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am 13. März 2000
You are there, even if you don't want to be. The terrible story of how a group of madmen brought sorrow to the planet is brought vividly to life in this classic history. It is a titanic work on a titanic subject.
The author, Bill Shirer, took some risks. He interposed his own judgements and feelings with the facts which he sets down. Seeing as how Shirer saw the Nazi regime with his own eyes, and his revulsion is based on his own experience, and almost all of his readers will share that revulsion, the risk pays off. Few historians could take a risk like this, or should. Because of what Shirer (and the world) saw and suffered, he did right.
Do not rely solely upon this book to learn about the Holocaust. The section of this book which retells the story of this ultimate crime is based on German documents and testimony gathered immediately after the war (and before almost all of the surviving perpetrators decided to collectively shut up). As a result, the section uniformly treats the Jewish and other prey of the killing system as passive victims. A balanced view is required, to say the least, and I am sure that most readers with a strong enough stomach to tackle this book will go on to read the testimonies of survivors and get closer to a real view of this almost unbelieveable story. However, the German sources quoted here at great length are useful should there be anyone reading this book who is so unfortunate as to believe that the Holocaust never happened. It did, and you can read about it here, in the words and documents of the men with blood on their hands.
Once again, this is a true, scary, unforgettable classic of the art of historical journalism.
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am 30. November 1999
A well documented and engrossing book. Shirer may at times paint the scene with a certain prejudice, yet the greater implication is inescapable: men who have tossed aside their conscience for the sake of blind ambition, open themselves to the gravest dangers Humanity can face. Consider this: the unlikely path of Adolf Hitler, who began his adult life as an untalented, maladjusted Vienna tramp, yet in a few short years, climbed to such levels of destructive power that his Reich will forever leave a scar upon Humanity. Thankfully, we have not often been served such tragic consequences on our little Earth. Yet within horror of Shirer's account exists a profound lesson for all--one, if correctly understood, can clarify our duty to ourselves and to Humanity.
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am 1. Februar 2000
It would be nearly impossible to overstate the importance of this book. It is, I believe, more pivotal in shaping the American popular understanding of Nazi Germany than any other book ever published. As such, it has helped shape everything from representations of Nazis and their victims in motion pictures to media protrayals of accused war criminals living in the United States.
As a work history, this book is also extremely impressive. Shirer makes extensive and critical use of a plethora of primary sources, including captured German documents and testimony from the Nuremburg trials, and this gives his account considerable credibility. His writing style is engrossing, making the length of the book seem less gargantuan than it is. I doubt that I would be able to identify a more comprehensive or readable single-volume history of Nazi Germany.
It should be understood, however, that Shirer does not really intend for this book to be merely a history of Nazi Germany. It is a morality tale. Shirer is aghast at the destruction and barbarity that Nazi Germany wrought in the world, and this book reads like an indictment of everybody everwhere who had a hand in allowing the barbarity to occur. Nobody can escape responsibility, not common Germans who brought Hitler to power, not the German generals who were unwilling or unable to control Hitler, not the German businessmen who profited through Hitler's various barbarities, not the Anglo-French architects of appeasement, and most of all not the Nazis themselves.
Of course, Shirer's sense of moral outrage sometimes causes some unfortunate lapses. It is rare that Shirer does not call Goering fat when Goering pops up in the narrative. Similarly, he invariably uses "fatuous" to describe Ribbentrop and reminds us on numerous occasions that Rosenberg was a "dolt." I have no idea what Goering's girth has to do with anything, and Shirer never really gives us a real idea of why he thinks that Ribbentrop was fatuous or Rosenberg was any stupider than any other member of the Nazi elite. Gratuitous pejoratives are distracting and unfair.
And then there's the matter of Ernst Roehm, Hitler's chief of the SA. Roehm and the rest of the members of the SA were a bunch of terrorist thugs who got votes for the Nazis by intimidating the opposition, but to Shirer, this thuggery is eclipsed by the fact that Roehm and some other of the SA leaders were or were thought to be gay (which Shirer consistently refers to as a "perversion"). To say the least, the credibility of Shirer's moral outrage at the racist and anti-semitic doctrine of the Nazi party is undermined by his bald homophobia.
