Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

It seems wrong, somehow to say that I really enjoyed a book about the Nazis. Somehow, it seems like it's an endorsement of their ideology and the things they did. I don't agree with them about anything, but I find them fascinating. I'm an archaeologist because I'm interested in people and people are easier to deal with when they're dead (apparently this is different for kittens). I have an abiding interest in World War II and Nazi Germany, for which I blame my high school history teacher, Sue Harsant. Nazis fascinate me because they took the treatment of other human beings to an extreme. I don't understand how they did the things they did. I don't know how some of them turned a blind eye to the things that were going on. I hope that if I keep reading, I'll figure it out.

I'm also interested in reading some alternative histories. There were so many points during the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and during the war, where everything could have been ended so much more quickly. Where everything could have gone on for so much longer. Where quite a different result could have come about. I'd like to know what people think might have happened in those cases. I hope that it will give me some insight into the ways in which these people thought and why things happened the way they did.

This book is a fantastically detailed history of, as it says, the rise and fall of the Nazis in Germany. This book was originally published in 1960 and it shows. There's a slight hint of sexism, but given that almost no women played important roles in this conflict, I can forgive that as a product of its time. There's a severe anti-Nazi, anti-Hitler thread to the book, and given what they did I can forgive that. I would have preferred the book to be slightly more objective, but given the incredible access to sources that Shirer had, as well as the fact that he was on hand as a journalist at many of the events chronicled I'm willing to forgive his subjectivity. He can't view this as one completely objective for the simple fact that he was there, he experienced it. I will also note a fair amount of scorn for the blindness of other leading politicians and say that he was just as biased against them as against the Nazis (well, maybe not quite, but a bit). I could have done with less of the "good christian men" motif - many Nazis considered themselves good christian men as well and as someone who thinks that organised religion is responsible for a great deal of the worlds ills having it so regularly referred to was rather grating. Also, it needed a map. You can never have too many maps and this book had none.

If you're not interested in WWII or the Nazis or any of that, don't bother. If you are, this is a must-read.

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