাদের যুদ্ধে রাশিয়ান বাহিনীর অসামান্য বীরত্বের উল্লেখযোগ্য কোন বিবরণ আমরা এই বইতে পাই না। একই কারণে হয়ত যুদ্ধের তিন মিত্রশক্তি রাশিয়া, আমেরিকা ও ব্রিটেন কিভাবে একত্রিত হল, তার কোনরকম উল্লেখ পাওয়া যায় না। এমনকি এই তিন রাষ্ট্রপ্রধানের গুরুত্বপূর্ণ কনফারেন্সগুলোর, যেগুলো সূত্রপাত ঘটায় জাতিসংঘের(কিংবা পরবর্তীতে স্নায়ুযুদ্ধের), কোন উল্লেখ এই বইতে চোখে পড়ে না। পেশায় সাংবাদিক হওয়ায় এবং সে দৃষ্টিভঙ্গি থেকে লেখায়অনেকক্ষেত্রেই হয়ত লেখক অনেক ঘটনার ঐতিহাসিক ও সামাজিক গুরুত্বযথাযথভাবে ফুটিয়ে তুলতে পারেননি, উপরল্লেখিত কিছু সীমাবদ্ধতাও হয়ত তাঁর মধ্যে ছিল; কিন্তু বিপুল পরিমাণ তথ্য-উপাত্ত ঘেঁটে, হাজার হাজার পাতার নথিপত্র ও ব্যক্তিগত ডায়েরী বিশ্লেষণ করে এবং সর্বোপরি নিজের অভিজ্ঞতার আলোকে যেঅক্লান্ত পরিশ্রম করে লেখক ১২০০ পাতার এই বই লিখেছেন তা সত্যিই অতুলনীয়। পাতায় পাতায় ফুটনোট আর শেষে বিপুল পরিমাণ রেফারেন্স বইটিকে করে তুলেছে আরও নির্ভরযোগ্য। আকার-আয়তন ও বিষয়বস্তুতে বিশাল এই বইয়ে এত এত ঘটনা ও চরিত্রের বর্ণনা লেখক দিয়েছেন অত্যন্ত সাবলীল ভাষায়, গল্প বলার ভঙ্গিতে। যে কারণে প্রায় মাসতিনেক এ বইয়ে আটকে থাকলেও সে আটক অবস্থা মোটেই বিরক্তির কারণ হয়ে দাঁড়ায়নি। লেখকের লেখনীর গুণে বরং মানবসভ্যতার ইতিহাসের বর্বরতম এই অধ্যায় চোখের সামনে ফুটে উঠেছে একদম জীবন্ত হয়ে।

  25. 5 out of 5

    Fede

    A poet recommended this book to me some years ago... without knowing. Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet and singer, was among the most tormented Jewish artists of his generation. The wound of the holocaust bled in his soul like a stigmata, and yet he was deeply fascinated by the omnipotent Nazi perpetrators, whose faces were becoming more and more familiar to the public in those years - the 60s - thanks to the greedy attention of the media. Wiesenthal's historical manhunt, Eichmann's trial, the r A poet recommended this book to me some years ago... without knowing. Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet and singer, was among the most tormented Jewish artists of his generation. The wound of the holocaust bled in his soul like a stigmata, and yet he was deeply fascinated by the omnipotent Nazi perpetrators, whose faces were becoming more and more familiar to the public in those years - the 60s - thanks to the greedy attention of the media. Wiesenthal's historical manhunt, Eichmann's trial, the rumors about Doktor Mengele's experiments in his Brazilian hideout, and W. Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" inspired and deeply influenced Cohen's poetry, to the point of being mentioned in his 1964 collection "Flowers for Hitler". Hence my decision to finally begin my struggle against the 1200 odd pages of this mammoth. This book is a classic, and rightly so. Five decades after it was first published it's still the main reference - the sine qua non - for any serious work on the history of National Socialism, a milestone to be reckoned with when dealing with the task of analysing the years 1933-45 (as well as the previous decades, in which several factors and events laid the basis of what would become the Nazi regime). And yet, among the mostly enthusiastic reviews, some readers declare themselves deeply unsatisfied by Shirer's alleged lack of objectivity: according to these reviewers, the American journalist was too blatantly influenced by the political perspective of the post-war USA to be a truly reliable source of information. As though Shirer was too blinded by a daily amount of American anti-German propaganda to see clearly through the fog. Now, I hope this won't sound arrogant, but I wonder whether these reviewers have ever read the book. Because some of such comments are so questionable that, well, one can't help but wonder. Shirer spent a long time searching through the declassified dossiers and military reports that had been kept in American custody since the end of the war; such was the book's genesis. But he was already acquainted with Nazism: his experience was a first-hand knowledge of a country and an era (Germany during the Weimar years and then the Nazi insane government) in which he had found himself living as a journalist, more precisely as correspondent for political affairs. He didn't learn about Nazism watching TV or leafing through "Life" magazine, you know. In fact what really intrigued me in his account is the unusual honesty of his viewpoint. Because Shirer is more than objective in analysing the social and historical origins of National