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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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
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.
"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.
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.
"A must for anyone."
To sit and read such a book is only for those with the will & want to do so... But this is an important piece of history, and in audio format it makes it much easier to take in... almost taking you in as if it was a war/spy novel.
Yeah, here's a spoiler alert. Hitler dies & the Nazis lose... BUT this book shows exactly how the most hated figure in modern history came to power.
Even though you may know the outcome of some of the events and battles, you are on the edge of your seat as you realise how damned close each side came to victory/loss at each decision.
In his early political life you can see that he was driven, had a great mind & huge potential. In post WW1 Germany you could see that the way the country was treated by the victors of WW1, that something had to break. The real start of the troubles that lead to WW1 started way before Hitler turned up... but the pot was on the boil, and the Germany was in such a mess that one man with a bright future vision (which it really was... initially) could go from a street tramp to the most powerful leader in a matter of years. Hitler it seems, was the sum of all that was around him.
Truly fascinating, and a real eye opener to why the war kicked off. Understanding the lead up to our darkest days really casts a light on why it all happened. If it hadn't been Hitler, then someone else would have filled the void. The world was a powder keg waiting to blow.
"Worth every penny"
I read this book many years ago as a student, when I had only Bullock’s ‘Hitler’ to contrast it with and found its scope quite daunting. I suspected I might get more out of it now that the ideas and events it covers are more familiar, and I wasn’t mistaken. Not only is Audible’s production impeccable, but Grover Gardner also reads it in as gripping a way as Olivier narrated ‘The World at War’, such that it works brilliantly as a page-turner. More than that, because Shirer witnessed all these events close up, you get a tangible sense of what it must have felt like to live in proximity to the worst psychopath ever to rule a modern state.
I’d heard that the book has rather fallen out of favour nowadays, mostly because it’s now politically incorrect to vilify Germany as opposed to Nazism. In my view, Shirer does overdo his censure of the German people: Hitler never had more than minority support before acceding to power (and indeed was fiercely resisted) and Shirer is quite wrong to take seriously the rigged plebiscites that followed. One can understand anti-German sentiment during the War, but 15 years was surely enough of a cooling-off period before he published his still angry book.
I also wonder whether Shirer (an American) was altogether fair in damning the British and French governments who failed to wage war on Germany pre-emptively. Hindsight’s a fine thing, but both those nations had had the stuffing knocked out of them less than two decades earlier, and renewed hostilities would have gone down like a lead balloon with the electorate.
These are however small caveats alongside the sheer pleasure of a book that everyone entitled to wield a vote ought to listen to.
I read the book many years ago when I was much younger and it left a lasting impression on me then. I had to pick this up as an audiobook, simply to refresh my memory.
The author being a contemporary journalist gives a good insight into the minds of people at the time. If you ever wonder how this could ever have happened, this book will give you some insight. It covers the period before the birth of Hitler up to his death and beyond.
Frequently during the narrative the Shirer will remind the reader or listener of his part in this story and biases he might have had. He does come across as being factual and well read and researched as well as seeing many of the events first hand. The narrative both as a book and an audiobook is quite compelling. The section dealing with treatment of prisoners of war, jews and other civilians and "experiments" is done very well. It is brutal, difficult to listen of read but not over done. It is an essential part of the book.
Whilst Grover Gardner has a few issues with pronunciation of German names, I find these quite forgiveable. His style is "matter of fact" without ever being dull and I for one looked forward to every opportunity to listen. I have no idea what Shirer sounded like but I happily accepted Gardeners voice as his.
This is a "long haul" listen or read but don't let that put you off.
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