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The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by 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.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“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.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“Adolf Hitler is probably the last of the great adventurer-conquerors in the tradition of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon, and the Third Reich the last of the empires which set out on the path taken earlier by France, Rome and Macedonia. The curtain was rung down on that phase of history, at least, by the sudden invention of the hydrogen bomb, of the ballistic missile and of rockets that can be aimed to hit the moon.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a café, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone. The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“To all the millions of discontented Hitler in a whirlwind campaign offered what seemed to them, in their misery, some measure of hope. He would make Germany strong again, refuse to pay reparations, repudiate the Versailles Treaty, stamp out corruption, bring the money barons to heel (especially if they were Jews) and see to it that every German had a job and bread.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“It is difficult to understand the behavior of most German Protestants in the first Nazi years unless one is aware of two things: their history and the influence of Martin Luther.* The great founder of Protestantism was both a passionate anti-Semite and a ferocious believer in absolute obedience to political authority. He wanted Germany rid of the Jews and when they were sent away he advised that they be deprived of “all their cash and jewels and silver and gold” and, furthermore, “that their synagogues or schools be set on fire, that their houses be broken up and destroyed… and they be put under a roof or stable, like the gypsies… in misery and captivity as they incessantly lament and complain to God about us”—advice that was literally followed four centuries later by Hitler, Goering and Himmler.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side,’” he said in a speech on November 6, 1933, “I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already… What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“Although millions more had jobs, the share of all German workers in the national income fell from 56.9 per cent in the depression year of 1932 to 53.6 per cent in the boom year of 1938.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it. At the crest of their popular strength, in July 1932, the National Socialists had attained but 37 per cent of the vote. But the 63 per cent of the German people who expressed their opposition to Hitler were much too divided and shortsighted to combine against a common danger which they must have known would overwhelm them unless they united, however temporarily, to stamp it out. The”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“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.47”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“The street gangs,” in the words of Alan Bullock, “had seized control of the resources of a great modern State, the gutter had come to power.” But—as Hitler never ceased to boast—“legally,” by an overwhelming vote of Parliament. The Germans had no one to blame but themselves.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
“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 an uninhabited planet.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“I achieved an equal understanding of the importance of physical terror toward the individual and the masses… For while in the ranks of their supporters the victory achieved seems a triumph of the justice of their own cause, the defeated adversary in most cases despairs of the success of any further resistance.49 No more precise analysis of Nazi tactics, as Hitler was eventually to develop them, was ever written.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“Nietzsche put the idea this way: “Man shall be trained for war and woman for the procreation of the warrior. All else is folly.” He went further. In Thus Spake Zarathustra he exclaims: “Thou goest to woman? Do not forget thy whip!”—which”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone. The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. All great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses; they are not the lemonade-like outpourings of the literary aesthetes and drawing-room heroes.55”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“In retrospect, it is easy to see that Hitler's successful gamble in the Rhineland brought him a victory more staggering and more fatal in its immense consequences than could be comprehended at the time. At home it fortified his popularity and his power, raising them to heights which no German ruler of the past had ever enjoyed. It assured his ascendancy over his generals, who had hesitated and weakened at a moment of crisis when he had held firm. It taught them that in foreign politics and even in military affairs his judgment was superior to theirs. They had feared that the French would fight; he knew better. And finally, and above all, the Rhineland occupation, small as it was as a military operation, opened the way, as only Hitler (and Churchill, alone, in England) seemed to realize, to vast new opportunities in a Europe which was not only shaken but whose strategic situation was irrevocably changed by the parading of three German battalions across the Rhine bridges.

Conversely, it is equally easy to see, in retrospect, that France's failure to repel the Wehrmacht battalions and Britain's failure to back her in what would have been nothing more than a police action was a disaster for the West from which sprang all the later ones of even greater magnitude. In March 1936 the two Western democracies were given their last chance to halt, without the risk of a serious war, the rise of a militarized, aggressive, totalitarian Germany and, in fact - as we have seen Hitler admitting - bring the Nazi dictator and his regime tumbling down. They let the chance slip by.