More than that, Shirer makes no real attempt to understand why the British and the French behaved as they did in appeasing Hitler. He ascribes it to some sort of moral failing, and while this may be the case, it is only part of the story. France and Great Britain were bankrupted by the Depression. They couldn't really afford to rearm, and they were desparate to avoid a war at least partly out of a misplaced fiscal restraint. This fact does not obscure the reality that the appeasement policy was short-sighted and stupid, but at least it makes the whole thing more comprehensible. Likewise, Shirer doesn't really understand that Germany's rearmament was paid for with checks that the Reich couldn't cash without plunder. By 1939, the German economy was a house of cards that was about to collapse without a capital infusion. Unfortunately, one wouldn't know that from reading Shirer.
Finally, the emphasis that Shirer puts on different periods of the Third Reich is disproportionate. The war years, especially from 1943 to 1945, are sped through with very little detail about anything except the various plots against Hitler. It's almost as if Shirer ran out of gas after 800 pages or so. It is admirable that Shirer does not get bogged down the military details of the war, but at the same time, I would think that the war years deserve more than 25 or 30% of the book.
By all means, read this book, especially if you have only cursory familiarity with Nazi Germany. It is generally well-written, accessible, and reasonably comprehensive. Just beware of the problems with it as you are reading.
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am 22. Juli 1999
Shirer's book has enjoyed a wide popularity and as the other reviews in this section attest, it continues to find an enthusiastic audience. As a well documented eye witness account, it has merit. As a serious attempt at providing a useful history of the Third Reich it has many flaws. The book is poorly written notwithstanding comments to the contrary. It is full of incorrect grammar not least of which is an eccentric misuse of puncutation that persistently obfuscates the author's meaning. Shirer is overly concerned with pendantic details related to translation issues, which have no usefulness to the general reader. The book lacks balance. The event of paramount significance for the Nazis was, of course, the holocaust. Shirer deals with the holocaust in a scant few pages, while following that with a long discourse on the failed attempt to kill Hitler in July 1944. On balance the holocaust far outweighs the significance of the failed and futile effort to rid the world of Hitler through assassination, which would simply have made him a martyr to his followers. Shirer's view of the Nazi leaders is quite clouded. Perhaps this is an unfair crticism for someone who lived in Germany and saw it first hand, but his antipathy really clouds his judgement. His disparagement of the capabilities of Joseph Goerbels, for example, are laughable. For any history to have usefulness, it must appeal to it's intended audience. On that level, The Rise and Fall...is a brilliant success. To be truly useful, however, it must help the reader to understand the what, why and how of events. Shirer did not understand what he witnessed. The readers of his book, who rely only on this resource for their understanding, will remain as confused and puzzeled as Shirer himself.
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am 15. April 2000
This should be the one. William Shirer's comprehensive treatment of the curious rise and horrific fall of the Nazis in post-Weimar Germany is the benchmark volume to measure all other treatments of the era by. There are so many monographs on Nazi Germany that one reels before the list looming in a relevant bibliography. Save yourself the trouble; this book gives one exactly the kind of complete immersion in and coverage of the realities of the era that too many of the other books lack. Shirer, an American journalist stationed in Berlin as a newspaper (and later radio) correspondant during the rise of the National Socialists, was there, on the ground and at the scene witnessing many of the events he describes in such detail. He has, of course, written extensively on these experiences, both herein and elsewhere in books like 'The Nightmare Years' and 'Berlin Diary'. But this book has to be considered his masterpiece, and is worth the time, trouble and price for this hefty best-selling volume. After all, it has never been out of print in the forty years since its original publication in the early 1960s. I promise that if you read this, you'll never think of World War Two in the same way...
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am 29. Januar 2000
This book, is truly one of the finest of its genre following the origins of one of the most opressive regimes in modern history to its bitter end whilst maintaining a distinctly unbiased stance throughout.
