2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shirer provides unparalleled insights into the Third Reich
Many people have remarked that Shirer wasn't the most objective observer of the Third Reich. Some reviewers have stated that they would have preferred a volume devoid of personal biases and slanted observations, believing themselves competent to form their own opinions of the characters involved. If you count yourself one of this group, don't read Shirer. Don't read, for...
Published on July 6 2004
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mindboggling
This book was torture to read. It started off very exciting and interesting, Hitler's background and Vienna days and the formative years of the party were fascinating, but starting with the party's rise to power and with it EVERY twist and turn about how they intrigued and bullied their way to the top and then the occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia it became...
Published on April 10 2001
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shirer provides unparalleled insights into the Third Reich,
By A Customer
Many people have remarked that Shirer wasn't the most objective observer of the Third Reich. Some reviewers have stated that they would have preferred a volume devoid of personal biases and slanted observations, believing themselves competent to form their own opinions of the characters involved. If you count yourself one of this group, don't read Shirer. Don't read, for that matter, any book written by a human. I am more than content to base my opinions of Nazi leaders on Shirer's observations. He was an incredibly intelligent man in the best position possible for giving us an outsider's view into the otherwise murky world of Nazi Germany. How else do we form conclusions about men and women who died 60 years ago if not by cannibalizing the observations of others? It is impossible for anyone lving today to form an accurate picture of any historical figure without relying on the words of previous observers. Where else but from Shirer could we have learned that Hitler was commonly reffered to as a "Teppichfresser" ('carpet-eater' - referring to his occaisional fits of rage that ended with him drooling on the floor and knawing at the carpet) by those who disliked him? By the very nature of its author and the circumstances under which it was written, this book will probably never be surpassed in providing a broad, yet incredibly insightful view into the Third Reich.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic,
Excellent, and if you are interested in Nazi Germany, then a must-read. Pretty long, but very readable. (It's quite obvious the author was a journalist and knew something about putting readable prose together.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riviting read . . .,
On the very eve of the birth of the Third Reich a feverish tension gripped Berlin . . . Wow! what a great first sentence! Having read this book almost thirty years ago, it still remains the best and most complete history of the Third Reich I have read. Shires purpose is not merely to describe the events that led up to the founding of the Reich and its eventual destruction; but to discover and document the intrigues, treachery, motives and aberrations that precipitated its rise and fall.
I will let others review the history and critique Shire on his research, I would like to comment on the beauty of his prose as he describes what must be the most hellish and destructive state that has existed. Historians have the tendency to be dull, they get so caught up in explaining facts and documenting the movement of armies across strange and foreign landscapes, that the reader tends to get lost in a maze of statistics, foreign names, and seemingly insignificant details. Shire avoids this common pitfall. For instance, after quoting from a German generals diary which described Hitlers intentions in occupied Poland, Shire describes the Nazi intentions in vivid prose. . . Nazi terror. . . forerunner to dark and terrible deeds. . . Nazi barbarism reached an incredible depth. Although Shire, in the introduction of this book made the assertion of strict objectivity, he did not let his objectivity hide the awfulness of Nazi atrocities.