For France, it was the beginning of the end. Her allies in the East, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Yugoslavia, suddenly were faced with the fact that France would not fight against German aggression to preserve the security system which the French government itself had taken the lead in so laboriously building up. But more than that. These Eastern allies began to realize that even if France were not so supine, she would soon not be able to lend them much assistance because of Germany's feverish construction of a West Wall behind the Franco-German border. The erection of this fortress line, they saw, would quickly change the strategic map of Europe, to their detriment. They could scarcely expect a France which did not dare, with her one hundred divisions, to repel three German battalions, to bleed her young manhood against impregnable German fortifications which the Wehrmacht attacked in the East. But even if the unexpected took place, it would be futile. Henceforth the French could tie down in the West only a small part of the growing German Army. The rest would be free for operations against Germany's Eastern neighbors.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“One of them was Fritz Thyssen, one of the earliest and biggest contributors to the party. Fleeing the "Nazi regime has ruined German industry." And to all he met abroad he proclaimed, "What a fool ( Dummkopf ) I was!”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“Had the eighty-four-year-old wandering miller not made his unexpected reappearance to recognize the paternity of his thirty-nine-year-old-son nearly thirty years after the death of the mother, Adolf Hitler would have been born Adolf Schicklgruber. There may not be much or anything in the name, but I have heard Germans speculate whether Hitler could have become the master of Germany had he been known to the world as Schicklgruber.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“Only then, after all these things had been accomplished within the first couple of hours of the coup, could the messages, which had been drawn up and filed, be sent out by radio, telephone and telegraph to the commanders of the Home Army in other cities and to the top generals commanding the troops at the front and in the occupied zones, announcing that Hitler was dead and that a new anti-Nazi government had been formed in Berlin. The revolt would have to be over—and achieved—within twenty-four hours and the new government firmly installed. Otherwise the vacillating generals might have second thoughts. Goering and Himmler might be able to rally them, and a civil war would ensue. In that case the fronts would cave in and the very chaos and collapse which the plotters wished to prevent would become inevitable.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“Of all the war crimes which he claimed he had to commit on the orders of Hitler “the worst of all,” General Keitel said on the stand at Nuremberg, stemmed from the Nacht und Nebel Erlass—“Night and Fog Decree.” This grotesque order, reserved for the unfortunate inhabitants of the conquered territories in the West, was issued by Hitler himself on December 7, 1941. Its purpose, as the weird title indicates, was to seize persons “endangering German security” who were not to be immediately executed and make them vanish without a trace into the night and fog of the unknown in Germany. No information was to be given their families as to their fate even when, as invariably occurred, it was merely a question of the place of burial in the Reich. On December 12, 1941, Keitel issued a directive explaining the Fuehrer’s orders. “In principle,” he said, “the punishment for offenses committed against the German state is the death penalty.” But if these offenses are punished with imprisonment, even with hard labor for life, this will be looked upon as a sign of weakness. Efficient intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminal and the population do not know his fate.42 The following February Keitel enlarged on the Night and Fog Decree. In cases where the death penalty was not meted out within eight days of a person’s arrest, the prisoners are to be transported to Germany secretly… these measures will have a deterrent effect because (a) the prisoners will vanish without leaving a trace, (b) no information may be given as to their whereabouts or their fate.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“While some of his men were mounting a machine gun in the entrance, Hitler jumped up on a table and to attract attention fired a revolver shot toward the ceiling.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
“In the Third Reich every German girl will find a husband!”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“In this period the Prime Minister had great confidence in the Fuehrer’s word, remarking privately a day or two later, “In spite of the hardness and ruthlessness I thought I saw in his face, I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word.”46”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“An organization, however streamlined and efficient, is made up of erring human beings, and in those years when Hitler was shaping his party to take over Germany’s destiny he had his fill of troubles with his chief lieutenants, who constantly quarreled not only among themselves but with him. He, who was so monumentally intolerant by his very nature, was strangely tolerant of one human condition—a man’s morals. No other party in Germany came near to attracting so many shady characters. As we have seen, a conglomeration of pimps, murderers, homosexuals, alcoholics and blackmailers flocked to the party as if to a natural haven. Hitler did not care, as long as they were useful to him. When he emerged from prison he found not only that they were at each other’s throats but that there was a demand from the more prim and respectable leaders such as Rosenberg and Ludendorff that the criminals and especially the perverts be expelled from the movement.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“Hitler, in turn, was enraged by the world reaction and convinced himself that it merely proved the power and scope of “the Jewish world conspiracy.” In”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“The trial, despite the subserviency of the court to the Nazi authorities, cast a great deal of suspicion on Goering and the Nazis, but it came too late to have any practical effect. For Hitler had lost no time in exploiting the Reichstag fire to the limit.   On the day following the fire, February 28, he prevailed on President Hindenburg to sign a decree “for the Protection of the People and the State” suspending the seven sections of the constitution which guaranteed individual and civil liberties. Described as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state,” the decree laid down that:      Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searchers, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.   In addition, the decree authorized the Reich government to take over complete power in the federal states when necessary and imposed the death sentence for a number of crimes, including “serious disturbances of the peace” by armed persons.8   Thus with one stroke Hitler was able not only to legally gag his opponents and arrest them at his will but, by making the trumped-up Communist threat “official,” as it were, to throw millions of the middle class and the peasantry into a frenzy of fear that unless they voted for National Socialism at the elections a week hence, the Bolsheviks might take over.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“Despite his feverish state of excitement he was in sufficient control of himself to realize that he lacked the strength to overcome the police and the Army.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
“To some Germans and, no doubt, to most foreigners it appeared that a charlatan had come to power in Berlin. To the majority of Germans Hitler had — or would shortly assume — the aura of a truly charismatic leader. They were to follow him blindly, as if he possessed a divine judgment, for the next twelve tempestuous years.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
“The art of reading, as of learning, is this:… to retain the essential, to forget the nonessential.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

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