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The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany | [William L. Shirer]

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

Since its publication in 1960, William L. Shirer’s monumental study of Hitler’s German empire has been widely acclaimed as the definitive record of the 20th century’s blackest hours. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich offers an unparalleled and thrillingly told examination of how Adolf Hitler nearly succeeded in conquering the world. With millions of copies in print around the globe, it has attained the status of a vital and enduring classic.
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Publisher's Summary

Since its publication in 1960, William L. Shirer’s monumental study of Hitler’s German empire has been widely acclaimed as the definitive record of the 20th century’s blackest hours. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich offers an unparalleled and thrillingly told examination of how Adolf Hitler nearly succeeded in conquering the world. With millions of copies in print around the globe, it has attained the status of a vital and enduring classic.

Now, many years after the end of World War II, it may seem incredible that our most valued institutions and way of life were threatened by the menace that Hitler and the Third Reich represented. Shirer’s description of events and the cast of characters who played such pivotal roles in defining the course Europe was to take is unforgettable.

Benefiting from his many years as a reporter, and thus a personal observer of the rise of Nazi Germany, and availing himself of some of the 485 tons of documents from the German Foreign Office, as well as countless other diaries, phone transcriptions, and other written records, meticulously kept at every level by the Germans, Shirer has put together a brutally objective account of how Hitler wrested political control of Germany, and planned and executed his six-year quest to dominate the world, only to see Germany go down in flames.

This is a richly rewarding experience for anyone who wants to come to grips with the mysterious question of how this menace to civilization ever came into being, much less was sustained for as long as it was. The answer, unfortunately, is that most of Germany, for a whole host of reasons, embraced Nazism and the fanaticism that Hitler engendered.

©1990 William L. Shirer (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“One of the most important works of history of our time.” (The New York Times)

”A splendid work of scholarship, objective in method, sound in judgment, inescapable in its conclusions.” (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

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  •  
    David 11-22-13
    David 11-22-13
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    6
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    "Excellent performance"
    What made the experience of listening to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich the most enjoyable?

    The book is 57 hours of spellbinding history. Grover Gardner does a great job of reading and pronouncing the various foreign names.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bharat New Delhi 11-22-13
    Bharat New Delhi 11-22-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Absolutely riveting"

    Looking back on my education in high school, I find it appalling as to how major, world altering events were glossed over in trivial fashion. The history of the second world war tends to be a hefty a chapter in most curriculum in high schools around the globe, but the history of Nazi Germany is relegated to a few paragraphs (at least it was in my case). In many ways, one should view that as borderline criminal. To me history is all about the "whys and hows" rather than the "what happened and when". In that light, "The rise and fall of the third Reich" is an in depth look into the "whys and hows" of the what is undoubtedly one of the darkest chapters of humanity.

    Why was the treaty of Versailles such a blow to Germany?
    How could the land that birthed the likes of Engels, Richter, Brahms, Beethoven and so many other cultural icons also create a Hitler?
    Why did Hitler think the way he did?
    Why was Nazism so popular (if it even was)?
    How on earth could Germany create and field an army of such devastating strength and volume right under the noses of everyone else?
    Was Adolf brilliant and fearless or just lucky and plain crazy?
    And many, many other questions like these.

    After going through this book it became apparent to me as to why Shirer's work is taken to be "the" definitive text on the rise and fall of the third Reich. It is very thoroughly researched and though the author does have personal inputs, he does well to openly admit to his biases in the rare cases where they do exist. It is obvious that Shirer was a foreign corespondent of high quality and as such, his status as reporter gave him the kind of access that historians would kill to have. It is also interesting (and a little amusing) to see some of the politically incorrect phrases and view points that sometimes show up. If anything, they only add to the charm of the book, although this is admittedly a personal opinion.

    Grover Gardner does a good job of narrating the book. This is a long listen and to his credit, Gardner had me rapt with attention. His delivery did make me miss some of the weighty and warm tones that someone like Charlton Griffin brings to his performances but this again, is a personal opinion.

    Any way you look at it, "The rise and fall of the third Reich" is one of the most important works of modern history. If it were up to me, I'd make this required reading in high schools everywhere.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Visalia, CA, United States 11-15-13
    David Visalia, CA, United States 11-15-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Very Interesting"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely! It is engaging, interesting, and enlightening. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It is laid out in a manner that is easy to follow and gives you the ability to see how Hitler came to power and the way he thought.


    Have you listened to any of Grover Gardner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but I very much enjoyed this one.


    Any additional comments?

    Although very long, this is a must for anyone interested in history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    glenwhitten Ada, OH, United States 11-12-13
    glenwhitten Ada, OH, United States 11-12-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Very Very Thorough"
    Would you listen to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich again? Why?

