History is supposed to be important. Indeed, George Santayana famous said that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. However, history can also be, for want of a better word, dull. Many is the historian who knows facts very well indeed but becomes incredibly academic when writing about them. The result? Most books on history tend tend to educate more than entertain or even be objects of interest. You read them because well, you have to if you want to know about something.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is very different. Perhaps one of the best history books ever written, it is in our opinion the one history book that every single one of us must read. Why? Well, because it details one of the most disturbing periods of human history. And it does so in brilliant detail, spanning over a thousand pages.
As its name indicates, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich refers to the period in Germany in which Adolf Hitler rose to power and was the country’s leader. It spans a period of around thirty years (1915-1945 roughly), and while Hitler himself an integral part of the story, the book is as much about the world in general and Europe in particular at this period. It is all here – how Germany got into a mess over the First Word War, how it fell into chaos at the end of that conflict, how a former soldier suddenly rose to be the Chancellor and led the country into another war and the near extermination of an entire race..
Yes, we all roughly know that this happened. Anyone who has read their history in school will know. So what makes this massive book a must-read? Well, simply because no one has quite ever written about the whole German crisis in as accessible a way as Shirer has. This is not a historian dryly outlining facts, but a journalist (and Shirer was one of the best) telling you what happened, giving perspectives of people who were there, providing context and best of all, doing it all in language that is direct and simple. Imagine the story of Hitler, the Nazi Party and Germany in the form of a series of well-written news reports? Well, this would be it. Every person you have heard of in that period – Hitler, Goebbels, Goring, Himmler, Rommel…they are all there in amazing detail. As are the famous battles from Dunkirk to Ardennes to the final, desperate last stand of the Nazis in the Reichstag. It sounds unfair to say this (given the seriousness of the subject), but this is a history book that at times reads like a thriller.
The period from the end of the First World War to the end of the Second was a dark phase for human history. One that we should never forget. And one that we need to understand. Which is why every one of us should read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. To find out why something like Hitler and the Nazi Party happened. Why a nation sparked a near global conflict. And why the Jewish people were so brutally and mercilessly targeted.
Read this massive, very readable book to find out why. And to make sure you do your best to never let something like this happen again.