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The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  54,262 Ratings  ·  1,577 Reviews
Hitler boasted that The Third Reich would last a thousand years. It lasted only 12. But those 12 years contained some of the most catastrophic events Western civilization has ever known. In The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer gave us the definitive book on Hitler's German Empire. Based on his personal experiences as a war correspondent as well as the vo ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 50th Anniversary Edition, 1614 pages
Published November 15th 1990 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1960)
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Alan Northcote For a starter, I'd recommend this one - I read it when I was 16 years old, and it got me interested in the subject for the next forty years, so far!

For a starter, I'd recommend this one - I read it when I was 16 years old, and it got me interested in the subject for the next forty years, so far!

Richard Evans' series are excellent, and very detailed, but this may be better read first, and is written by someone who was close to the events at the time.(less)
Alan Northcote As it was written by a journalist who spent time in Germany in the years before the war, it has a contemporary quality. It isn't the most…moreAs it was written by a journalist who spent time in Germany in the years before the war, it has a contemporary quality. It isn't the most comprehensive on the subject, (not to say it doesn't cover a lot of ground- it certainly does!) but Shirer wasn't writing sixty years after the event. It's a very good place to start!(less)
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Wyatt Nordstrom
May 26, 2008 Wyatt Nordstrom rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone. It should be required reading.
Well, I did it. After two years, I have finally finished this beast. The first 600 or so pages are pretty slow, but it flies after that...

We all know the story- a misanthropic, racist, vegetarian, megalomaniac failed artist writes a book that taps into age-old German prejudices, seizes power, and embarks on a quest for European domination. In the process he starts the biggest war in history leading to the deaths of tens of millions of people, subjugates about a dozen other countries, and systema
Three years ago I implemented a personal tradition: to read a "Monster Classic" each year. This is my term, referring to a piece of writing that is great in reputation and girth. The how and when of it is to begin the Monster mid-summer and read it in fits and starts over the course of several months, with a goal of finishing before the end of the year. The why of it isn't so simple. Most avid readers I know have daunting lists of books they want to or feel they should read. I'm no different, bu ...more
Apr 07, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it

You boil this book down, strip it to the foundations, and what the reader finds is darkness of the human soul. Bred in the alleyways and gutters of Vienna before the first world war, this was the angry and hateful opposite of God’s shining light, the ancient shadows that live in the basement of our souls, given life and expression on the palette of a failed artist.

Shirer’s scholarly, exhaustive masterpiece paints the portrait of the Third Reich from its beginnings in the backrooms and
Erik Graff
Apr 05, 2013 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Synnove Stousland
Shelves: history
This was the first, really serious grownup book I ever read.

My sole brother being almost eight years younger and no cousins being in the States, I was virtually an only child, condemned to the weekly dinner parties of my parents and paternal grandparents and their friends, most of them held elsewhere than our own home. At one particularly excruciatingly boring party held at Great Aunt Synnove's I was scanning the magazines and bookshelves for something to occupy the time. Being ten, the great sw
I have a very strong feeling of enthusiasm and at the same time of aversion for this book, which I read when I was 16. William Shirer wrote a no-holes barred account of the rise of Adolf Hitler from the perspective of a fanatical (in the full sense of the word) opponent of everything Hitler stood for. Shirer was also a journalist writing as though he were a historian, so his writing reads easily and persuasively but is not necessarily a font of historical accuracy. Whatever one's own position, t ...more
May 09, 2010 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The detail with which this book deals with the Third Reich and the unspeakable evil that was Hitler's Germany is almost too much to take. Some of the discriptions, particularly towards the end of 'medical' experimentation, are simply too shocking and too challenging to read in one sitting. If you need to be reminded of just how evil the bastards in charge of Germany in the 30s and 40s really were then this is the book you need to read.

Like I said, the detail is mind-blowing - the story of this
Sep 25, 2012 Zachariah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history

The book is really long and goes into a lot of details, but that shouldn't be held against it. It seems like general knowledge about this subject is kept to the antisemitic atrocities, and stories tend to focus on concentration camps, military conflict, or underground movements and hiding. This leaves the Nazis as just some mystical thing that happened once upon a time. If there is any contextual knowledge known it is probably just remembered from highschool that the German people were
Dec 08, 2013 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII buffs, Military history fans, History Channel fans
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
I actually do hate this book, which would earn it 1 star according to goodreads' rating system, but my personal ethics prevent me from going quite so far. The reason I hate it, really, is because it remains wildly popular (you can find it in pretty much any bookstore that has any non-fiction in English at all), in spite of the fact that literally mountains of far better works on the subject have been written.