    I will probably listen to it again, but it will be at least a year before I do. This is a very long and detailed historical accounting of the Third Reich and requires concentration, but it is worth the effort.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    It would have to be mini series, but my tag line would be "No detail left out"


    Any additional comments?

    I have only read about a dozen WWII books, but this is the first book by a journalist who lived and reported on the war first hand. My other books are historical perspective books. This book has the feel of the man who saw Hitler et al in action. This experience along with what had to be years of research of actual Nazi documents make for an exceptionally thorough telling of the story. I did enjoy this book, but I must admit I am exhausted and ready to listen to something lighter. Once I've had a break, I will listen to it again as there are many details I could not keep straight. I want to absorb the information at least one more time to further my understanding of recent world history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dale L 10-26-13
    Dale L 10-26-13
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    "Read This Book"
    Any additional comments?

    When I was in high school, I read "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". I just listened to it on Audible. It really is an extraordinary book about a truly unbelievable series of events. I really think everyone should read or listen to it at least once. If you think you know the story, trust me you don't. It is long to be sure, but I can't recommend it highly enough. Listen to it. It will change the way you think about everything.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Poling Brooklyn, New York United States 10-18-13
    James Poling Brooklyn, New York United States 10-18-13 Member Since 2012
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    "One of the best books I've ever read/listened to?"
    If you could sum up The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in three words, what would they be?

    informative, engrossing, emotional


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich?

    The way that Shirer puts you right in the middle of Hitler's inner circle, and his thoughts, in the months and days leading up to WWII are fascinating. You actually feel as if you are a fly on the wall sitting in on events that would lead up to one of the most terrible events in human history.


    Which character – as performed by Grover Gardner – was your favorite?

    This is impossible to answer. Gardner immediately became my favorite narrator of all-time after hearing this book. He brings this epic tome to life in a way that's impossible to imagine without listening to it. It would take something special to live up to the brilliant work of Shirer's work and Gardner is definitely up to the task.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    As long as this book is I have listened to it numerous times and have discovered something new each time. I imagine that I will listen to it many more times throughout the years.


    Any additional comments?

    If you are at all interested in WWII or the Nazis or Adolph Hitler and are on the fence about this book you need to jump off that fence and buy this book now. If you only listen to one audiobook in your life let it be this one. I cannot praise this book enough. It was the first audiobook I ever listened to and it sparked my newfound love of this fascinating genre.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Greg North Alabama 10-13-13
    Greg North Alabama 10-13-13 Member Since 2014

    Greg

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    "I only THOUGHT I understood WWII."
    If you could sum up The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in three words, what would they be?

    Fly On Wall.The German leaders documented everything. Very many "private" meetings contained a stenographer, or witness, in order for their historic machinations to be recorded, enshrined, studied, and celebrated centuries later, with the war won and Europe re-formed. Shirer, beginning a decade after the war, spent years reading the enemy's meticulous records of meetings and interviewing persons who were there. HE was there, in a few cases.


    What other book might you compare The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to and why?

    No other book so takes you into Hitler's inner sanctum, except Albert Speer's, and Speer wasn't privy to most of the strategy sessions that this book reveals.


    What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

    A year later I don't recall the narration getting in the way.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    It's too long for that.It drags in a few places, but I let it run. The few such areas, mostly early in the book, set the table for the jaw-dropping passages. And very many times, listening, I felt a mental "chink," as my previous understanding of WWII suddenly solidified. Another puzzle piece falling into place - another insight gained, as I realized why things happened as they did.


    Any additional comments?

    You learn Why Hitler made the decisions he did. Why, for instance, with Europe well in hand, did he invade Russia? What was he THINKING? You will confidently understand the answer, after listening to this book. There will be many times when you will say to yourself, "So THAT'S it!" This is the glue that links other bits of WWII knowledge, and without it my knowledge of the war was incomplete. Over a year after listening, this book still resonates, and stands out among the scores and scores of Audiobooks I have listened to as arguably the very best.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick LITTLETON, CO, United States 10-08-13
    Patrick LITTLETON, CO, United States 10-08-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Was sad when it was over."

    This book was such a great read and at over 57 hours, it took a while. In fact, it was one of those things, almost like Breaking Bad being over, where you just sat there for a while with silence pondering all that it meant to listen to it. This guy was in Germany during many of the pivotal parts of this time and this book, being written when it was, was a great primary source for so much information. His stories about the Nazi's and Germany itself, were compelling and terrorfying. I cannot imagine a better book to listen too to understand the full depth and breadth of that evil band.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Josh 10-03-13
    Josh 10-03-13
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    12
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    "There is a need to know this story."
    Any additional comments?

