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)
l'enfer c'est les autres
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"History in the writing."
A complete history of the third reich from beginning to end. This book is written in a free flowing, easy style and the narrators style makes this a joy to listen to. I found the content addictive to such an extent I'm listening all day apart from a few short breaks. Altogether a fascinating and in some parts shocking book.
Gardner's reading is superb. Despite the length this book gives a riveting insight into the strageties that won, and ultimately lost the war for Hitler. Thoroughly recommended for anyone with an interest in world history or WWII.
"Its long but its worth it"
Its solid history in an accessable way. I am genrally against interfeering in another country's affairs, which is quite relavant in 2011 - but having read this book one thinks perhaps a little more interffering and making a fuss would not go amiss. This book certainly makes you think.
I bought the book from a second hand shop in the 1980's, and enjoyed it very much, so I was very pleased to see it turn up on Audible. Fantastic narration by Grover Gardner, who managed to give me the impression that I was actually listening to William L. Shirer watching the events unfold in real time.
A nice bonus at the end of the narration, was an update by the author, made during the time that the wall came down in Berlin.
As mentioned by another reviewer. I listened to most of the book in the car, and now I have finished it, the radio is taking getting some used to. I cannot praise this highly enough.
I listen to this every day while travelling to and from work - for the past six weeks - and still only on chapter 12. A very well written and superbly read text. Covering everything from Hitler's ancestry through his rise to power, to commander in chief of the German war machine, we see the duplicity of the man and the gullibility of the German people, as he lies, manipulates and murders his way the the top. That the writer was present at many of the historic events as they took place only adds to the veracity of the account. I highly recommend this book to anyone with interest in world history.
"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.
"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 very long but essential history book."
Very long with some parts more interestong than others, i must admit at times my mind wondered but not once felt that this should stop me continueing.
An excellent journalistical view of the third reich with a narrator to match.
"A must read for all"
After 57 hours my daily commute will not be quite the same. I highly recommend this book, the story told is worthy of this heavyweight publication.
"The rise and fall of the 20th C most powerful, most destructive leader"
Clearly described and evidenced, a riveting exposition of 'strong man' Hitler bending an entire nation to his ideological obsessions. Some of Shirer's assumptions are of his time, and should be ignored, but overall this has left a deep impression and a clearer understanding of how such madness came to pass and teaches a lesson about the threat posed by nationalist ideologies in the hands of megalomaniacal leaders, even today.
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