Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer

My grandfather served in World War II. He never talked much about it, though he once mentioned he would never forget the smell as they came upon a concentration camp. They thought it was a pig farm until they saw the people.

I’ve always wondered how a society can get to the point where people are put into concentration camps and worked to death or sent to their death in a gas chamber. How can people follow orders to shoot other people in cold blood, usually for no other reason than that person is a Jew. What in the world allowed World War II to happen.

A few months ago I read The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler (also by William Shirer). It answered some of my questions (I still don’t understand, but I see how it happened). I still had more questions, though, so I decided to attack The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

William Shirer was an American journalist assigned to Europe starting at the time leading up to World War II. He was there when Hitler made many of his early speeches. He was broadcasting as things happened in the war. He saw things with his own eyes. He had a lot of opinions about the people and things that happened and he does not hold back those opinions in this book.

Much of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’s 1147 pages are direct quotes from the major players’ own journals. Shirer pieced together the story from many original sources. Sometimes his explanations do get rather long-winded, but for the most part it is a fascinating look at the events of that dozen or so years from Hitler’s rise from a nobody (not even a German!) to dictator to the very abrupt and rather anti-climactic end of the Third Reich.

I think the best part about the book is the conversational tone of Shirer’s commentary (found often in the many, many footnotes). I kind of felt like I was sitting at the knee of an uncle or grandfather while he was telling the story he saw develop many years ago.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Book Number: 88
Pages Read: 22,529
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Filed under History