    The thing is, any other history prior to this seems to be dated, top hats, roaring 20s, dust bowl, depression, and yet, the reality of this story clamours and vibrates right into the frontal cortex of our brains to this day so obtrusively, that with their type writers, uniforms, planes, cars, we can recognize this world as very similar to our own. And, in an age that tries to stand up high and say we are now above the barbarism of the ancient worlds, this still bears us in the face. We have to ask ourselves, how? We recognize that the people that made up the cities and villages of Germany could not have been too different from us. They look like a lot of peoples' grand parents, and they are too. So, this being the fundamental watershed moment of the 20th century, i suggest you do indeed look it straight in the face here, through this fine production, a classic, based on endless reams of firsthand documentation, riveting.
    Now it is a mammoth, and perhaps you will have to take breaks getting through this (i listened to a book or two in between before finally finishing it). It is heavy subject matter, as intriguing as it remains. The perspective is the German government. The inside world of the beuracracy, politics and war rooms. At the center of course is Hitler. At the center is this insane ideology. And a hurricane sparks to save Germany from poverished times through promises of order and stability. They got those things. There is the genius of Hitler's political maneuvering. He becomes a savior.
    So much of this story will always of course be beyond understanding. Shirer tells it as it occurred through the remaining documentation and the accounts of the nuhremburg trials. But if nothing else, you as a reader/listener in a way enter into this world. And so from that perspective, you may have as much insight into it as someone who was living there at the time, looking back; though even that, after all is said and done, perhaps isn't worth that much.
    strength is power. is an approach to the world that will leave you in shame. hitler was a wolf-person. these are among the key insights i took away from the work.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    João 09-28-13
    João 09-28-13
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    "Classic!"

    This is the classic account of Nazi Germany written by an eyewitness to historical events. This book is thoroughly researched and brimming with painstaking references to the captured secret documents of the National Socialist regime and to the Nuremberg trial archives. A truly magnificent history book by a non-historian. Mr. Shirer was a journalist, one of Edward R. Murrow's "boys," which means this book is written in an engaging and dynamic fashion. I personally love how he repeatedly refers to Hitler as "the tramp from Vienna" or "the former corporal." This is a "big history" book, concerned with big men and big events. I would suggest listening to it along with Richard J.Evans' trilogy on the Third Reich, which gives a "man on the street" account of Nazi Germany, and you will have as good an understanding of this subject as can be expected from a lay person. The performance by Mr. Gardner is spot on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Richard
    rochester, United Kingdom
    12/7/10
    Overall
    "A unique account"

    This was the standard book at school 30 years ago for the study of the Third Reich. Reading it all these years later it has lost none of its impact. The writing style remains modern and clear and in my opinion is unmatched on the subject. Many good books have been written on this subject but Shirer witnessed events with his own eyes meeting many of the historical figures and seeing the bodies before nearly becoming a victim himself. Written in a time when reporting was still a noble art it was criticised as being anti German. For me it lays the facts out and leaves the reader to make his mind up. Despite its length superb narration makes this a stunning a thought provoking listen. Find the time.

    27 of 27 people found this review helpful
  • Colin
    Birmingham, United Kingdom
    2/18/11
    Overall
    "Finished - what do I do now?"

    I listened to all 57 hours in one month during many long drives and not a few late nights. Rarely have I enjoyed history so much. The quality of Shirer's writing has long since been recognised, but this is enhanced even further by the brilliant narration. Yes, there were occasions when my concentration lapsed, but ony because one is inevitably drawn to one aspect of the story rather than another. Most often I was riveted, and now it feels like an old friend has said farewell.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Paul Conder
    Auckland New Zealand
    2/15/11
    Overall
    "Fabulous history on the ipod"

    Don't be put off by the length the reader of this fabulous audio book captures you and continues to hold you as the history of Nazi Germany unfolds.

    The book itself remains a classic of World War II covering the broad history of the Third Reich from first tentative developments to the downfall and collapse in the Fuhrer Bunker.

    You will find it difficult to do anything else until you finish listening.

    The producers and reader have remained faithful to the work and the horror of a world war without getting dramatic.

    You will only find a few works that achieve the quality you find here.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Nick
    Chelmsford, Essex, United Kingdom
    2/25/11
    Overall
    "Flawed but fascinating"

    Germany under the Nazis is probably one of the most written about periods of history and the seeker after information is spoiled for choice. Plenty of more recent studies have been done on the Nazi era but Shirer's work, now half a century old, still stands for me as the definitive history of the period.

    Of course, it has many flaws, not least Shirer's own very subjective take on the personalities and the events he documents. Shirer was a journalist, and he wrote as a journalist, not as an historian. But what the book might lack in terms of perspective, it gains tremendously in recounting Shirer's own first hand experiences of Nazi Germany. He lived and worked in Germany during the early days of Hitler and personally attended many of the events he described. he was also fortunate, as he describes in his introduction, to have been present when German government documents were seized by the advancing allied armies and to have been one of the journalists allowed to comb through this rich source of information.

