Mark Lawrence's Reviews > The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
4508542
's review

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.

It is difficult to believe these things happened. But they did. Even more difficult to understand that on a smaller scale things like this still happen time and again.

“Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other, said farewells and waited for a sign from another S.S. man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand. During the fifteen minutes that I stood near the pit I heard no complaint or plea for mercy… An old woman with snow-white hair was holding a one-year-old child in her arms and singing to it and tickling it. The child was cooing with delight. The parents were looking on with tears in their eyes. The father was holding the hand of a boy about 10 years old and speaking to him softly; the boy was fighting his tears. The father pointed to the sky, stroked his head and seemed to explain something to him. At that moment the S.S. man at the pit shouted something to his comrade. The latter counted off about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth mound…

I well remember a girl, slim and with black hair, who, as she passed close to me, pointed to herself and said: “twenty-three years old.” I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave. People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was already two-thirds full. I estimated that it contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an S.S. man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette.

The people, completely naked, went down some steps and clambered over the heads of the people lying there to the place to which the S.S. man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or wounded people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay beneath them. Blood was running from their necks. The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot. And so it went, batch after batch. The next morning the German engineer returned to the site. I saw about thirty naked people lying near the pit. Some of them were still alive…

Later the Jews still alive were ordered to throw the corpses into the pit. Then they themselves had to lie down in this to be shot in the neck… I swear before God that this is the absolute truth.”
30 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 9, 2013 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Agnes (new)

Agnes Yes, it is amazing how fast people turn cruel, no matter when or where. Our potential for senseless cruelty and destruction is sadly our strongest trait. :(


back to top