Although well written, it is not an easy book to read. Its sheer length of over 1100 pages may be daunting to the faint of heart; yet, if you are not familiar with the Third Reich and want to have an understanding of the people whom were instrumental in its raise and fall, no other book will give you better oversight and understanding of it than The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mindboggling,
By A Customer
This review is from: Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Mass Market Paperback)
This book was torture to read. It started off very exciting and interesting, Hitler's background and Vienna days and the formative years of the party were fascinating, but starting with the party's rise to power and with it EVERY twist and turn about how they intrigued and bullied their way to the top and then the occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia it became excruciating and suffocating to wade through. Characters appear and vanish with breathtaking rapidity never to be heard from again, or else hang around for hundreds of pages (especially Schleicher and Dahlerus) and won't go away. This book's pious and mindboggling coverage of basically only the political events comes at the expense of details about other aspects of the Third Reich (like the Ss, Gestapo, Hitler Youth, Heydrich, Speer, exactly how Germany rearmed, etc.). For example, did we really need a blow-by-blow account of every single turn and setback and last minute comeback and every trivial detail (complete with date, time and even weather descriptions!) regarding how these gangsters came to power? So often I threw up my hands and tore at my hair and screamed as I kept reading about how so and so telephoned so and so at 2 a.m. in the morning then waited all day for a reply... or how many times Hitler flew into the absolutely worst rage in his life... it was sickening enough reading about how dirty and slimy Nazi politics had been but to have every minor character unearthed and every trivial detail thrown a spotlight on through virtually all of 1500 pages including huge footnotes--the footnotes may as well have been a separate book!--it was all just too much. And Ribbentrop, whom Shirer sneered endlessly at is on practically every page in the last two thirds. If he was so pompous and intolerable, did every item in his daily itinerary really needed scrutiny? I'm not exaggerating. Except for Hitler, Ribbentrop is the leading character in the narrative; as a result, more fascinating people like Heydrich and Rommel were given short shrift. Even a little more on Himmler--heck, Streicher--may not have hurt and may have tendered the endless monotony of diplomacy and backstabbing and squabbling. I guess what I am trying to say is that if this book had been a little more well-rounded, it might have been better. I realize one could read other books for more information about other characters and events, but I really wanted it all from this book. After all it has the all-encompassing title of "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and everyone claims it the definitive history of those days. Also, Shirer has an annoying tendency for Monday morning quarterbacking, and his personal phobias mars the seriousness of this book somewhat. Also, his prose style is distracting and ebbs as much as it flows. The acute sections on the Holocaust and the July plot however were very worthwhile. Overall, three stars. Perhaps this book was not meant to be read from cover to cover; you have been warned.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will history repeat itself ?,
This review is from: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Kindle Edition)
With all of the major accolades and minor complaints about this book being said in other reviews, I choose not to add my thoughts to these lists. Instead, my reading of this text brought a series of questions to my mind that I would like to share:
1. Is our country of origin more concerned with the wealth of its elite or with the futures of its poor?
2. Do we have a single political party whose main objectives are to return the country to `the United States as we once knew it'?
3. Do we, too, polarize and stigmatize certain cultures and label them as alien and non-American?
4. Are we more interested in attaining peace throughout the world or are we, too, more interested in imperialism and world domination?
5. Is there a similarity between the concepts of `the superior Aryan race' and `American exceptionalism'?
6. Do we have a American public that is now illiterate to current events or, at least, under-informed?
7. Does a certain faction of US public have a strong tendency to undermine the equalities of women, minorities and the LGBT community?
8. Are big businesses and brokerage banks actually the deciders of our economic and social futures?
9. Do we see all other cultures as being on a level that is lower than the culture that we have developed?
10. Is there really any difference between patriotism, which we are told to strive for, and nationalism, which creates chasms between countries of the world?
11. Do we have a large portion of the country that is willing to place religious dogma above humanism and civil rights?
12. Lastly, is it true that history always repeats itself to those who become fat, lazy and unaware?
5.0 out of 5 stars An important classic....however dated....,
This book was one of the first histories of the Nazi era that I acquired for my library. Shirer had the unique perspective of actually being an American journalist for CBS in Berlin for many of the Hitler years. His journalistic aptitude shows itself greatly in the writing of this most important book. The book reads like a LONG newspaper article. Facts are presented and then there are extensive footnotes and references at the bottom of most of the pages for those who would like to follow up. Also, there is a wonderful index at the end of the book for those (like me!) who just want to read certain passages. Being that the length of the thing is 1500+ pages, sometimes, it is necessary to use the index!