    He describes, with frightening clarity, the failure of Britain, France and America to understand the danger posed by Adolf Hitler and the terrible results of the pre-war policy of appeasement, not least for the many millions who died in appalling conditions in Nazi extermination camps. The reader shares his frustration at the willingness of the western powers to sacrifice Austria and Czechoslovakia in order to buy a few more months of peace.

    This is a very long book which I read first when I was in my teens. The audio version is unabridged, and runs to an incredible 57 hours but the narrative will sweep you along. The reader perfectly captures the tone of the written volume. For those who want to find out how a madman can come to power in what should be a civilised country, there is no better source than this book.

    22 of 23 people found this review helpful
  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    3/28/11
    Overall
    "History brought to life"

    Don't be put off by the immense length of this audio book: it's a riveting story that keeps you listening. I first read this book over 30 years ago and, though I had forgotten much of the detail, the power of its narrative had left an indelible memory. Listening again, rekindled the shock and amazement at this dark period of history. At times harrowing, it's like a fast-moving crime thriller. And, oh what crimes! What's so shocking is that it wasn't just a small band of psychopaths who had taken over Germany, but that so many people were willing to perpetrate unbelievably cruel treatment on other human beings. With the benefit of hind-sight one can see turning-points that changed history and the many missed opportunities by both sides to triumph or be defeated; or for peace or continued conflict. It's fascinating, if chilling, to see how Hitler started out as a consummate tactician, but latterly sunk into a megalomania that ruined his country.

    The book had involved an immense amount of research into captured secret papers of the Reich and greatly benefits from the author being an eye-witness working as a journalist for a US broadcasting company at this tumultuous period in history.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Thomas
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    2/13/11
    Overall
    "Totally amazing"

    Wow, what an audiobook. It was long, but I can't see how this particular book could have been shortened.

    It's all based on diaries, letters, minutes, logs of phone calls, direct quotes and other direct sources than just other historians material. This makes it all more compelling.

    Some parts are a little heavy - but that's to be expected, and they don't last that long.

    The whole period is truly staggering and to here details of it in such detail is truly amazing.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Martin
    Carnforth, United Kingdom
    1/17/11
    Overall
    "brilliant, scholarly, riveting and chilling"

    This is a monumental listen which despite its length flies along as the events unfold. The reader is very easy to listen to and never becomes a trial or gets in the way.
    Awesome, epic and illuminating. The examples of demagogues and schemers portrayed remain as relevant in our times. An absolute masterpiece. Strongly recommend it.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Mair
    Co LeitrimIreland
    10/11/10
    Overall
    "a gripping riveting listen"

    I've only listened to half so far, and its gripping stuff. Not dry dull writing, but its alive, full of personalities and happenings, one steamrolling onto the next. And the reader is excellent. While its v.long, and I'm not sure I'll take it to the end, I dont think this matters, because its fantastic value, even if I only listen to the first half, as my main interest is in the rise of nazism.

    18 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • Heather
    Forneth, Perthshire
    5/3/11
    Overall
    "Terrifying and compelling - don't miss this one!"

    Shirer lived through the years when Hitler came to power and brings his own observations to the narrative, but also much historical expertise. He had complete access to the archives of meetings and communiques between the key players in Germany and across Europe, plus the transcripts of the Nuremburg trials of the Nazis. This is impressive source material and Shirer deals with it brilliantly.

    The terrifying build up to a world war and the errors politicians made are important for today's international politics. It's a seriously scary read, totally gripping. His analysis of events is fascinating, but you'll be haunted by the impact it has on your own perspective on current world events.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Stephen
    London, United Kingdom
    5/2/11
    Overall
    "A Masterful Work"

    This is a truly masterful and objective history of the third Reich based on the mountains of captured Nazi documents after the war and therefore is not subject to a particular historians interpretation of events.

    Although long and sometimes a little difficult to digest due to - for example - the large number of individuals dealt with, this book is nevertheless an incredibly thorough coverage of Hitler's rise to power that will reward the reader with a wealth of knowledge throughout its scope.

    This has to be one of (if not, the most) complete treatment of the subject matter. I was amazed to read actual extracts of conversations that had been carefully documented with typical German efficiency. There is just so much here that I find it amazing that one man could write such a mammoth volume.

    A word on the narration; This could be a most difficult book for a narrator due to the frequent use of German names, places and other foreign language references. However, this is handled with superb skill by Grover Gardener who's delivery is both confident and precise. It is not surprising then perhaps that he has narrated some of the largest and complex volumes on other matters such as the American civil war.

    In summary, this is a long, but worthwhile masterpiece of work into some of history's darkest days which offers incredible insight into the mind of one of history's most infamous men.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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