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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
"Well worth it if you've got the time."
This is a masterful book, and despite being written in about 1955 it has not dated at all. This guy was actually a reporter who sometimes stayed in the same hotels as Hitler and gives a first hand account of how Adolf looked on certain occasions - how cool is that? On the other hand, it took me a good three months to get through this book, and I am semi-retired. I find history HARD to read, all those people with foreign names, and sometimes I had to replay three or four times to take it in. Still, a masterwork if you want to get an insight on Hitler's life and thinking. I feel I now understand more or less what fascism is (which I did not before).
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.
"Magisterial account of the period"
One day perhaps, but at 53 hours it's a substantial investment of time.
There may well be books out there like this, but I haven't read them.
Really - what a stupid question. How should I answer? Hmm, that Dr. Goebbels was a right caution, wasn't he.
Another moronic question. Does the software not realise that this is a non-fiction book?
This is a monster of a book covering from the earliest days of Hitler to the end of the war. What makes it special, apart from the breadth of coverage, is that the author was a journalist and eyewitness to many of the events described, which lends the book an immediacy lacking in books written by academic historians. Despite the length of the book, it never drags.The narration is excellent too.Any negative points? Well, I thought that the book was slightly unbalanced: too much on Austria and Czechoslovakia, too little on the war in 1943 and 1944. But that's just a petty quibble. Overall, this is a fantastic account of the period written with insight and an eye for the telling detail. Given that I managed to get it for £1.99 as a daily special, this was one of the bargains of the year!
"Definitive and very detailed history"
If you are interested in how the Nazis and Hitler came to power, and how Germany came so close to conquering the Western World and Russia, this is for you. With the benefit of hindsight you can see the mistakes that Hitler fortunately made that meant that the Third Reich that he thought would last a thousand years barely lasted ten. It is frightening that he came within a whisker of pulling it off though!
To say that Hitler was my favourite character would not be true, but as an evil genius he can't be beaten. I am amazed that he stated in Mein Kampfe ten years before he came to power all the things he would do, yet no politician of the time seemed to be aware of his plans and time after time were surprised by his actions. He managed to get away with what he did because the "great powers" seemed more intent on mistrusting each other than stopping Hitler
I liked the style of reading and it made it a very easy listen
There were appalling crimes committed by the Nazis and many thousands of war criminals were never prosecuted after the war
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this subject.
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