Socialism, as well as the apocalyptic 'journey to the end of the night' that was WW2. In the first chapters Shirer is brave enough to describe what it was like living in Germany in the 20s, among millions of desperate, unemployed, often starving people who had witnessed the fall of their country and the end of their cretinous Kaiser's dream of grandeur. He saw Hitler many times and listened to several of his speeches, and he's extremely convincing in describing their effect on such a destroyed nation. The point is: the Nazi leaders were certainly evil, mentally ill, depraved, often a bunch of nobodies from nowhere, often alcoholic, often fond of cocaine and heroin (I'm not sure whether they knew about Speed, but I'm positive they would have liked it a lot); but they were also shrewd and ferociously charismatic figures to whom history offered a unique chance to take over the debris of the Weimar Republic - a ludicrous sham really - and millions of people who were on their knees. Thus the author deals with history in the best way possible: trying to understand what lead to the events and how. Maybe even why. Unfortunately, some readers seem unable to appreciate it. Most of the book is a painstaking account of WW2, and it couldn't be otherwise; Shirer tells us about the failure of the European democracies in stopping Hitler when it was still possible and the shameful, cowardly bargains between UK, France, Italy, Russia and Germany, a momentous phase in which every government tried to shy away and, in doing so, take advantage of the others' misfortune: see Munich 1938, when the Czech Republic was shared like a pie. Even Poland had its share, by the way. As for the USA, Roosevelt's bipolar attitude - from political and military shyness to the Enola Gay ('...is mother proud of Little Boy today...') - doesn't make a good impression either; but of course the author is writing a pro-USA pamphlet. The conquest of the East and the destruction of the west, the Mediterranean and the African desert front, the Russian débacle, Europe's New Order... the German archives were a goldmine through which a generation of historians was finally able to find its way. The last chapters are equally good; the fall of National Socialism and, tragically, of a whole population that, once again, had deluded itself - paving the way for its evil messiah of doom. A LONG read that I definitely recommend. Beware though: it's very detailed. If you're not into modern history, pick a shorter book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    William L. Shirer's classic examination of the Nazi era from its roots in the end of World War I to its (governmental) demise at the end of World War II is simply one of the great works of history. Built both on Shirer's own experiences as a reporter and eyewitness to Hitler's regime and upon the captured documents of the German government, Shirer depicts, brick by brick, how the edifice of Nazism was built and how, ultimately, it collapsed, largely under the weight of Adolf Hitler's hubris. Tho William L. Shirer's classic examination of the Nazi era from its roots in the end of World War I to its (governmental) demise at the end of World War II is simply one of the great works of history. Built both on Shirer's own experiences as a reporter and eyewitness to Hitler's regime and upon the captured documents of the German government, Shirer depicts, brick by brick, how the edifice of Nazism was built and how, ultimately, it collapsed, largely under the weight of Adolf Hitler's hubris. Though I have been a fascinated student of the Second World War and its triggering factors, never before have I felt so completely clear about the progression of events and the force of individual personalities in the creation of the most horrific period of European history. Anyone who is interested in how a nation rose to power while losing its soul, or in how it might so easily happen again, would be well advised to start, or augment, their education with this masterful work.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sweetwilliam

