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.
“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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"Well worth it if you've got the time."
This is a masterful book, and despite being written in about 1955 it has not dated at all. This guy was actually a reporter who sometimes stayed in the same hotels as Hitler and gives a first hand account of how Adolf looked on certain occasions - how cool is that? On the other hand, it took me a good three months to get through this book, and I am semi-retired. I find history HARD to read, all those people with foreign names, and sometimes I had to replay three or four times to take it in. Still, a masterwork if you want to get an insight on Hitler's life and thinking. I feel I now understand more or less what fascism is (which I did not before).
A truly staggering work. Downloaded this as i wasn't sure i'd be able to read it but thought i'd be able to listen to it. It's a huge volume of information to take in and given the amount of name and historical figures involved would surely take multiple listens to take it all in.
It is however truly fascinating and terrifying all in one. The narration is tole in a suitably sombre tone but still manages to bring it to life. This is the sort of work that should, along with tv such as the world at war, be mandatory for history classes. How the author managed to structure the book so well is amazing. It's such a wealth of information and I will likely listen to it again in the future.
"A Genuine Master-Piece"
I just finished this amazing audio book and really there is nothing I could possibly write to do it the justice it so deserves - it is quite simply a master piece in its own right; wonderfully researched and told by someone who actually lived through it all. If you have an interest in what happened during WW2, and clearly you must do if you are checking out this book, then do yourself a favour and get this. It is arguably the best book I have ever "read" on the subject (I am reviewing the audio version) and probably will ever will for a long time to come.
The narrator, Grover Gardner, deserves ever credit too for the pace and clarity of his reading (I will be definitely checking out other audio books he’s been involved in after this).
If it were possible to give it more than 5 stars I would.
"A Superb Book"
This is easily the best audiobook I've listened to. It is a fascinating story, brilliantly written and expertly narrated. I had some misgivings about downloading it at first as I felt the 57 hours duration would be too daunting but I quickly became drawn into the amazing story and I finished it in 6 weeks. I frequently gasped in astonishment at some of the details recounted and once, while I was on an early morning walk on holiday in Spain, I had to stop for a few moments so shaken I was at a German officer's eyewitness account of the killing of Jewish men, women and children at a location in the Ukraine. It seems scarcely credible that horrors such as that should have occurred only 70 odd years ago and perpetrated by a nation that prided itself on its civilization and culture. Shirer shows how the German people fell under the spell of the demonic genius Hitler and it was not broken until his death. This great book is a salutary reminder of the utter evil of Nazism.
"Better than any fiction"
I shied away from downloading this book a few times. I liked the idea of listening to it, but thought that the reality might be boring and beyond my powers of concentration.
How wrong I was. This is gripping from start to finish and all the way through one has to keep reminding oneself that it's a true story. It seems too far fetched and fantastical to possibly be real, but the sad fact is that it is real. Jaw dropping stuff, time after time. Better than any fiction and all the more uncomfortable for that very reason.
There's not enough space here to do this book justice, but if, like me, you have any interest in WW2 this is essential listening and at the same time simultaneously shocking and frightening.
The book itself is great. I really enjoyed the details of some communications and the deserving amount of detail in what led to WWII as well as needed background on many other facts. The narration is good except for one very important thing. That being the really bad pronunciations of many names, places and German words. Forgiving the last bit, I have to admit that in part where I heard G?bbels mispronounced again and again (I did not count, but the name must have been mentioned at least hundred times) I did growl louder and louder and twitched every time it came up, I could come up with another 10 without thinking too hard. So 5 stars for book itself, 3 for narration.
"Fascinating and easy on the ear"
Although long, this book caught my attention immediately. I found myself desperately wanting to memorise parts as I heard it, simply because it was so full of new information about this incredible period in modern history. Anyone wanting an insight into the Hitler phenomenon will benefit from this. The book tries to describe the events in a neutral manner, although the author's clear dislike for Hitler comes out often. This is a sensible, clear and very detailed account. The author's voice is gentle and easy to listen to.
"Hard to believe that this is Non-Fiction."
This book covers from pre WW2 to the end of the war focusing mostly around the rise and fall of the Nazi party and it's leader with all the captured correspondence that reflect their deeds. Recorded History has never been presented this accurate.
The Fascinating part of this book is that this all facts are layed out from captured documentation and are presented chronologically in a way that make the written text interesting with a great narration in the book and by the Audio Narrator Grover Gardner that has a great intelligent sounding American voice.
I feel that the authors opinions, are balanced and reflect the feelings of any balanced human being of reason, with out being bias.
The Frightening part:
I have read/listen to many dark fiction stories with some really evil twisted characters, but the atrocities committed and discussed in this NON-FICTION book, from recorded documentation and recorded witness is truly frighting. Not just because of the deeds committed and the scale of it all, but mostly because these events really did happen. You can walk away from Fiction, but Facts remain.
This is a long book to go through and I'm not sure I would have read the pages, but the Audio was great. Long, but Great.
Thanks to You Tube I would often listed to a part in history and find related clips related for visual cues. (not that you need many)
I think every Film about WW2 with some level of accuracy must of used this book as a reference: Two films come to mind: DownFall and Valkyrie.
There are detailed parts of the Valkyrie operation in the book, which I must say was very well reflected in the movie, from the facts, now that I know them.
The Movie Downfall I believe, also accurately reflects what happened to Hitler during his last few days before his down fall. This book lists that facts of what happened in that bunker and thanks to this film I had a great idea of the mood and the character of Hitler, which was so well acted by Bruno Gan
"Epic and riveting history"
This really is the authoritative account, especially regarding the events which the author witnessed first hand. It's a mammoth book to listen to, but don't be put off - even if you are already familiar with the history, the narrative takes you along from start to finish.
I would add a word of praise for the narrator, Grover Gardner. He reads like he knows he's narrating an epic that will be listened to for years to come and does a fantastic job. It must be a daunting task to take on such a marathon read, but his even, measured approach brings the events to life, being both gripping while also bringing the right note of pathos and reflection. Probably as good a narration as you will find in any audiobook.
"Understanding Absolute Evil."
The book is so well written. Shirer witnessed many of the events first hand as a reporter in 1930's Berlin and he tells us of the apathy of the Germans and the High Command in the late 30's to Hitler. It was only after the stunning earlier successes that the German's were seduced by the ideals of Nazism.
The diary extracts and reports of Shirer's add to the authenticity. He saw the gradual seduction of Germany to Adolph Hitler.
Grover Gardner narrated the story brilliantly. What could of been a dry dusty tome read like a Le Carre thriller.
The treatment of the civilians and the Jews can't help but move you. Plus the bravery of the little people who stood upto Hitler and his thugs and who were crushed by them.
I'm in my mid 40's and grew up with older relative's who had fought in WWII. Over the years I've read lots of books dealing with certain battle or campaigns in the war. I hadn't really delved into the Axis side of the story. I've learnt so much about Germany, and Hitler through this book. I was amazed that the General's in the High Command could have stopped Hitler several times during his brief but deadly career. Its an easy listen and I could not recommend the book too highly. You don't need to be a WWII scholar to enjoy this book.
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