Book Reviews

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – review

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’re a history buff, you need to read this book! Written by William L. Shirer, an American journalist active in Europe and Germany during WWII (his dates: February 23, 1904 – December 20, 1993), this is a history like few others.

Shirer’s access to and quoting of primary sources, like documents, diaries, telegrams, and letters written by world leaders at the time and made available through the Nuremburg Trials, gives us more than a glimpse into the rise of the Nazi party and the mental and emotional machinations of its main players as the war played out between 1939 and 1945. The book takes in a time span from Hitler’s early years to the end of WWII.

It is quite a tome, replete with a bibliography and chapter end notes. Despite its length, it was hard to put down as it often read like a novel. The biggest challenge was to keep straight all the names of characters and places.

Reading it at this time when Russia is at war with Ukraine, I couldn’t help but see many parallels between Hitler and Putin.

– Hitler’s goal to expand the territory of Germany (gain lebensraum) while very intentionally destroying or enslaving the peoples and cultures of the countries he invaded reminds me of Putin, intent on destroying all things Ukrainian is doing things like deleting references to Ukraine in school textbooks.

– Hitler’s modus operandi was based on deceit. The agreements and treaties he had made with nations like Norway, Finland, and Russia were only honored so long as they served his purpose. Similarly, Russia has gone back on its word, violating its promises to Ukraine when Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons, this spring denying he was planning to invade the country until he did, and constantly insisting that their bombers are not targeting or killing civilians.

– In Nazi Germany, media critical of the party was banned from Third Reich airways. Only Nazi-positive propaganda was allowed. Shirer comments on this in a August 10, 1939 diary entry of his:

“How completely isolated a world the German people live in…Whereas all the rest of the world considers that the peace is about to be broken by Germany, that it is Germany that is threatening to attack Poland…here in Germany, in the world the local newspapers create, the very reverse is maintained… What the Nazi papers are proclaiming is this: that it is Poland which is disturbing the peace of Europe; Poland which is threatening Germany with armed invasion” p. 799.

How like the current situation in Russia, where the populace is regularly fed a completely different version of the war where Ukraine and Nato are the aggressors.

For a summer read that may last you for weeks (as opposed to hours or days), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a good choice. (Get the Kindle edition, though. Reading a paper- or hardback copy of such a massive volume would be quite a challenge just to hold the book!)

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