Me, myself, and I.
I'm not quite sure how I ended up on this path. It started with a book about WWII in general, then a few that touched on specific people or incidents during the war, and it has circled back to this epic account of Hitler and his twisted designs for the world. This is a work that feels so comprehensive, though I suspect that scholarship since the 1960s has produced a bit more detail, that I feel like I just spent several days of my life walking down the path of destruction that seemed so inevitable throughout the recounting of the Third Reich. An amazing book and experience, it is not for the faint-hearted -- those either daunted by size or by content. It is for the truly intrigued among us, who often see in historical events a reflection of who we are today, and how to address challenges in the world around us.
Clocking in at 60-ish hours, this book takes commitment. But that investment comes with a grand payoff. You never feel cheated. The sheer volume of leftover records and accounts of daily life in Germany during the timespan covered here ensures that the reader walks away with a belief that no stone has been left unturned. There are so many things that I recall from previous exposure to World War 2, and almost all of these are told again here, but with a specific focus on the motivations and reactions of Hitler and his cronies. While I would never suggest that I am an expert in such things, I do feel like I can speak confidently about what happened, why it happened, and perhaps draw a little from that to talk intelligently about how to identify and react to modern day despots and lunatics.
Grover Gardner does a fantastic job with his narration. I had to repeatedly remind myself that he, himself, was not the author. It is easy to make this mistake in a book of this nature, which has a number of self-reflective moments by William Shirer, but even when acknowledging that, of course, Grover was not actually there, it still felt like an intimate conversation with someone reflecting on their days in Berlin during the 30s and 40s. Great quality throughout.
A final note -- one criticism that could be leveled at this book is that William Shirer often interjects his personal opinion, both on Hitler, and on the Germans in general. And actually, on many others as well. These personal opinions sometimes disrupt the natural storytelling flow of the narrative, and pull the listened/reader out of the depths of listening for content into a level of critical analysis of the author's intent. When he characterizes Germans in a specific way, it sounds more like stereotyping than it does educated analysis. While I understand the personal nature of this book, I could have done without some of the antiquated beliefs expressed within. And yes, I acknowledge that writing this book in the 50s and 60s might play a part -- our system of political correctness many not have been as refined then as it is today -- but it still strikes the reader today, and should be noted.
All in all, a fantastic, sweeping, and important work, that should appeal to anyone even remotely interested in what happened to the world 80 years ago.
I grew up with the usual stories about Hitler and WWII but never heard the details about how he rose to power. This book tells it all.
Hitler didn't hesitate to lie and deceive his friends, enemies or fellow citizens in order to get what he wanted. Not withstanding the holocaust itself I saw many parallels to our modern day politics and wonder if we have forgotten the lessons he taught us.
I've tried to read this classic account of Nazi Germany before and lost heart a few hundred pages in. The audio book kept my interest and kept me listening. A truly detailed and worthwhile book that everyone should read, it puts a lot of other bits about WWII and European history in perspective. Shirer saw Hitler et al walking around Berlin, met them at dinners and briefings and helped me see them as people (many hateful, some conflicted) as well as historical players. I recommend keeping a list of names and referring to maps periodically to keep it all straight. I found myself wanting to keep listening instead of doing other things and had to force myself to stop regularly to avoid total depression. I got so angry during this book I regretted ever learning German or being interested in Germany at all, but have since put it in perspective and am now amazed at how successful Germany has been in rebuilding and maintaining a successful and (mostly) non-militaristic nation.
A must read for anyone interested in WWII or humanity in general.
So much to learn, and so little time to sit down and read. Thanks Audible.
I think this is an incredibly important story to hear, to understand how something as tragic as Hitler's reign came to be. I just wish there was an abridged version, even if it was 30 hours; 57 hours is a major committment to one book.
