Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Nightmare Years” as Want to Read:
The Nightmare Years
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Nightmare Years (20th Century Journey #2)

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  727 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
As European correspondent for a number of American newspapers during the 1930s, William L. Shirer witnessed at first hand many of the pivotal events in the buildup to World War II.

At the Nuremberg rallies, when Hitler roared through the streets celebrating his newly-won domination of Germany, Shirer was there. In Munich, as Chamberlain abandoned the Czechs, Shirer was the
Mass Market Paperback, 639 pages
Published June 1st 1992 by Bantam (first published April 1st 1984)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Nightmare Years, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Nightmare Years

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 30, 2007 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this breezy account of life as a foreign correspondent living through the tumult of 1930s Europe, et al. Shirer lived a fascinating life...seemed to be in the right place at the right time and....I think he is adequately objective, given the emotional subject matter.

When I say 'breezy,' I say so only as compared with true scholarly historical bloated as the historiography is, I am refreshed by this primary source. As an American reader that has spent a good amoun
Nick Black
Aug 05, 2013 Nick Black rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-heart-war
Written in the 1980's, well after Shirer's place in journalistic history had been cemented with The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Reads largely as an expanded, annotated version of his Berlin Diaries, which are at times extensively quoted. Given that some of this material was also reproduced in Rise and Fall, this is the third time reading it for the dedicated Shirerist. This book covers almost the same period as Berlin Diaries (the first fifty pages or so, covering Shirer's early Chicago Tr ...more
Charlie Brown
Jul 23, 2010 Charlie Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually, I re-read this book, which I do periodically in order to remind myself of the whirlwind that swept Europe and Asia in the 1930s.

In the early thirties Shirer traveled and reported events in India and Afganistan. Shirer lived primarily in Germany between 1934 and 1940. He observed (as a journalist) the appeasement of Hitler. He observed the Battle of Britain from the German side, and followed the German Army into France. He was present at Compiegne when Hitler accepted the French surren
S.A. Bolich
Jun 10, 2012 S.A. Bolich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good read, and taken for what it is--part of Shirer's memoirs--it is excellent. If you are looking for a dry, straight-up analysis or history of the lead-up to WWII, this isn't it. If you are looking for a first-person, "I wuz there" account from a guy who was lucky enough to be everywhere history was being made in Europe in the 1930s, this is it. He kept a detailed personal diary from which this is drawn, supplemented by much material from the captured Nazi archives and personal inter ...more
We must never forget how it started.
Dec 10, 2013 Brett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book. I've previously read Shirer's famous book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I'd also read his Berlin Diaries, which was just the publication of the diaries he kept during the time period he lived in Berlin under Nazi rule.

This book falls somewhere in the middle. It isn't just diaries. There's more of a narrative, combining info from his diaries, his own memories (the book was written decades the Nazi era ended), and information that wasn't known until after Nazi docum
Erik Graff
Sep 17, 2010 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shirer fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
While the first volume of Shirer's autobiography, The Start, is primarily personal, the second, The Nightmare Years, has his personal life almost submerged in the events he covered as a journalist, these being primarily the Indian struggle for independence and the Nazi rise to power in central Europe, much of which was also described in his Berlin Diary. In addition to his eyewitness accounts of political events he was also, with Edward R. Murrow, a creator of real-time radio news reporting, the ...more
Nov 07, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although written by a journalist rather than a historian, this hefty book does a great job of making history come alive -- in terms of both characters and events. His see-it-now coverage of the making of the Nazi machine is priceless. I wish that schools used books like this rather than the dry, dull textbooks that put us all to sleep!
For all of Shirere's academic restraint in writing the totally objective Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, here he lets all spill out like guts on the floor. He is 180 degrees opposite and resorts to name-calling, insults, and strong opinions of the despicable Nazis he met and worked with while he was a radio correspondent there. Interesting.
Feb 21, 2009 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite as good as "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," but certainly a great achievement.
Mar 06, 2017 Geremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was absolutely worth rereading for me, with a decade's more experience and understanding and on the cusp of the United States LARPing this book in its entirety.