Clearly, Mr.Shirer spent many hours,days,months etc on this book as he leaves no stone unturned in his presentation of the rise and the fall of Nazism.
If there is one criticism, it has to be that it reads in a manner that allows perhaps 30mins to 60mins at the most per session as it has so much sheer information to digest.
Apart from that, a Tour de Force.
0Kommentar| Eine Person fand diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
I promised myself that I would get around to reading this book "someday" when I was twenty--now I'm nearly forty and feel badly that I waited so long! This is a great book; not so much for its literary prose or intellectual bearing--but for the honest, straightforward way in which William Shirer tells the story quite literally of the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Shirer was a newspaper man and broadcaster working in Germany and he saw the early rise of the Nazi party first-hand; although the book is long (1100+ pages in hardback), it reads like a giant newspaper story--as if each paragraph was written "top down" and cut at exactly the right point to keep you on the edge of your seat. Shirer has a curious habit of footnoting almost every fact--and his notes are at least as fine a read as his text. Although he freely admits his predjudices in the foreward (and only a robot would not have them)--he does a fine job of sticking to the job of factual story telling. From the standpoint of someone living in a western democracy in 1998, it's almost impossible to fathom the breadth and depth of the terrible deeds accomplished by Hitler's Third Reich--and how he was able to remain in power. Shirer really focuses the perspective here. Do yourself a favor--don't try to speak intelligently on the Third Reich at some cocktail party without having first read this book.
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am 22. Juli 1999
Don't be intimidated by the 1100+ pages of "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich." It reads more like a novel than a dry historical narrative and -- trust me on this -- this book is awesome.
As a reporter for CBS, William Shirer lived and worked in Germany during much of the Nazi movement. Until he left in 1940, he saw firsthand Hitler's rise to power, the consolidation of that power, and the use of that power. As a fallible human being, his prejudices may show through at times, but this is not necessarily a weakness. In today's climate of political correctness, works by historical revisionists -- that purport to show that Hitler and the Nazis weren't so bad -- are not only published, but they're even taken seriously. Perhaps our modern view of Hitler has been distorted by allied propaganda and Hitler and Goerring were fun loving and lovable guys, they say. At the extreme, some revisionists even claim that the Auschwitz death camp didn't even have gas chambers - they were added later as a tourist attraction! Yeah right.
In that sense, Shirer's book, published in 1959 is refreshing. He doesn't hold back one bit with his opinions.
Hence, Quisling is "pig-eyed", Rohm is a "pervert", Goebles is "dwarfish", Goering is "corpulent", Ribbentrop is "vain as a peacock", Brauchitsch is "unintelligent", Eva Braun has the "brain of a bird", and so forth. Such epithets may offend the sensibilities of some modern day readers, but they certainly spice up the telling of what could otherwise be a boring tale. (If you don't know who these people are, buy the book. Believe me, if you read it all the way through, you will become a formidable expert in Nazi trivia).
Because "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" was finished a mere 14 years after the fall of Nazi Germany, some facts that have come to light after its publication are necessarily missing. The premier example of this would be the breaking of the secret Nazi military codes by the British. But writing this book in 1959 also had its advantages. Many of the participants were still alive when William Shirer was doing his research. Hence, when encountering a slight inconsistency in General Franz Halder's war diary [The Chief of Staff of the High Command (the OKH)], William Shirer wrote to the old General and received "a prompt and courteous reply."
Perhaps Shirer's most vivid firsthand account of all is the several page description of the French surrender in the rail car at the forest at Compiegne:
"I look for the expression in Hitler's face. I am but fifty yards from him and see him though my glasses as though he were directly in front of me... He glances slowly around the clearing, and now, as his eyes meet ours, you grasp the depth of his hatred."
Amazing stuff.
But these personal accounts only take up a very small portion of this absolutely fantastic book. Particularly well covered was Hitler's rise to power -- a story that is not often told. The Hitler that Shirer paints during these early years is a very astute political observer who shrewdly plays the German people like a violin. He promises the people what they want, plays on their fears, and is extremely ruthless to anyone who dares to oppose him.