I don't normally have much interest in books about wars, but bought this book out of a primarily historical interest. I found it well written, interesting, long and perhaps having greater detail than a mediocre level of interest would require. For a general-interest listener, it may be a little too long and cumbersome. However, interest is maintained most of the time. (I am looking forward to getting back to a lighthearted novel now!) :-)
The audio book is well read by Grover Gardner.
My only qualm is that - as a listener specifically interested in historical facts - the author intersperses the book with too many of his personal feelings and impressions. Initially, we are bombarded by his concept of Hitler as the village idiot, and later he calls him the "insane genius". As a thinking being, I would prefer, after 7 Parts of accurate historical facts, to draw my own conclusions. In all likelihood, Hitler was neither of the two.
The book is focussed primarily on military history. I would perhaps have enjoyed more about the daily lives of civilians, and what they were experiencing, as opposed to minute military details. But that's just my personal preference, and as i've mentioned - I'm not too interested in wars.
Overall, a very good and interesting read.
All the members of my family that served in WWII served in the Pacific, so I have never researched much about the war in Europe. This book was amazingly detailed and thorough. It was gripping throughout. The reader was the finest I've heard and the standard by which I've measured all since. I caution you that this focuses on the politics of the Third Reich far more than the military exploits--the military stuff is going on in the background, but the main focus is definitely on politics. If you are looking for a military history of the Eurpoean theater, look elsewhere. Also (and this is my only complaint), there's a fair bit of homophobia in the book when Shirer describes many of the early Nazis as "notorious homosexuals and perverts". I recognize that to some extent that's a relic of the time the book was written, but honestly it lowered my (otherwise high) esteem of Shirer a bit. Really an excellent book overall.
The book is the best book about the Third Reich i ever read. It grabs you from the first chapter. It tells a story from the point of view of someone who was present at the time. Who experienced the Reich at first hand. Every (almost) statement has been verified from official papers.
I can only recommend it in the highest praise.
I rarely read historic works, but I'd heard that this was THE book on the subject and was compelled to find out what the fuss was about. I had to go back and relisten to sections quite often, but it was worth every rewind to make sure I had the players straight. The minor failings for me are: Shirer is quite biased against Germans in some statements. If I were German I would find it a bit patronizing. Also, Shirer, a man of his times, makes no bones about his homophobic leanings. But, it is a book of its time and these biases situate the reader more firmly in that time with Shirer, who lived it as an observer. I found that I was discussing the book with my partner, who was also listening to it, quite a lot. We were making comparisons to other, more recent political happenings and finding that quite a disturbing prospect. The audio book is also masterfully read. This reader is gifted and the absolute perfect, grave and strong voice for this.
One of the best. Even though it was written several years ago, the history was well sourced.
Certainly not Hitler. The book exposed his human side, but did not attempt to humanize this mad man who caused tens of millions deaths and unspeakable suffering.
I was reluctant to listen to this book because I thought it would cause great anxiety, i.e, it would keep me up at night thinking about it. I am glad i took the plunge. The story has lessons for our time. We should not allow our public officials to abuse the truth. We should not attempt to demonize whole sections of human kind. History is full of great military victories at the expense of destroyed lives and cultures. But the Third Reich stands alone for its brutality. There is no sugar coating in this book or in the history of the Third Reich -- it was evil personified. To compare any modern leader to Hitler diminishes and trivializes the suffering caused by this man and betrays the speaker's utter ignorance of this history.
Later historians might argue for different causes and revise some of the conclusions, but none can have the perspective Shirer brings to this period. He actually saw Hitler and spoke with other key figures during this period. He was in Berlin during the rise of the Reich and recounts the mood of the German-on-the-street, which is at times surprisingly contrary to the attitude urged by the propaganda (his own response to the propaganda is also remarkable). Although I agree that the "anti-German" slant some reviewers complained of, and he mentions in the afterword, mostly that is merely his occasionally caustic observations, some of which apply also to other nationalities (and are mostly balanced by stereotypical positive attributes, as well, including the Germans). Considering all, the ignominy on both sides and horrors he witnessed, this is an admirably balanced and extremely valuable record.