    William Shirer’s book is an outstanding history of Adolph Hitler and the 11 year life of the Third Reich. The book was extremely interesting and I think it was because much of Shirer’s history is first hand. He was a correspondent for CBS news located in Berlin from 1934 to December of 1940. I am wondering how he was able to cover Berlin as a Jewish-American correspondent but he did so until December of 1940. During the fall of France, Shirer was able to effectively scoop all the other world new William Shirer’s book is an outstanding history of Adolph Hitler and the 11 year life of the Third Reich. The book was extremely interesting and I think it was because much of Shirer’s history is first hand. He was a correspondent for CBS news located in Berlin from 1934 to December of 1940. I am wondering how he was able to cover Berlin as a Jewish-American correspondent but he did so until December of 1940. During the fall of France, Shirer was able to effectively scoop all the other world news agencies by being the first to report on the French surrender to Germany. After the war, Shirer returned to Germany to cover the Nuremberg trials. Shirer uses countless sources including diaries of notable players, the captured secret German archives, and finally the Nuremberg transcripts to paint his portrait of Nazi Germany and the dictator that led it. The most interesting diary entries and the most frequently quoted where that of Mussolini’s son-in-law and Foreign Minister, Galeazzo Ciano, and German OKW Franz Halder…the former did all he could to urge Mussolini to stay out of that war and the latter provided copious notes until he was finally fired by Hitler midway through the Russian campaign. Halder was fired because Adolph preferred to have a General with a more “National Socialist ardor.” I thought the book started a little slow and it was a little too lengthy. Shirer could have probably trimmed the first 50 pages. There was little need to take the reader back to Hitler’s grandparents. Also, Hitler’s early life was not very interesting. This part of Shirer’s book was a bore compared to say, Manchester’s magnificent stage setting of the Victorian era and the early Churchill-Spencer family in The Last Lion. Shirer’s stage setting almost made me put the book down. Hitler’s rise to power and the build up to the outbreak of WWII was very complex and unbelievable. If this were a work of fiction I would say that it was too far-fetched. The book illustrates how Hitler won over the the support of the unions, the churches, the businessmen, the farmers, the Wehrmacht etc. Like a greasy politician, Hitler placated every group until he had dictatorial powers and no longer had to. In every case, all but the Nazi party ended up as losers as Hitler broke every promise he had ever made. Likewise, Hitler had made treaties with every country including Poland prior to invading. These were treaties of convenience that he never intended to keep. He may have been the first politico to say that treaties are worth no more than the paper they are written on. They certainly were with Adolph. It was all so that he could divide and conquer and this book points out every painful detail. Hitler justified the invasion of Poland by having the SS dress up in Polish uniforms and take over a German radio station located on the boarder and broadcast in Polish. The SS even brought along drugged concentration camp prisoners dressed up in Polish uniforms. They killed them and left them as proof of this violation of the treaty. The entire episode was ludicrous but Hitler presented this as fact. He now had his reason to attack Poland. I've listed a few key learnings from the book below: There was a constant conspiracy to assassinate or arrest Hitler by the Wehrmacht. Key General Officers wanted to avoid starting another war because they felt that they could not win it. Nuremburg testimony reveals that several general officers would have pulled a coup de ta had Chamberlain not appeased Hitler at Munich. Had Stalin not signed a pact with Germany there would have been no way that Germany would have attacked Poland or invaded France. Hitler’s decision to attack his friend Stalin and then personally insert himself in the strategy of the invasion of the Soviet Union marked the death knell for the Third Reich. Shirer does a great job of covering the war, the politics, all the assassination plots and attempts, and the Nazi cruelty and barbarity. There is so much information here that this book serves as a great reference. Stick with it and you will be glad that you had.