Some of the early portions of this, on the "primitives" and "savages" of British India, Afghanistan, and Arabia, haven't aged especially well, but even those are enlightening as examples of period travel writing, a la Fitzroy Maclean's Eastern Approaches. Shirer's own history as a reporter, first for newspapers and wire services, fol
Nov 26, 2012 Kris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are able to get past the self aggrandizement of the author, this is a great cautionary tale of what happens when leaders of free nations choose to appease dictators and, in doing so, silently condone acts of aggression and atrocity. It also illustrates how easily people are led down a path of lies with false promises and strategically placed propaganda. It is interesting to note how many parallels exist between these 1930's accounts and the world in which we live today - especially in the ...more
Lexie Graham
This is definitely a memoir as Shirer dishes out opinions of the Nazi upper echelon and sometimes his fellow journalists. He's able to toss off his objective journalist hat and talk about his private life and dealing with the changing times. He was in the thick of things in Berlin during the rise of Hitler, broadcasting for CBS much of the time, fighting with censors and the German bureaucracy. The United States was neutral at the time so he was able to see and hear a lot of speeches, tour the F ...more
Aug 06, 2010 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has a good deal more than straight-up information about pre-War Germany. There's material from the author's stay in India, and a wonderful section about his time in a small fishing village in Spain when that country was in turmoil. I had never really grasped the meaning of the term "The Phony War" until readng this book.
Of course, it took me forever to read, but it was well worth it. The material about the growth of Hitler's power, and about the cowardice of the Western powers even wh
Bonnie Palmer
Jun 13, 2014 Bonnie Palmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in the early nineties and really liked it. I plan to re-read it now because I keep thinking about the lessons we have not learned from that terrible era. Shirer's reporting of the build up of Hitler's Third Reich and the subsequent deceiving of the world's powers at the time, reminds me too much of our current world situation. The one lesson we must learn is that appeasement does not work when dealing with evil.
I've finally finished reading this book! It is mind boggling how si
Richard Hartline
Feb 03, 2016 Richard Hartline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shirer's "Rise..." was, of course, his seminal work, but I submit that this memoir is even more enticing. It presents a compendium of the times, the political environment and the impact of radio as the chronicle of the rise to Fascism after the debacle of the Treaty of Versailles ending WW I. Shirer's media impact along with his CBS compatriot, Ed Murrow, is comprehensively reported in this fine book. Having access to the major leaders of Europe as a foreign correspondent gives Shirer an intimat ...more
Oct 05, 2014 Shayla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very well written in my opinion. The book is a journal about the things encountered during 1930-1940. The journalist shows how horrific thing became and he doesn't hold back. The book shows how everyone goes from minding Hitler to being absolutely disgusted by him. If I had to rate this book I would give it a 4. This book actually makes you feel like you are reading the journals as all of it is happening. The author shows great details of the rise of the Nazis. If you enjoy German ...more
Jul 04, 2015 Stinger rated it really liked it
Shirer provides an exclusive behind the scenes autobiographical account of the atmosphere in Europe in the 1930s which eventually led to the outbreak of World War Two. The author gives the reader material that is engaging if not engrossing from page to page. If Shirer were alive today, we would reside on different ends of the political spectrum; nevertheless, his honest account of events and persuasive conclusions provide little room for debate. This is a highly recommended read and will lead me ...more
Feb 12, 2012 René rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: histoire
Not as good as "The rise and fall of the Third Reich", Shirer goes into some name-dropping and only quotes from his own diary (not validated by anyone else) or from his other books. Too much time spent going through unrest in France prior to his assignment in Berlin. Some great passages, but most of these can also be read in "The rise and fall...". It must have been quite something, however, working as a journalist/radio commentator during those nightmare years...
The title is self explanatory, about the subject. What is less known about those years is for example discoveries, such as the archeological discovery of some evidence of a great flood, shown by excavated layers of earth, around general area of Babylon (I could be mistaken about the location, but the years since reading this were not exactly spent thinking and memorising it - this is the first time I am thinking about the book since having finished reading it), and many other such things.
Catherine Riley
May 06, 2013 Catherine Riley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a very good read. The author was an eyewitness to the rise of the third reich and Hilter's hysterical, dramatic speeches. He covered this news at a great sacrifice . His baby girl and wife lived in Vienna and had to escape to
America in 1940. This book , although it did not really cover German war crimes, gave us a first hand account of what it must have been like to live during those times.
Thank you Mr Shirer and to his surviving fmaily for his scarifice.
Mar 16, 2010 Riley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Shirer lived the type of life that most people I met in journalism school wanted. He was in Europe during the upheavals of the 1930s, and was in Germany for the rise of Nazism and the beginning of World War II. This memoir of his shines a personal light on those years. It is a nice addition his definitive account of Hitler's Germany -- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which is a classic.
Paul M Steinle
Mar 23, 2015 Paul M Steinle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eyewitness to history

