I just finished listening to the audiobook version of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer originally published in 1960. The unabridged audiobook consisted of 64 files and weighed in at 57 hours 11 minutes run time, making it the longest audiobook I've listened to. I read it over the course of five weeks, renewing it twice from the Houston Public Library's Overdrive Media site.
Reading the book (I count listening as reading) was a major task that I had put of for a long time. There were several things that I found to be different from my expectations about the book.
I had expected the book to have a lot of information about the strategic battles in World War II and I expected there to be more about the horrors of the holocaust. Don't get me wrong, you can't write a book as comprehensive as this one about WW2 and not delve into those topics. But, the author's focus was on Hitler's rise to power, the key people, the politics and the decisions that played roles in causing the war that resulted in 70 to 85 million deaths.
Mr. Shirer was a journalist and was stationed in Germany during much of the time that he writes about. So, he actually knew many of the people that he writes about. In addition to his first hand perspective, he had access original source material captured from the war to build a comprehensive picture. His organization of facts and conclusions drawn from the facts were clear. The book was a strong reminder of what journalism should be.
Hitler and the National Socialists could have been stopped at many points along their path, both within Germany and later by governments of other countries. But his audacity allowed him in many cases, to bluff his way through situations and take advantage of the weakness and unwillingness to act of his adversaries. I had no idea about much of that. The only instance I'd really heard of was Neville Chamberlain's dealing with Germany. The book illustrates many more such instances.
This book is deep and thought provoking. As I listened, I could not help but draw parallels between the rise of the 3rd Reich and events going on in our world today. Hitler's rise and fall exemplifies what can happen when a political ideal is taken to an extreme. But it hits home when you see the same kinds of tactics being used by politicians today that were used back then. Things like choosing to disregard law, stirring up prejudice and resentment between people, lack of ethics, and the monomaniacal quest for power makes you stop and think.
I do encourage you to read serious books about history more often and to reflect upon what the lessons of the past mean for today. Do your own critical thinking and draw your own conclusions. Although The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was publish 60 years ago, it is still informative and relevant for today. It's not an easy read, but I highly recommend it.