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)
I am an avid listener. I listen between 75-100 hours per month on my iPhone: 60% fiction to 40% non-fiction.
Never before had I read a firsthand account, from primary sources, as damning as this book. All of the negative superlatives that one could pen I have not the number of commas in my repertoire to string them together. You get a striking picture of Hitler, who he was, what he did and how he failed. As grotesque as he may be, the intellectual flyweights he surrounded himself with defy understanding. How, intelligent and gifted military leaders allowed themselves to be led into the manifest slaughter of innocent people – well I have no words. Read the book and you too will be speechless.
The book is built on primary reference materials and hence, I confess, unless I had listened to it, I would not have been able to get through it. It is essentially a 50 hour audio documentary. Although I could not listen at my usual three to four hours a day because I was so disturbed and depressed by the subject matter, I had to finish. And, to think, how close Hilter came to winning on at least four occasions makes me breathless about what evil he would have wrought and what the world would have been like today.
Hitler came to power and in twelve short years of rule and conquest - five of them in war - caused over 30 million people to be killed, not mention the number of people forced to kill on his behalf or to fend off those trying to kill them. It is a testament to how a single perverted point of view with power to influence the masses can spin lies and deceit that move ordinary people to be puppets. Looking to today’s world situation, you have to ask yourself whether parallels exist. You must listen to this book! I also highly recommend the Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk which is a true story set with fictional characters. For a Japanese view of history, read Flyboys by James Bradley.
This is must read for a serious historian. Do not expect to find gruesome details; expect to find a documented story that causes you to reconsider history and today’s world.
I always buy a long volume with trepidation wondering how many "dry spots" or "dry epochs" will be contained therein. This volume was amazing in that I was fascinated and interested every minute. The story focused on the characters while the overall picture was interwoven in their interactions and lives, particulary Hitler of course. The details added to the interest rather than extend it unnecessarily. This is a book that I will very probably savor again.
I enjoy history and military history and this is probably the best I have read.
In the 1990's I listened to the older BOT cassette version of this work read by Larry McKeever. He did a good job. To have this redone by Grover Gardner is a HUGE gift to us all (Thank you Grover). He does a much better job and his European pronunciations are very competent. I have read that Shirer's work is not liked by many historians in this field (especially by the Germans) but I find his writing to be on par with the great narrative historians (McCullough, Caro, Chernow, etc.). I am also listening to Richard Evans's Third Reich trilogy and, although its more thoroughly researched, his writing is not near Shirer's in elegance. And the reader is not near the quality of Mr Gardner. One of the lessons learned from this tragic story is that numerous and fractured political parties can lead to disaster for everyone.
Of all the books I have read covering the Nazi era this is simply the best book of its type. Nothing else comes close to its readability and scope, and Shirer's presence in Germany as a reporter at the time allowed him to add many personal observations that add greatly to the authenticity of the book. While the book is now about 50 years old, research since its publication has changed few of its conclusions. It is less academic and detailed than Richard Evans triology of the period, but I found Shirer's book both more complete in its observations and much more readable. The quality of this book is evident from the fact that in all of that time, and with all of the books on the period that have been written, this book has never been out of print.
And though it needs nothing else, Grover Gardiner's flawless reading only makes the book even better. This is easily one of the 10 best books I have ever read from Audible and I recommend it without reservation to anyone with an interest in World War II in Europe.
A word of caution - this is not a dispassionate book. Shirer had definate opinions and those are not hidden. His distain for many of the primary players is clearly evident in his descriptions and that may offend some readers. This is not an academic book (See Richard Evans' Nazi trilogy for a dispassionate academic telling of the period), but no other book comes close to its readability and comprehensiveness. It covers the political events and there is no concentration on the war (see Richard Atkinson's WW II military trilogy for that).
It might be 50 years old, but William Shirer's book is just as gripping and just as important today as ever. It is amazingly well researched and the perspective of someone that was a close and personal observer to much of the Nazi period.
Yes, it is long. At 57 plus hours, my wife reckons I've listened to Grover Gardner more than I've listened to her in 15 years of marriage. But Mr Gardner stays claim and steady throughout and never gets upset at my "what?" His narration is absolutely first class. One can't imagine a better combination than Shirer and Gardner.
Letting the rest of the world go by
The book will hit you at a visceral level and be prepared to listen to it beyond your normal listening routine. It's not a history of the war. The war is treated as a background character to the machinations of the political intrigue that transpired.
The book is a series of stories with a narrative that ties them all together. Be prepared to listen to 8 or so hours about a single topic such as the run up to the incursion of Austria or the invasion of Poland. The book is not a set of sound bites but is mostly exhaustive details on the political intrigue surrounding the topic.
Why can't all readers be as good as Grover Gardner?
I had ran out of science books on audible to listen to and had low expectations for this book. My expectations were wrong.
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.
My reading and listening tastes are eclectic.
Mr. Shirer wrote this book in the '50's, while the second world war was still very fresh in everyone's mind. While some of the advantages to examining the events that occurred after many of the principles involved had passed are clearly evident, I was very enlightened about the events that led to the rise and fall of the Third Reich. It is very evident that Mr. Shirer has certain biases that were widespread during that period. However, even that frames the events in a way a more open acceptance would not be able to do. This was a great listen, and I found it captivating.
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.