William Shirer has written a compelling personal account of the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany during the 1930s. Hitler emerges as a duplicitous leader who lies his way to world prominence on a campaign of racial hate and terror. Shrirer describes this period with insight and precision with hundreds of personal anecdotes and telling detail, and, in the process, the reader becomes an eyewitness to the Nazi's reign of destruction and deceit.
Feb 25, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Shirer lived an exciting life, and his descriptions are well worth a read if you have an interest in reading a good story and getting a good look of what was going on in Germany prior to WWII. I also was fascinated by his descriptions of Afghanistan, since pieces of it were strikingly similar to recent descriptions I've read.
Kelly Mccullen
Dec 06, 2011 Kelly Mccullen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this guy's history of the Third Reich and then stumbled onto his memoir following the years 1930 to 1940 when he was a reporter in Berlin and Ed Murrow's colleague in covering the early war from Britain and Germany. I love history and while this is certainly not action-packed, it gives an eyewitness account to a world-changing era of world history.
Mar 19, 2016 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shocking how passive French and English governments were to Hitlers invasion of the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Captivating story of Shirer's experiences and his contributions to the rise of "live" radio international broadcasting.
Apr 24, 2014 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really helps you see how persuasive a communicator Hitler was and how the German people become collaborators in one of the most horrendously evil efforts to obtain world domination. I was reminded of the courage and conviction of the British who held out against all odds.
Jan 19, 2009 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(I had mistakenly listed the Berlin Diaries -- which I have not read -- when I meant to list this book)

Fascinating, largely first-hand account by one of America's foremost war journalists. Recommened.
Denzil Gunaratne
A true rendering of life in a totalitarian State

As always William L. Shirer's writing Conveys in lucid detail what life was like in Nazi Germany just before and during the first part of WW2. A great read and completely convincing.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Hitler's Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich
  • The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS
  • Spandau: The Secret Diaries
  • The Third Reich: A New History
  • The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town 1922-1945
  • The Nuremberg Interviews
  • Bodyguard of Lies: The Extraordinary True Story Behind D-Day
  • In Deadly Combat: A German Soldier's Memoir of the Eastern Front
  • The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty that Armed Germany at War
  • Army of Evil: A History of the SS
  • In Search of History
  • The Meaning of Hitler
  • The Wages Of Guilt: Memories Of War In Germany And Japan
  • The Goebbels Diaries
  • After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation
  • Hitler (Harvest Book)
  • When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler
  • The Longest Night: The Bombing of London on May 10, 1941
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...

Other Books in the Series

20th Century Journey (3 books)
  • The Start 1904-30 (20th Century Journey, #1)
  • A Native's Return, 1945-1988 (20th-Century Journey, #3)

Share This Book

“Most Germans, so far as I could see, did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of their splendid culture was being destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work were being regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation … On the whole, people did not seem to feel that they were being cowed and held down by an unscrupulous tyranny. On the contrary, they appeared to support it with genuine enthusiasm” 1 likes
“The National Reich Church of Germany categorically claims the exclusive right and the exclusive power to control all churches within the borders of the Reich: it declares these to be national churches of the German Reich.” 0 likes
More quotes…