The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
by William L. Shirer.
Simon & Schuster 1959.
A huge book of equal significance. Shirer was a journalist who spent much time in Nazi and pre-Nazi Germany, and his personal insights add to the wealth of information contained in the book.
Beyond doubt, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read; yes, partly due to the inherently fascinating topic, but also due to Shirer’s ability to explain complex situations in a comprehensible way.
Interestingly enough, even Shirer admits Hitler’s genius, and it is phenomenal to watch him rise from a nobody to arguably the most powerful man in the world. It almost becomes tragic to watch his personal, military, and political collapse. This sense is partly due to Shirer’s objectivity; during the whole “Rise” book, Hitler seems to be merely a radical politician.
The “Fall” book becomes a bit tedious – even though Shirer stays away from a lot of the military history, some is of course necessary. However, his continual focus on the political history of this period really makes the long book a relatively fast read.
Hitler was undoubtedly a madman, and his physical deterioration assuredly indicates mental deterioration, yet at the same time, he was amazingly successful in most of his endeavours. What really stands out are the few bad military decisions he made – if not for those . . . ? Would we be living in a world of daily terror, and would our innate capacity for evil be nutured by the state?