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)
An excellent book that explains a challenging history in simple terms for the listener. There is also a lot of detail for the serious history buff. A great work!
This is a master work of historical information. Well thought out, well performed, and well footnoted.
Should be required reading for every human.
Some outdated and offensive views on sexuality, but otherwise an incredible account of Hitler's inner circle from the beginning to the end of the Third Reich, based on primary sources, from an author who lived through it.
The first time I listened to the book I found it to be somewhat too extensive at times, but very informative. I listened to it again recently and I have much more respect for it now. Once you learn a few of the german language words and phrases often quoted in the book it becomes much more comprehensible lol
The subject matter is a terrifying man and the history of a people led to war by him. This history must be told and retold. Not to shame the German people. That is not what is required. But to make sure no one ever forgets those who were killed, and murdered, and erased from history. And to also make sure that everyone understands that this could happen again at any time with the right mix of a charismatic maniac bent on world domination no matter what the costs.
The author was spot on: in Germany we never spoke about it. For me, this was the first time to get a detailed account of the events. We all should now about them and learn the lessons of thus area so they never happen again.
I'm a professor at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. I love reading (and listening) to pieces about military history.
In the preface, William L. Shirer discusses that various historians, mainly French, were dubious about his writing a history of the Third Reich so near to the events being discussed. They argue that a certain historical distance between author and subject is necessary to write with the necessary objectivity. This is especially true of such a highly charged subject, the authors of the Holocaust itself. But Shirer dismisses this by arguing that, while such a long lapse of time might have been necessary in the past, simply in order to uncover the necessary documentary evidence, this is not true of the Third Reich, where he has access to a treasure trove of primary source data. He then goes on to say that he will be objective in his account but, where his prejudice seeps through, he will note it plainly.
The rest of the book, all zillion hours of it, put the lie to this claim. Shirer is a journalist and not an historian, no disqualification, but something that should give one pause. As a journalist, he would seem to still have some obligation toward objectivity, but even this is honored in the breach.
Simply put, the book is not good history. It is filled with ad hominem attacks and gross generalizations about certain types and lifestyle choices that Shirer finds objectionable. Ever the "man's man'" Shirer takes a dim view of homosexuals, who come in for much ridicule and venom. That these men should happen to be members of Hitler's government is all too consistent with its warped and evil nature, in Shirer's view. How can we take seriously, as history, a book that variously describes Hitler's cabinet associates as "cronies, lackeys, and goons"? Is this the neutral representation Shirer aspires to in the introduction? The language throughout is prejudiced and inflammatory.
Let me be clear, however, that this review is not meant as an apologia for the members of the Third Reich. These men were truly and spectacularly evil and deserving of the social opprobrium they incurred. But Shirer has no business labeling his work as objective or even as history, while using epithets to describe the main actors in his piece. Let the reader draw her own conclusions by describing their words and deeds neutrally. They hang themselves perfectly effectively, perhaps moreso, by such a treatment than by Shirer's shrill prose.
This is the first book I've returned to Audible. Grover Gardner, the narrator, does a fine job with the material he has to work with, but the material itself is more propagandistic than historical. This book offers itself up as the "definitive" history of the Thrid Reich, but falls far short of the mark both for it's definitiveness and as history.
Serious scholars and students of history should avoid.
This is a book everyone should read but listening to it here is just as valuable and perhaps more doable when you want to bath in all the facts and thorough reporting.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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.
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