When I come back and look at it objectively, however, I have to admit that it’s not rea
Todd Nemet
Feb 18, 2012 Todd Nemet rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
This book was a Christmas present from a friend, though I also bought a copy on the Kindle so that I could read it outside of my house without having to lug around a brick-like book with swastikas on it. The Kindle version is especially handy if you are not quite at the bring-Nazi-related-stuff-to-the-office stage at your job yet. (The down side of the Kindle version is that the it is horrible at handling footnotes, and this book has many that are important to the story.)

This is a strange and un
Feb 17, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: cannonball-read
Everyone has that holy grail of a book. Some people work like dogs to finish books by the great Russian literary masters; others tough it out through the oeuvre of Steinbeck. They may not enjoy it, but, by G-d, you are not a real reader until you slam that back cover onto that tome of pain and frustration.

I finally finished my grail: the 1500+ page The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. I labored for two months, reading mostly at home to avoid the embarrassment of busting out
Dec 30, 2014 Fortunr rated it really liked it
Shelves: history_modern
This is a classic. A very detailed, almost day-by-day account of this momentous period of World history. Relevant primary sources, including documents used in Nuremberg, are persuasively referenced throughout the account.
The book is an important reference to whoever is interested in the period; however there are a few issues with it:
- you can see that the author was a journalist writing as though he were a historian. On the positive side, this makes for a fresh, vivid and compelling narrative,
The great strength of this book is that it was written by a journalist. There is a simple narrative and clear prose. Best of all in a couple of places at least he draws upon his own experiences (for example a conversation with a General during the re-militarisation of the Rhineland and seeing German troops and English prisoners of war during the invasion of France in 1940 (Shirer had been a journalist based in France from 1925 and in Germany from 1934).

Equally the great weakness of this book is
Aug 23, 2012 Taylor rated it really liked it
My first thought at the book's end was, "I finished it!" My second thought was, "I'm not so sure I'm glad I read this." As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. My summer spent reading this book held a dark cloud over me, which has yet to be lifted. I've spent many evenings in tears over the utter cruelty of the Third Reich.

Shirer, a noted journalist, makes it clear he is not a historian. However, the scope of information he covers and use of primary sources would prove otherwise. I find Shirer a
محمد على عطية
Jun 26, 2015 محمد على عطية rated it really liked it
Shelves: تاريخ
يعد هذا الكتاب من أقدم و أشهر الكتب التي تناولت تاريخ الرايخ الثالث، فقد صدرت طبعته الأولى في عام 1950، و هذا ما أدى لكاتبه أن يتناول في مقدمه إشكالية الكتابة التاريخية و الفترة التي يجب أن تفصل بين الحقبة الزمنية المراد الكتابة عنها و بينزمن الكتابة نفسه. ففي حين أن مؤرخي المدرسة الفرنسية مثلاً يرون أن تلك الحقبة تكون في حدود مائة عام، و أنهم و هم في النصف الأول من القرن العشرين يستطيعون الآن فقط أن يكتبوا عن حروب نابليون، فإن الكاتب يقر بأنه و إن كان البعد الزمني يساهم في استقرار المعلومات و آ ...more
John Vibber
Apr 06, 2013 John Vibber rated it it was amazing
Is it metaphorically possible for a society to die of cancer? Can a mad man be so charismatic a genius that his personal malignancy becomes common belief? What fiendish ideas and values could drive such a development?

If you know about WWII, but wonder about the source of its madness, this is the book to read. It will give you the characters and events which are almost unbelievable in their deception and depravity.

This is the definitive history that people should read not to repeat history.

Aug 22, 2014 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
In spite of its flaws, this book has one major advantage that almost every subsequent book about Nazi Germany lacks: Shirer was actually there reporting on it as it happened. He saw the ascent of the totalitarian regime and the man who built it with his own eyes, not as part of some forgone historical event, but as something that developed and destroyed with incredible speed. The inception of the Nazi state and the world war it caused with Hitler's insatiable, insane need for more land and more ...more
Jan 02, 2009 Erik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the first real attempt at a history of Nazi Germany. As such, it is a product of its times. The book offers an incredibly detailed look at the Third Reich impossible to find in any other work, and thus rightly stands as the definitive work on the subject. On the other hand, the author is so heavily invested in making sure that no one ever develops any sort of respect for his subjects that he paints them in an almost comically unfavorable light.

While trying to put down the Nazis is a
Aug 02, 2015 Dean rated it it was amazing
I finally finished reading William Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich." It's one of the best history books I have ever read (and I've read a lot), for its depth of journalistic research and first-person witnessing of events.

The lesson: How easy it would have been to stop Hitler so many times in his early years, if only the bystanders knew (1) That he really wanted to destroy the world and the Jews. He signaled his intentions in Mein Kampf, and lived up to them. (2) That nobody else was
Jun 15, 2011 Christian rated it it was amazing
In many ways this was not an easy read, it took me months and I had to step away from it multiple times. In other ways it was an easy read, because Shirer is a fantastic journalist who can, seemingly effortlessly, transform tons of historical documents into a gripping, fast-paced story about a twisted, charismatic politician and the nation which, out of greed and willful ignorance, allowed him to lead them down a dark path that still today covers the German people in shame.