Max Fisher of Rushmore Academy
I've spent my life hearing important WWII stories, but never managed to have quite the sense of context needed to understand how they all fit together. This book analyzes the most important factor of the war -- Hitler's Third Reich -- in minute detail from the beginning to the end. And in so doing, provides the reader with a amazingly thorough understanding of exactly how the world landed in the mess it did.
This work of exhaustive research, beautifully composed and narrated, should be required reading for anybody who values democracy and peace.
"Excellent read (or listen)"
Read this book and, (still have it) keep going back to it, as a reference point when needed. Unfortunately, with such a momentous work, it's difficult to remember absolutely everything. I find having both spoken and audio formats available very useful.
"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.
An enthralling listen from the start to the finish.
I listened to the book in two hour blocks as I drive frequently, due to my work. If you want to really know about the Second World War, then this book is a must listen.
It is based on the war files found after the war in the German archives and reveals the true machinations of the Third Reich.
The book is comparable with the World at War television series.
I found the time line of the different battles fascinating. The initial battle in Europe was a over in weeks after Hitler invaded Belgium and Holland. Why did he stop his tanks from cutting off the British withdrawal?
The narration is superb.
There is a chapter towards the end which goes into more detail about The Final Solution. Truly horrific on every scale. I found this chapter very hard to listen to.
Britain got a lot of flack for initially appeasing Hitler. I am sure America would of played a large part in advising Britain in this period, although this is hardly mentioned.
At one stage he even says that the King's consort was pro German. He fails to mention that she was American and probably reflected America's views on Hitler at that time.
The author was an American correspondent based in Berlin. He negates to mention his own failure in alerting his fellow countryman.
He also fails to mention the breaking of the Enigma Code, which was a vast help to the allies?
Overall a great listen.
"A fascinating look at Hitler's bizarre story"
I might not listen to it again - it's a big work. But also, it's very clearly described and didn't leave me feeling like I needed to revisit parts to properly understand them.
There was a lot in here, particularly regarding Hitler's extraordinary rise to power and the events leading to the outbreak of the Second World War, that I knew nothing about. Some of the political manoeuvring is fascinating, and Mr Shirer had a very close view of it, living and working in Germany prior to the war.
Mr Gardner's performance is very measured, unhurried and evenly paced. I didn't find his delivery jarring or annoying, and for me, I will always associate his voice with Mr Shirer's words.
I'm not sure this subject needs any more films, but it would be something like, "The story of how an angry Austrian nobody caused history's biggest conflict - and destroyed himself."
"A brilliant (if long) history of the Third Reich"
If you want to understand how Hitler came to believe what he did, how he came to power, how Germany allowed this to happen and then how the second world war was planned and fought then this book tells it all.
A slightly odd question to ask of a book like this. Molotov comes off well I suppose. Churchill too.
Again - not the best question to ask of a history of war.
There are, by necessity, some chapters covering the Nazi atrocities. These cover more than just the final solution and were hard going. The author does not imagine or exaggerate and simply reports from documentation provided to the Nuremberg trials - however - it's upsetting stuff.
I wanted to understand (in light of recent international events) how fascism rose in popularity and how National Fascism came to power. I've also wanted to understand how Hitler came to start the war, and how he lost it.
This book is brilliant in being very detailed and written by a gentlemen who was there, as a US journalist, in Germany during the rise of Hitler and the start of the war. Shirer was there - he met or saw these people and so paints a very colourful picture of events.
It's an old book (published in '59 I think) so some of the language is a little quant on occasions (if you hear the phrase "pulling his chestnuts from the fire" several times it sounds very odd these days).
It ends with the author noting that no one would buy the book (the publisher only printing 12,000 copies) however it deservedly sold well (apart from in Germany oddly enough).
"Cute and pointless. Hobby writer."
Having read just the preface, I think I am in for a hurrah for US of A book. Why? Because it start by referring to Chamberlain's appeasement in Münich as a surrender. Any competent historian would realise that there can no surrender before war is declared, and Britain was the first nation to declare war on Germany, without first being attacked. It is as a fact that the USA only reluctantly aligned with the Allies, halfway through the war, which left the UK and France heavy in debt to the USA and the USA benefitting from the war premium.
Baias and pointless personality digging which many historical figures would not stand up to.
I doubt very much.
Poetic and clear prose.
This should be listed under amateur historian, so as to clearly separate it from real historians like Simon Schama,
I would suggest those who like David John Cawdell Irving works might also like William L. Shirer's work.
"Brilliant, reads like a thriller"
Over 50 hours may sound rather long, but trust me it isn't with this pacey and exciting audiobook, even though we all feel that we know the story. The reader is superb, and the narrative rattles along like a thriller and is packed with the incredible unbiased telling of the rise of Hilter and his band of Nazi cronies. If only my school history lessons could have captured my imagination like this book, then I would have been an academic. I managed to listen to it whilst driving, cooking, doing chores or just relaxing. Other audiobooks may seem stuffy and short after listening to this this treat.
"Excellent recounting of the facts"
Highly recommended as a summary of events and insight into the Third Reich, including the pivotal events of the war.
"A difinitive study on the Third Reich"
Yes, it is a very thorough and well researched book, which is also well read.
The personal experiences of Shirer provide a unique perspective, which makes this book rather unique.
Obviously this text is a little dated, and a little primitive in some of its conclusions. Nonetheless it is well worth reading, a good book.
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