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    The great strength of this book is that it was written by a journalist. There is a simple narrative and clear prose. Best of all in a couple of places at least he draws upon his own experiences (for example a conversation with a General during the re-militarisation of the Rhineland and seeing German troops and English prisoners of war during the invasion of France in 1940 (Shirer had been a journalist based in France from 1925 and in Germany from 1934). Equally the great weakness of this book is The great strength of this book is that it was written by a journalist. There is a simple narrative and clear prose. Best of all in a couple of places at least he draws upon his own experiences (for example a conversation with a General during the re-militarisation of the Rhineland and seeing German troops and English prisoners of war during the invasion of France in 1940 (Shirer had been a journalist based in France from 1925 and in Germany from 1934). Equally the great weakness of this book is that it was written by a journalist. There's no subtly while its clarity and certainty mask the fact that it is dated now (view spoiler)[it was first published in 1960 (hide spoiler)] - research has moved much further on. To pick up on a few points the book is from memory relatively weak on the Holocaust, you don't get any sense of the polycentralism and factionalism of the fascist government. Shirer traces a long view or perhaps more aptly a Sonderweg from roughly Luther to the Third Reich when, on the whole, taking a broader view of Northern and Central Europe much of what is exceptional in the German political context seems to come from the conduct of political life during the Second Empire from 1871. Shirer though, having found his story, sticks to it in the process creating a mirror image of the kind of history that political extremists on the far right themselves liked to create. Read it for enjoyment but don't regard it as definitive or the last word on the subject.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    My first thought at the book's end was, "I finished it!" My second thought was, "I'm not so sure I'm glad I read this." As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. My summer spent reading this book held a dark cloud over me, which has yet to be lifted. I've spent many evenings in tears over the utter cruelty of the Third Reich. Shirer, a noted journalist, makes it clear he is not a historian. However, the scope of information he covers and use of primary sources would prove otherwise. I find Shirer a My first thought at the book's end was, "I finished it!" My second thought was, "I'm not so sure I'm glad I read this." As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. My summer spent reading this book held a dark cloud over me, which has yet to be lifted. I've spent many evenings in tears over the utter cruelty of the Third Reich. Shirer, a noted journalist, makes it clear he is not a historian. However, the scope of information he covers and use of primary sources would prove otherwise. I find Shirer an engaging writer despite the challenging material covered in this book. This is not for the faint of heart. And yet, it is important for one to learn history in order for it not to be repeated. My advice: read this one slowly and know when to take breaks to clear your mind. Hitler and his cronies were evil men.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    Le Troisième Reich des origines à la chute, est un excellent livre qui a répondu a toutes les questions sur le phénomene Nazi que posaient les gens de l'Amérique du Nord et de l'Europe de l'Ouest durant les années cinquante. En plus il donne une interpretation du Troisième Reich que les historiens de nos jours acceptent. Les nouveaux livres nous apportent des nuances et des approfondissements mais il mettent pas en question les thèses principales de Shirer. Comme bien des gens, je crois que la b Le Troisième Reich des origines à la chute, est un excellent livre qui a répondu a toutes les questions sur le phénomene Nazi que posaient les gens de l'Amérique du Nord et de l'Europe de l'Ouest durant les années cinquante. En plus il donne une interpretation du Troisième Reich que les historiens de nos jours acceptent. Les nouveaux livres nous apportent des nuances et des approfondissements mais il mettent pas en question les thèses