If you've ever wonder
Mikey B.
Nov 05, 2012 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: germany, world-war-ii
I had read this book about thirty-five years ago. Since then I have gone through several books on World War II – Churchill’s great memoirs volumes, Toland and Fest biographies of Hitler, books on the Nuremberg trials…

So I thought that Shirer’s book would be a simple re-hash – it wasn’t.

If I were to be asked to recommend only one book on Nazi Germany this would be it. I was also very moved by the elegance of Shirer’s writing. His prose is stirring and makes these cataclysmic events of the twentie
Apr 02, 2013 Mary rated it it was amazing
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich describes very concisely the Nazi rise to power, their military aggression, and how frighteningly close they came to winning the war. William Shirer was a correspondent in Berlin during this era and his own experiences lace the book with invaluable insights.

Painstaking research went into the writing of this book. Much of the information comes from documents recovered by the Allies after the fall of the Reich.

Thank-God that Hitler was crazy because when you
Jan 14, 2015 Arpitha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
How does one explain or begin to understand the hypnotic power Hitler had over the people? This book not only reveals details of terror unleashed by Hitler & the Nazis, but that for all his intuition & lust for absolute power, he declared "We will always strike first. We will always deal the first blow!" & he did, but was somehow propelled in his barbaric mission by the initial complacent, cautious & back step approach of countries like England & France. To quote the Czech mi ...more
Jun 18, 2007 Tom rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: students of WWII
I remember as a child this book sitting on my parents' bookshelf, the big black swastika on the dustcover's spine looking mysterious and scary. Of course, that's what Nazi Germany was, and when I was much younger it took several tries to read this. I didn't know the history of the context of the events Shirer describes, and I didn't know what the word "historiography" meant until I was a senior in college. This book has been praised for the author's nearly unique insights as a CBS radio correspo ...more
Aug 29, 2013 Feliks rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-nonfiction
Deserves every bit of stature it has earned over the years. A mammoth work; authentic; robust. Shirer was one of "Murrow's boys" and did a great job. Should be read by every citizen concerned with history, power, culture, and corruption. Should be read by any internet wag who wants to refer to Nazism and Hitler in their various jeers and jibes. Don't even talk about the Third Reich until you can tackle a book like this...
Rachel Kirby
May 25, 2015 Rachel Kirby rated it it was amazing
57 hours on Audible in just over 2 years (not sure why I started this just before Bar Exam study started). Finally finished. This book is amazing. More than you ever knew you needed to know, and more. Some parts were a little slow (detailed battle logistics - so not my thing) but others were fascinating (the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler - dang you, briefcase kicker). Had to skip over the hour or so on the death squads, concentration camps and the like (have studied those for over 25 year ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Sherri rated it it was amazing
I was a business major in college and didn't take any history courses. I found my interest in history years later. I am ashamed to say that I knew very little about WWII prior to this book. I knew Hitler was evil. I knew about the horrors of the concentration camps. I knew about the terror of the Gestapo. But that is about it.

This book was fascinating, primarily because the author was stationed in Berlin during the early Hitler years. He doesn't hesitate to add his personal recollections or opi
Thanh Ngô
Apr 01, 2015 Thanh Ngô rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ngốn của tôi mất gần ba tuần chỉ để biết rằng, Hitler là người ăn chay, thích vẽ, nghe nhạc Wagner, đọc rất nhiều sách và đặc biệt là ông ta lên nắm quyền một cách hoàn toàn hợp pháp.
Quân Khuê
Jan 16, 2015 Quân Khuê rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
hoành tráng, ngốn mất hai tuần của tôi, để chỉ nhớ mỗi câu này: Hitler là một người đọc sách :)
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
An important read, by a journalist who was there for much of it.
Jan 01, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing
It's hard to review this book-- how do you evaluate the writing and research when you're so overwhelmed by the deeds cataloged?

That being said, I think it's something anyone who wants to understand the 20th century should read. It's a damning indictment of the global powers of the 30s and 40s (isolationism, hesitancy to strike at Germany when they repeatedly broke treaties), and it's hard to reconcile that portrayal of the US as isolationist jerks with the one we're all spoonfed from birth of t
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William Lawrence Shirer was an American journalist and historian. He became known for his broadcasts on CBS from the German capital of Berlin through the first year of World War II.

Shirer first became famous through his account of those years in his Berlin Diary (published in 1941), but his greatest achievement was his 1960 book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, originally published by Simon
More about William L. Shirer...

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“No class or group or party in Germany could escape its share of responsibility for the abandonment of the democratic Republic and the advent of Adolf Hitler. The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it. ” 20 likes
“In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on and uninhabited planet.” 17 likes
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