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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  89,665 ratings  ·  2,613 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.

No other powerful empire ever bequeathed such mountains of evidence about its birth and destruction as the Third Reich. When the bitter war was over, and before the Nazis could destroy their files,known.

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…moreFor 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)

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Julie Christine
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
Wyatt Nordstrom
Nov 06, 2007 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,
Oct 31, 2013 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 back rooms an
Nandakishore Varma
Whew! After six months of exhilarating yet exhausting reading, I have finally managed to finish this massive tome - William L. Shirer's definitive account of the rise and fall of the Third Reich under the evil and mad genius, the warlord Hitler. Hitler expected that the Reich will last for a thousand years - in reality, it lasted just over 12 years. In those twelve, the Fuehrer managed to create hell on earth for the people whom he ruled over as well as in those areas which he conquered; the war ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, William L. Shirer
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany is a book by William L. Shirer chronicling the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from the birth of Adolf Hitler in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945. It was first published in 1960, by Simon & Schuster in the United States, where it won a National Book Award. It was a bestseller in both the United States and Europe, and a critical success outsid
Erik Graff
Mar 21, 2008 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,
Michael Ferro
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shirer's masterpiece has long sat untouched on my shelves—it's ominous block swastika unsettling all guest who entered my home (not always fun to explain to people that you're not a Nazi...).

That said, I decided to read this book in tiny increments alongside other books for the past few months, and at over 1,000 pages, it took a bit to finally knock this one out, but wow... what a book. I truly find it surprising that authors and journalists would bother to continue to write about the Third Rei
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-holds 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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I went into this believing I had a well-grounded understanding of Prussian history and a basis of the Hitler regime. Ummm this book is everything I don't know.
I feel way over my head. There are so many layers to peel like some history-containing onion. Shirer wrote an entire college course worth of information. I regret that I will not retain it all. An impressive collection of memories and experience, we should feel so privileged to have this thorough documentation of one of the most horr
Joseph Spuckler
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Listened to as an Audible audiobook.

A very detailed history of the entity of the Third Reich. It is not a biography of Hitler or a war history, but a comprehensive study of the entire organization. Shirer was witness to many events as a reporter and uses original source material. The resistance to the Third Reich is also covered in great detail along with the many deeply disturbing aspects of the concentration camps. A definitive history of on of mankind's greatest evils.
DNF at 25%.

This would’ve been my first deep dive into Nazi history, but after half a dozen counts of listing homosexuality in the same breath as murder, and even going as far as attributing Naziism in part to many early Nazis being prone to “sexual perversion”, I started to wonder if this was going to be a reliable history at all.

It’s my fault for not properly researching the book beforehand. It appears the consensus is that it was outdated even upon its release, and in some cases e
May 07, 2010 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
Mikey B.
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii, germany
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 cataclysm
Nick T. Borrelli
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Three historical periods always have fascinated me and I usually will read anything published with regard to them. The first is The American Revolution, the second is The Civil War and the third is Nazi Germany/WWII. William Shirer has penned the definitive account of this horrendous time in world history and I believe it is the most comprehensive and compelling telling ever published. I did read Richard Evans' trilogy but I still view Shirer's book as better. I thought that Evans speculated too ...more
Roy Lotz
Reading this book is an ordeal. It is very long and very depressing. Charting the Third Reich from the birth of Hitler to the collapse of Germany, Shirer tells the whole story with the sweep of a novelist and the detail of an accountant. He wrote the book after having access to huge stores of documents captured by the Allies after the war. Diaries, schedules, testimonies from the Nuremberg trials, the minutes of meetings, and much more were the raw material marshalled to create this tome.
Dec 08, 2013 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
Mark Lawrence
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is quite a dry book full of technical detail about the state of Germany, of its politics, and, as promised, the rise of the Nazis.

Buried deep inside is a brief section (copied below) that looks up from the statistics of the holocaust to give this harrowing eye-witness account, which has stayed with me for the 30 odds years since I read it. Particularly, the part where the girl points to herself and says her age - probably because I was around that age when I read it.

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 German 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 weakne
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A New Introduction, by Ron Rosenbaum

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

Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: european-history
Was the Third Reich an extension of the national character and value system or was it an episodic totalitarianism derived from concentration of power and fueled by modern technology. Shirer’s narrative supports the former but the latter view has many proponents. One relevant piece of history I have not seen mentioned in the context of this argument is the German colonization of South-West Africa, now Namibia. I first stumbled on this awful history in Thomas Pynchon’s excellent novel “V.”, which ...more
Dec 15, 2014 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,
Todd N
Feb 18, 2012 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 st
Jill Hutchinson
Believe it or not, I have read this massive book twice. Shirer, who spent much of the years leading up to WWII in Germany, fills in all the blanks and tells a tale of a country spiraling into madness and the ultimate failure of the "1,000 Year Reich". Suffice it to say, this is probably the finest book ever written on the history of Nazi Germany and is a "must read" for all history lovers. "Berlin Diary" also by Shirer is a good preface to this book. Magnificent!!!!
Jan 21, 2012 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
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No matter how many times I encounter Hitler's ascendency, I still cannot help but ask - 'how could it have happened'. These events, regardless of which author you prefer to tell them, are the scariest of Hallowe'en fodder. Taking a break now for some fun, the first of 7 x 8 hour audio tracks is enough for one go.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" - George Santayana

