The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
Created: Sat Mar 20 16:03:00 2010 | Last modified: Sat Mar 20 16:03:00 2010
I recently finished reading this excellent book by William L Shirer, an American journalist who was stationed at Berlin upto the 1940s.
"Rise and Fall" is about 1500 pages: not for the faint-hearted! But it's a highly rewarding experience for those patient enough to plod through it. The first half of the book talks about the early life of Adolf Hitler and his growth from relative obscurity to one of the most powerful men in Germany by 1933: that fateful year. This part of the book is full of intrigue and goes in detail to the political machinations of Hitler and his most loyal supporters to become Germany's Chancellor.
The second half of the book is about Nazi Germany and Hitler's consolidation of power. The blood purge in which he destroyed his SA is explained in gory detail here.
The part covering the annexation of Austria, the bloodless conquest of Czechoslovakia and Hitler's brutal invasion of Poland which went unpunished by the Allies is given a broad, but thorough treatment. The reasons for the WW II are detailed here: a long and intriguing story of political activities in the capitals of Europe at that time.
The next part of the book covers WW II itself and concentrates mainly on Germany's march on Russia, its terrifying victories in the early stages (Blitzkrieg) and then the subsequent reversals.
The final part of the book talks about the end of Hitler and his brutal Nazi regime, the atrocities committed by the SS in the name of the New Order in the conquered lands and finally the end of the Third Reich. This part of the book goes into detail about Hitler's final few days in his bunker under the Chancellery where he goes into an almighty rage when he discovers the 'treason' committed by his closest followers Goering and Himmler: an intriguing read indeed!
The technique used by the author: at times presenting events like a broad-minded historian and at times zooming in close to the action when required is excellent in establishing the correct atmosphere. The author shows a talent for building up suspense when required (even though we all know what happened in the end). An example of this is when he explains the conspiracy against Hitler and the chain of events that led to the unsuccessful assassination of the Fuehrer. As good as it can ever get! This ability makes this book unique.
Overall this book is great for all those who are interested in Nazi Germany and WW II. The book is very objective (though at times bringing out the author's prejudices). There are also cetain inconsistencies in the book: while some parts are given extreme importance (like the planned annexation of Poland) other events (especially those unrelated to Germany during the troubled period of WW II) are skimmed over.
There is no doubt that the author was well-informed as he had access to the captured German documents and there are plenty of footnotes and endnotes throughout the book. No doubt, William Shirer had put in a lot of work into the book and it shows: a great reference book on one of the darkest pages of history - World War II.
This book gets a 4/5 from me. Highly recommended for history buffs.