This book is an excellent resource for someone who is just starting to learn about Nazi Germany. Shirer does an excellent job of presenting the history up to point where he did his writing. Unfortunately, his history has become somewhat dated since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (and the Soviet Union in 1991) has allowed the secret KGB archives concerning WWII to be opened. The availablity of this new source of information may make some of Shirer's conclusions about the end of the war invalid. Therefore, I highly recommend that one also read the Ian Kershaw biographies on Hitler which were published in the late 1990's/early 2000's (Hitler: Hubris and Hitler: Nemesis). These new biographies incorporate the newest information which has been released from the KGB within their pages.
Otherwise, Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is an excellent history and an instant classic of this most important era of the 20th Century. This book should be used as a companion to Hitler's Mein Kampf, as it will help the reader of that book to understand some of the things that Hitler talks about. However, one can read this book on its own...but you will find yourself intrigued and wanting to read more! This period of history is most fascinating, and Mr. Shirer's work makes it all the more so!
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant piece of historical writing!!,
William Shirer's book is the definitive text on Nazi Germany, and shall be forever more. Anyone who has read it will be awash in the tyrannical obsessions that made 1933-1945 in Europe a true living nightmare. Although it is obviously long, with more subtitles, annotations, and footnotes than one is generally accustomed to, these are essentially to the very nature of the complex subject material. Without peer, its comprehensive study of the years leading up to WWII are both gripping and frightening. Yes, most aspects of the Holocaust (Shoah) are given short shrift, but Shirer never pretended to be a definitive expert on the subject, and other texts define the atrocities much better. What really seperates this book from all the others of its genre are the use of captured Nazi documents. Recently, I saw a 2002 documentary called "Blind Spot", about Hitler's personal secretary, Traudl Junge, who recounted the last days in the bunker under the Chancellary in Berlin. Most of the commentary she recounted were nearly composed verbatim in this book, written over 40 years ago. If one wants to learn history, and not subjectivism, then this is the account to have in your library.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Historical Volume -- It Raises Some Questions,
This book is the excellent exploration of the development of a global-class terrorist, and should be read by every adult in the Western World. It's a lesson for all of us.
That said, I have to adduce some questions. Why didn't we give Neville Chamberlain's approach more time to work? Chamberlain favored a cooperative strategy, a real appreciation for tolerance and diversity. Why couldn't the allied nations (a fine practical example of a coalition formed by several countries) have sent inspectors to ensure compliance with the Treaty of Versailles? Couldn't we have given him more time to comply?
A major question of history was NEVER contemplated: Why does this terrorist hate us? What did the allies do wrong, to prompt this uprise from a suppressed member of the Eurpean community? Aren't we supposed to be more understanding, when terrorists lash out? Where was the compassion for the plight of the Bund? These allies ended up determining that their only tactic for dealing with this terrorist was to destroy him, and neutralize him as a threat to the world. Is that the sort of inclusive thinking which about half of us today (per a survey conducted in the United States in November 2000) insist is the preferred method for dealing with terrorists?
These allies, led by cowboys Roosevelt and Churchill, simply determined unilaterally that the terrorist had to be wiped out. Can anyone call that sort of mindset "progressive"? The allies merely destroyed an entire nation -- an exemplary socialist nation which had completely banned from its shores the corruption of capitalism. No sort of liberal thinking was employed in the process.
Following victory, the allies generously took on the task of rebuilding the nation they had just finished decimating. It was a long, arduous process completely void of instant gratification, and a lot of small-minded people living among the victors complained and railed and mewed and whined that it was taking too long, that the allies had not planned appropriately for "managing the peace."
Yes, this book indeed is a fine lesson for all of us living in the world today.
5.0 out of 5 stars Eyewitness to History,
This is a real reading project. My unabridged hard cover volume feels like the Manhattan phone directory, making it unwieldy to sit in bed and read. I had to buy a book stand to hold it on my lap desk!
Once the ergonomic problems were overcome it is, of course, a most worthy read.