Taken a year of dipping in and out but now I'm done. Epic!
Feb 17, 2010 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
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
DNF @ 35%

This is clearly very well researched and if you want a definitive book on Nazi Germany this is it. I would definitely recommend it as a college textbook. It doesn't work for me, I think mainly because through high school and college we learned so much about WWII and in particular Hitler, the Nazis, the Holocaust, and the European side of the war. So I feel like I already know everything this book is talking about and I find myself wondering what's the point of carrying on wi
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Shirer's key piece of historical literature on Nazi Germany draws not only on a plethora of sources, but also on key documents from within the Third Reich. He uses this vast collection of material to give the reader a better understanding of the Reich during its creation, sustenance, and eventual downfall. While its length may be daunting for many readers, Shirer's analysis of the Reich argues that there are three entities that were duped at various points, leading to the success and eventual co ...more
Michael Perkins
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but human nature remains the same.”

― Ken Burns


Nazi tactics never seem to go away. Just watched "I am not your Negro" based on the testimony of James Baldwin. It was the incitement of hate that got Medgar Evers, MLK, and Malcom X assassinated.

Trump's chant of "send her back" already caused death threats to spike way up for these Congresswomen. Now we have this abomination....

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but human nature remains the same.”

― Ken Burns


Nazi tactics never seem to go away. Just watched "I am not your Negro" based on the testimony of James Baldwin. It was the incitement of hate that got Medgar Evers, MLK, and Malcom X assassinated.

Trump's chant of "send her back" already caused death threats to spike way up for these Congresswomen. Now we have this abomination....


So why aren't more GOP speaking out? Interesting you ask. One of the lessons of Nazi Germany is that indifference can be as bad as active hostility. "it is not necessary that people be wicked, but only that they be spineless." (James Baldwin)

From other research, in addition to this book....

Nazi support started out with thugs, but eventually spread to most Christians and most non-Jewish academics and intellectuals, along with innumerable other members of German society

from my research....

"The term "German resistance" should not be understood as meaning that there was a united resistance movement in Germany at any time during the Nazi period.....The German resistance consisted of small and usually isolated groups. They were unable to mobilize political opposition."

in other words, most of the German people of that era were complicit, either actively or passively


In his introduction, Rob Rosenbaum suggests the importance of the release of "Rise and Fall" in 1961. Up until then, he says there was a "willed forgetfulness" about what happened. This is an important point. My father was drafted the day after he finished his medical residency at Boston General and spent four years in France, sometimes under fire. But when he returned home safely, he had no sense of the big picture. For him, Shirer provided that. The author, in his Foreword, describes the treasure trove of archives he was able to consult for his book, but also admits his book is not the final word on the subject because it usually takes "decades" for historians to absorb and write about a subject this complex. But he is also aware about the need to raise consciousness about this history, sooner than later, as well as provide some of the story to people such as my late father.


Rosenbaum also makes a powerful point about Karl Adolf Eichmann based on Shirer's account in his 1961 book, one that contradicts Hannah Arendt's notion of the "banality of evil."

Rosenbaum writes:

"Shirer, who had been stationed in Berlin during Hitler’s rise, also had a take on Eichmann before he became Eichmann, the icon of evil. Shirer’s book had been completed before Eichmann’s capture. Shirer found the key damning document — the testimony of a fellow office who quoted the Chief Operating Officer of the Final Solution, Eichmann, toward the end of the war. Here was Eichmann not experiencing any regret or any of the misattributed “banality.” Instead, with a vengefully triumphant snarl (he knows who’s really won the war), Eichmann declared “he would leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had five million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction.”

This, of course, is not the Eichmann of Hannah Arendt described her), who credulously bought into this “poor schlub,” pen pusher of the trial defense — just following orders, moving things along deep within the bureaucracy, “nothing against the Jew” facade. Just doing a job, according to Arendt, equally credulous about her feverishly devoted “ex-Nazi” lover Heidegger, for whom she used her influence to help in his sham postwar “de-Nazification.”


“The simple truth is that truth is hard to come by, and that once found may easily be lost again.”

― Karl Popper


A brilliant new take on Hitler and the Holocaust. Hitler's aim, the author demonstrates, was to completely eliminate law (first in Germany, then elsewhere) and defined nation-states, so that all things were permissible, nothing was against the law, including the destruction of the Jews wherever they might reside.
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A poet recommended this book to me some years ago... without knowing.

Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet and singer, was among the most tormented Jewish artists of his generation. The wound of the holocaust bled in his soul like a stigmata, and yet he was deeply fascinated by the omnipotent Nazi perpetrators, whose faces were becoming more and more familiar to the public in those years - the 60s - thanks to the greedy attention of the media. Wiesenthal's historical manhunt, Eichmann's trial, the r
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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 publish
“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.” 39 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.” 27 likes
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