The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer is one of the most interesting historical book I have ever read in my life. In my high school days, history has always been one of my favorites subjects but I haven’t done anything outside of school to expand on it. One event that has always piqued my curiosity has been World War II, specifically what happened with the German government and of course, with Adolf Hitler. I find it very hard to resist learning about the famous German dictator and in various times, I often search on Youtube for some of his videos. That quenched some of my thirst for knowledge but for higher learning, nothing beats reading a book so my task was to find an unbiased book that not only chronicles the events leading up to World War II but that also dug into the mind and details of Hitler himself. I was immediately drawn toward this monstrous of a book by William Shirer. I have learned so much after having finally devoured this book from start to finish in just a matter of two and a half weeks.
I will like to point out that for anyone who have a problem with people like me who took it upon themselves to dedicate a huge chunk of their time devoted to learning about Adolf Hitler, I can assure you its not due to admiration. Many of my friends think me crazy to actually wanting to learn about the history of this crazed man who inevitably led to the extermination of millions and millions of lives. If you never have thought it curious as to how just one single man on this planet could come to this much power, then obviously this book isn’t for you. If you have never felt some sort of sympathy for the millions of lives lost and took it upon yourself to learn of their plight and what they actually had to go through, then obviously this book isn’t for you. I could go on but I’m sure you get the point.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich does an excellent job of presenting the facts of the events that took place, especially between 1933 when Hitler came into full power until his ultimate demise in 1945. There are definitely a ton more of written material on earlier events of Hitler’s life but it was during that period I just mentioned that is so examined by many historians. Only after having access to the tons of captured documents after the war, which many of them comprises of secret telegrams, does the author have a remote chance of presenting and giving us readers as close as a picture possible of what actually took place in that fateful era of terror. Believe me when I say this that there will be many moments throughout this book that will just knock you out of your feet. It’s so surprising for someone who don’t have much knowledge on this subject, such as myself, to finally get an insight into how and why events folded as they did back then.
For the most part, I can sense that the author tried very hard to keep any of his bigotry and opinions to himself but you can definitely also sense his anger and criticism throughout the book. For example, he keeps referring to Hermann Goering as the “fat” Reich Marshall. However, I can assure you that it does not hinder the reading experience at all and you wouldn’t in any way feel throughout the book feel offended by the author’s remarks. If you are actually looking for a book detailing the Holocaust event, you’ll be disappointed in this regard and should look elsewhere if that is your main focus. The author, however, does dedicate one entire chapter on presenting details of what actually happened in the concentration camps and how the Nazi’s planned for the mass extermination of the Jews.
Every chapter is filled with footnotes and citations. My personal recommendation is that if you want to get the most out of this book, you’ll definitely want to read all the footnotes from the author. However, many of the source citations I left unread. The author obviously had to include them (trust me, there are a ton of them) due to completeness sake. In fact, even the author himself stated how shocked he was to learn of how well his book sold for something that has so much footnotes and citations. To give you a hint of just how much is included here, the book itself contains about 1280 pages. The actual story ends at about 73% ( I read digital edition). The rest is filled with citations!
This book really did open my eyes and I can’t thank the author enough for this. I’m sure he spent countless days and nights putting this book together. While many people would automatically categorize upon hearing the name of Adolf Hitler into the “evil people” category, they have no idea or knowledge of the man himself. Many people would not consider him an evil genius because they have no idea of how he completely conquered his neighboring countries without shedding one single drop of blood. They have no idea that if you looked up the phrase “from rags to riches”, you might probably find a picture of Hitler attached there. They have no idea that his last name of “Hitler” almost didn’t become to be and if it were so, the course of history would have been changed forever just for that fact alone. They have no idea of how important Britain, France, Russia and the United States have played in the role of taking down the Third Reich. They have no idea how the country of Yugoslavia, at the expense of many people’s lives, ultimately played the biggest role in the defeat of German troops in Russia and its not in the way you would think initially. These were just some out of the many other things I have learned from this book.
I felt that I owed it that much to the millions of victims whose lives were lost due to this tragic event that I at least learn of what happened to them. In this way, they could at least continue to live on through the memory of other human beings and not fade into obscurity forever. There are still many mysteries that are left unsolved even after the capture of secret documents which the Germans failed to destroy. We, of course, have the benefit of hindsight and analysts and historians are able to leisurely dissect everything that has happened in the Third Reich era but there are just some things that cannot be accounted for no matter how hard one try. But of course, that’s not the purpose of this book. If you do want to learn everything you can about one of the darkest period known to mankind, than you definitely have to pick up this book. Humankind can only pray that there will never be another Adolf Hitler. Once you’ve read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, you’ll truly be able to understand why.
As the author states at the end of the book, ” Remembrance of the past helps us to understand the present”. If you can’t understand that, then I’ll repeat here that this book obviously isn’t for you.