Rather than recounting the details of the many battles of WWII (for example, the entire D-Day invasion is dispensed with in just a few pages), Shirer's book is instead focused on the mad genius and sheer will of Adolf Hitler and the fascinating story of his rise from poverty and obscurity to a position of absolute power. The book exhaustively details the political and diplomatic machinations that propelled Hitler and Germany into - and out of - WWII. Many pages are filled with footnotes (at a much smaller font size!) that give further detail about a subject in the main text. This virtually doubles the actual number of pages of reading material - it took me a solid three weeks of reading 1-2 hours a day to get through it.
Coupled with this is a keen insight into the German mindset, both from a mythological and historical standpoint, with a particular emphasis on the sense of injustice and deep anger the German people felt following their defeat in WWI and the Treaty of Versailles. All of this is vital to understanding how Hitler - who by all accounts was a hypnotic orator - was able to manipulate those around him and, ultimately, the German people.
Shirer has a unique perspective on the matter, having been both an eyewitness to many of the key events plus having had access to mountains of captured Nazi documents. He was also able to gain information directly from many of the principal figures involved. This allowed him to demolish the many self-serving recollections by various Nazi figures, and also to ferret out the inconsistencies and bona-fide errors found in many previously published works - even a few by Churchill himself.
The countless numbers of diplomats, generals, world leaders, obscure figures, Nazi thugs and unfortunate victims are woven together to produce an historical reference without parallel.
This is essential reading. It is the cornerstone of knowledge for any serious student of WWII and the horror of Nazi Germany.
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding book,and a classic of our times,
By A Customer
By far the most definitive account of the Nazi era, this book is brilliant from almost all viewpoints. It touches upon the German inter-war government, European politics during that period, the German Wehrmacht and the great battles of the War, the turning points and then the end, all in sufficient depth and detail.
The reader also gets a clear insight into the mind of the adolescent Hitler, his frustration on not being able to study arts at Vienna, his decision to leave home, the years he spent on the streets of Vienna (where his only company were the "rats, and the excruciating hunger") and his years as a Corporal in the Austrian Army, and finally his meteoric rise to become Chancellor of Germany.
In over 1200 pages, Shirer explains how a regime of unimaginable cruelty came into place, and took over Europe, despite the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations, and the utter misery of the German people at the end of 1918.
It seems to me as if the horrors of that age continue to be relived, as the oppression of peoples goes on, around the World. The book makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that besides the tumultuous changes within Germany itself, the single biggest factor that led to the War was the policy of appeasement followed by the western powers of the day. In their burning desire to see the fall of Bolshevik Russia, the West betrayed many lands, before they finally realised the enormity of Hitler's militarism. Today we once again live in an age where neo-colonialism has arisen, and the world is once again bent on appeasement. I am reminded of the words of Hans Frank (Governor General of Poland), at his trial at Nuremberg. He said, "A thousand years shall pass, but the guilt of Germany shall not be erased".
Before buying this book, it might be well worth remember that this is a book on Nazi Germany and the Third Reich, and not on the World War. For example, you wouldn't find too much on Pearl Harbour or the Imperial Japanese Navy. Also, while Mussolini's rise to power is dealt with, this book doesn't deal with the many dubious characters who arose in Italy during that period. And it certainly doesn't speak of the Red Army in detail. While some of these subjects do acquire passing reference, more authoritative books on them have been written and read.
This book comes close to being perfect; even so, it has its vices. Shirer seems to have prejudices against some of the wily characters he writes about, like Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hermann Goering, etc. while some of the other equally scrupulous characters don't seem to invite adjectives as harsh. A more conspicuous drawback is the superficial treatment of the Holocaust. Although scores of pages have been devoted to describe the capture, transport and execution of prisoners, as well as the conditions at the concentration camps, Shirer fails to fully capture the reader's imagination, as he does in other chapters. The author time and again stresses that the topic is vast as well as deep, but in the end fails to narrate as much as was necessary, considering the fact that the Holocaust is the most striking symbol of Nazi flagitism.
In spite of these negatives, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains an immortal classic. It shall forever be a reminder of the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, and indeed the causes that led to it.
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The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer (Paperback - Oct. 11 2011)
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