principales de Shirer. Comme bien des gens, je crois que la biographie d'Hitler d'Ian Kershaw nous donne un portrait plus complète de l'époque Nazi mais Kershaw cite Shirer a maintes reprises dans son oeuvre et avoue que Le Troisième Reich des origines à la chute l'a beaucoup aider a comprendre l'historie des Nazis. C'est a vous de choisir, entre ces deux excellents livres. Dans sa preface, Shirer explique et justifie son projet. On n'a pas du attendre trente ans avant que les archives des nations alliés ont été ouvertes aux recherchistes mais les archives allemandes ont été ouverte et analysé pour le procès de Nuremberg. Donc on pouvait écrire l'histoire du régime Hitlerienne des les années 1950. Shirer a décide d'écrire son histoire parce qu'il avait une grande envie personnelle de comprendre. Il travailait comme journaliste en Allemagne au moment ou Hitler a pris le pouvoir et il y est resté jusqu'en 1942 quand Hitler a déclaré la guerre contre les Etats-Unis. Il a vecu l'experience Nazi et il a fait des reportages la-dessus mais il avait l'impression de n'avoir rien compris. Il cherchait dans les archives un explication de la folie dans laquelle il a vecu pendant dix ans. En fin, Le Troisième Reich des origines à la chute est l'effort d'un journaliste de trouver la vérité derrière les manchettes. Shirer a qualifié les Nazis comme étant des malades mentaux et des vicieux. C'est une vision retenue par les historiens de nos jours. Shirer est outré que les Allemands ont accepte Hitler comme chef. Il est outré aussi que les Francais et les Anglais ont cédé lors de chaque aggression d'Hitler. Il a noté aussi que les Francais et les Anglais ont été tres faché avec les Polonais qui ont provoqué la guerre en refusant de faire des compromis avec Hitler. Les historiens de nos jours continuent a juger sévèrement la national Allemande pour avoir appuyé Hitler et les nations Francaises et Anglaises pour les concessions qui ont fait pendant les années 1930. Qu'est-ce qui a changé alors dans notre maniere de regarder les Nazi? Shirer a dit que les Nazis étaient des malades mentaux et des vicieux. Ian Kershaw a explique pourquoi les maladies mentaux et les vicieux se sont ralliés derrière Hitler plutot qu'un autre. En plus, Kershaw explique les mecanismes avec lesquels Hitler a controler et a diriger les troupes. Le plus étonnant est qu'Hitler a réussi a mettre en marche l'Endlosung sans ordre écrit sans ordre verbale. Meme il a interdit toute mention d'Holocaust dans les réunions officielles et dans ses conversations privées avec ses ministres. Shirer semble ne pas etre au courant des efforts extraordinaires d'Hitler de ne pas s'impliquer dans le Shoah tout en l'encourageant. C'est pourquoi il faut lire Kershaw en plus de Shirer. J'ai d'autres bémols. A mon avis, Shirer consacre trop d'espace dans son livre aux complots ratés chez les militaires d'assassiner Hitler. Cependant, il a bien décrit une réalité: les officiers des forces armées issus en grande partie de l'aristocratie détestaient le petit caporal d'origines tres modeste ce qui ne leur empecher de suivre fidelement tous ses ordres foux. L'intéret de Shirer dans les les complots est possiblement du au fait que l'on a examiné lors de proces de Nuremberg mais j'ai trouve qu'il a écrit plus sur le sujet que le sujet méritait. Je trouve aussi que Shirer s'est fié un peu trop au journal de Galeazzo Ciano, le gendre de Benito Mussolini, dans son traitment de la politique d'Il Duce. Cependant il avait un interet fort chez le public dans les relations entre Mussolini et Hitler et Shirer devait composer avec les sources a sa disposition. Il faut reconnaitre aussi que notre génération pose des questions différentes sure le phenomène Nazi que la génération de Shirer. De nos jours, il y a beaucoup plus d'intéret dans le Front de l'Est ou la majeure partie des morts civiles et militaires ont eu lieu. Aussi, on s'intéresse plus a la guerre dans la Pacifique a laquelle les Allemands n'ont pas participé. Cependant, il faut reconnaitre que Shirer a écrit un chef d'oeuvre pour son époque et que ses interpretations ont bien résisté au temps écoulé depuis le lancement de son livre. Le Troisième Reich des origines à la chute continue a guider les historiens aux vingt-en-unieme siecle dans leur recherches sur le Troisième Reich.

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