In later years, Shirer's Hitler's political savvy falls apart. At one point Shirer calls his inner circle a "lunatic asylum". Except for very occasional bursts of brilliance, Hitler has no idea what the heck he is doing politically much less militarily and yet his fanatical followers still go along with him. Hitler's megalomania goes on overdrive until, like a Viking in a Wagner opera his body is burned in a last stand against the Russian army just blocks away from his bunker.
While making my way through "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", I can't tell you how many times I would read about a pivotal event and wonder "WHAT THE HECK WAS GOING THROUGH THESE GUYS MINDS?" I always knew the Nazi's were nuts as well as scary. This book provided all of the details I needed.
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am 29. Juli 1999
My parents bought this book when it first came out, about 1960, and I struggled to read it cover to cover and eventually finished it. I was eight years old. This may seem amazing to some of the high school students who have reviewed this book as "boring", but it amazed and frightened me. What kept me reading was the vividly portrayed methodical and unfolding horror in Europe that I had known nothing about (what eight year old does?) I'm sure that I missed a lot on my first reading, but I remember that first reading vividly even today. The reason this book is a "must read" is that today's tyrants, today's wars and today's massacres follow much the same script. I believe that most tyrants are often also fanatic students of history for "how to" guides to achieving their aims. Those they would enslave should be equally diligent. The book is sometimes disparaged for its long quotes of previously secret Nazi letters, memoranda and cables, but it is precisely that detail that stays with you for life. You will never read a bland government white paper again without scanning it for the incredible couched in passive, obfuscatory language.
I have read a great deal more history since then, and have read many books on military tactics and strategy from ancient times to the present, but I have never read a better portrait of a world gone crazy. Military strategists can only tell you how. This book tells you why by someone who was there when it happened.
Obviously there have been further revelations since this book was published in 1960 based on declassified and more recently translated documents, but this book stands the test of time in that such revelations supplement but do not undermine its veracity.
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am 20. November 1998
William Shirer's book recounting in extremely fine detail one of the most covered subjects in world history has a unique, magical quality. I will not dwell on its accuracy and breadth of documentation, other reviewers have already noted it. The sheer quantity of original and secret material from the Nazi administration archives Shirer was able to use as a background to write this book boggles the mind - and he himself admits it would've taken many men many lifetimes to go through it all; but this is not my point. My point is that in anyone else's hands, this material would probably have resulted in a jaw-droppingly boring listing of names and minutes from cabinet meetings. What truly astonished me about this book were its overpowering demand for attention, its totally consistent clarity, its lightness of style and exposition that never, ever forgot precision and in-depth observation. I read this 1,100+-page book in two weeks, and not once through it I felt I wasn't understanding what it talked about. I'm not a faster or smarter-than-average reader: it was simply impossible to let the volume stand there, so much so that for two weeks I brought it with me everywhere I went, using every minute of free time (and also a few hours of work time) to read a few more lines, a few more paragraphs, please, just two more pages, I promise. For all the countless historical characters and extremely complex situations presented here (how could there not be, given the subject?), Shirer leads the reader through them with such powerful grace and insight that you have to strain to remind yourself this is not a Dashiell Hammett mystery, and that Adolf Hitler wasn't simply any Little Caesar. Though Shirer's judgment on the whole story is fairly explicit - and please let me add that it should simply be any reasonable person's judgment - he never lets it cloud his narration. People here are mostly shown through their actions, not ex-post interpretation or psychobabble. They lunge for your throat. Even the first page starts, so to speak, in mid-action, at the end of January 1933, with Hitler rising to Chancellorship after 14 years of founding the NSDAP. As you turn the pages, as story - and history - unfold, you feel the same uncertainty with which life itself unfolds, as if the Third Reich is growing day by day before your eyes and you actually don't know what tomorrow and the next page will bring, as if you didn't already know how the story ended. Shirer's book is the perfect example of how all history should be written.
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