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)
Grover Gardner is a good choice as narrator for this long, disturbing, and important book. As he did in Shelby Foote's three-volume history of the Civil War, Gardner shows himself a master of keeping the narrative going and keeping the details clear. William Shirer apparently got a lot of grief when the book was first published (some 50 years ago) -- a journalist trespassing on the domain of historians -- but he seems to have read every Nazi document that had been made public at the time, and combined with his razor-sharp eye-witness accounts of several key events, the book has an immediacy that few other histories are able to convey. I'm sure many of the facts have been refined, and I hope to finish listening to Richard Evans' recent history of the Third Reich as well, but I doubt that later volumes will have the same visceral impact this one did.
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.
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.
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.
The best, most interesting book I've ever read. Made me want to read every book mentioned in the book as a source. I am not a history buff, but even though this book is incredibly long, I listened to it twice! Explains the perfect storm of things that came together and resulted in the otherwise unfathomable reign of Hitler.
It was very well read, a pleasure.
Wish I'd read this years ago. Being able to listen to it was far less daunting than finding time to read the book.
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.
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.
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.
Avid reader until vision impairment set in. Now an avid listener!
A detailed, compelling, and haunting account of the rise of Hitler and the infliction of his satanic will on humanity. Shirer's great strengths are his personal familiarity with the Third Reich (he was a correspondent based in Germany for many years) and the massive amount of research he did into the then-newly released primary documents. I thought I was well versed in this period, but some of the revelations in the book made me gasp out loud. It is so immediate that the listener feels as if he's an eyewitness to the often harrowing sequence of events. And the narrator, Grover Gardner, is perfect, in my opinion. Kudos to him for the sense of gravitas he gives to the reading, the apt pacing, and the excellent pronunciation of German, French, and Italian names and places.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"A simply astounding work..."
This book is nothing short of astounding, and has kept me gripped for over 2 months on my daily commute between London and Coventry. Having an interest in WW2 I have read many books on the various aspects of the war, but none even come close to this title.
It is meticulously thorough, and sets out the background to not only when and how Hitler came to power, but also the circumstances and national psyche that enabled him to do so. I've also been surprised on many ocassions by how people we thought we knew have so many other sides to them. Mussolini the Peacemaker? Who knew?
Grover Gardner is outstanding in his part as narrator of this dark and yet fascinating story.I cannot imagine anyone doing a finer job.
An absolute must-have title for your collection..
"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.
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