It was beyond belief. The story of Nazi Germany and its maniac leader, Adolf Hitler, is more than history; it is a parable of what can happen. It is the ultimate lens through which to view current events. It is the worst case scenario of the proverbial history repeating itself. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich will grip you in unexpected ways.
Strangely enough, it was not the war itself, or even the bloody terror before and during it, that was most horrifying in this episode of history. No, it was that an Adolph Hitler could rise from where he did, have such complete control over a people, and go on to get away with all he did with the masses following like deranged sheep.
Hitler was nothing. He had no track record of anything other than finding ways to bluff or manipulate his way to power. This proponent of the superior German race was actually an Austrian. This great warmonger had only been an undistinguished corporal in WWI. He failed at all he did and kept going forward as if he had greatly succeeded. (It kind of reminds you of other leaders who were only community organizers). He came out of no where and seized power by effective propaganda and shrewd political moves. During his whole career he habitually told lies and so effectively that you wondered if he grew to believe them himself.
He was consistent in some things. He never wavered on who was subhuman–Jews first and foremost, then Poles and Russians. (Like some see the inferiority of Christians today). He always believed the state was supreme and people dispensable to uphold the state. Of course, it took a while to realize that he was the state! Any amount of blood was legitimate to shed in propelling the state and its aims forward. (For him I suppose it took a village to raise a child).
Nothing he said was too ludicrous for the masses to swallow. There was a sizable number of Christians in pre-WWII Germany, but they made no outcry. Somehow he convinced them that what he said fit Christianity, at least until it was too late to do anything about it. He rewrote history (the circumstances of the end of WWI) until he convinced people who had actually lived through it! (American history is not matching what I remember when it is told today either).
He incredibly manipulated other countries. His first two major conquests of territory were bloodless. He simply made baboons out of other European leaders. He never kept his word in any deal he made and yet spoke as if he had the greatest moral authority when it was time to discuss the next one.
He mastered the art of controlling the conversation. He developed methods to stop the mouths of those who disagreed. (Christians, do you feel our mouths being silenced?) He realized that getting the minds and hearts of the younger people was essential and so started the Hitler Youth. (Do you feel like we just woke up and found a generation that finds things like gay marriage perfectly acceptable?)
As I read I kept trying to tell myself that in America we have more background in freedom and would never get sucked in to this extent. We have many who could not be forced into silence. Yet this tale shows just how far things can go. It is a horrifying portrait of people closing their eyes along with the exceeding depravity of men.
Actual Book Review
An actual masterpiece! No novel could ever hold your attention to a greater degree. William Shirer was the perfect man to write this book. As a reporter who reported from Germany until the war and again after in the Nuremberg trials, he saw many things firsthand including appearances by Hitler and his associates. In addition to that familiarity, he did extensive and effective research. Finally, he brings the skills of a gifted writer. It is a page turner.
The two criticisms that are most often leveled against this book take nothing from it. Some say he was taken in by Hitler’s charms before the war and denies it in the book, but I read several humble admissions that he believed Hitler when he should not have. He also writes of homosexuality as a perversion in a few references. That was his belief and the prevalent belief of those times, and for a few of us still today. I appreciate a volume without the baggage of political correctness.
I believe this book will never be superseded. It is simply that good.