Weekend Reading: Why Is William L. Shirer's (1960) "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" Still the Best Book to Read About Nazi Germany?
Why is this still the best book to read about Nazi Germany?: William L. Shirer (1960): The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0671728687: "A few moments later they witnessed the miracle. The man with the Charlie Chaplin mustache, who had been a down-and-out tramp in Vienna in his youth, an unknown soldier of World War I, a derelict in Munich in the first grim postwar days, the somewhat comical leader of the Beer Hall Putsch, this spellbinder who was not even German but Austrian, and who was only forty-three years old, had just been administered the oath as Chancellor of the German Reich...
...He drove the hundred yards to the Kaiserhof and was soon with his old cronies, Goebbels, Goering, Roehm and the other Brownshirts who had helped him along the rocky, brawling path to power. “He says nothing, and all of us say nothing,” Goebbels recorded, “but his eyes are full of tears.” That evening from dusk until far past midnight the delirious Nazi storm troopers marched in a massive torchlight parade to celebrate the victory. By the tens of thousands, they emerged in disciplined columns from the depths of the Tiergarten, passed under the triumphal arch of the Brandenburg Gate and down the Wilhelmstrasse, their bands blaring the old martial airs to the thunderous beating of the drums, their voices bawling the new Horst Wessel song and other tunes that were as old as Germany, their jack boots beating a mighty rhythm on the pavement, their torches held high and forming a ribbon of flame that illuminated the night and kindled the hurrahs of the onlookers massed on the sidewalks.
From a window in the palace Hindenburg looked down upon the marching throng, beating time to the military marches with his cane, apparently pleased that at last he had picked a Chancellor who could arouse the people in a traditionally German way. Whether the old man, in his dotage, had any inkling of what he had unleashed that day is doubtful. A story, probably apocryphal, soon spread over Berlin that in the midst of the parade he had turned to an old general and said, “I didn’t know we had taken so many Russian prisoners.”
A stone’s throw down the Wilhelmstrasse Adolf Hitler stood at an open window of the Chancellery, beside himself with excitement and joy, dancing up and down, jerking his arm up continually in the Nazi salute, smiling and laughing until his eyes were again full of tears. One foreign observer watched the proceedings that evening with different feelings. “The river of fire flowed past the French Embassy,” André François-Poncet, the ambassador, wrote, “whence, with heavy heart and filled with foreboding, I watched its luminous wake.”7 Tired but happy, Goebbels arrived home that night at 3 A.M. Scribbling in his diary before retiring, he wrote: “It is almost like a dream… a fairy tale… The new Reich has been born. Fourteen years of work have been crowned with victory. The German revolution has begun!
The Third Reich which was born on January 30, 1933, Hitler boasted, would endure for a thousand years,9 and in Nazi parlance it was often referred to as the “Thousand-Year Reich.” It lasted twelve years and four months, but in that flicker of time, as history goes, it caused an eruption on this earth more violent and shattering than any previously experienced, raising the German people to heights of power they had not known in more than a millennium, making them at one time the masters of Europe from the Atlantic to the Volga, from the North Cape to the Mediterranean, and then plunging them to the depths of destruction and desolation at the end of a world war which their nation had cold-bloodedly provoked and during which it instituted a reign of terror over the conquered peoples which, in its calculated butchery of human life and the human spirit, outdid all the savage oppressions of the previous ages.
The man who founded the Third Reich, who ruled it ruthlessly and often with uncommon shrewdness, who led it to such dizzy heights and to such a sorry end, was a person of undoubted, if evil, genius. It is true that he found in the German people, as a mysterious Providence and centuries of experience had molded them up to that time, a natural instrument which he was able to shape to his own sinister ends. But without Adolf Hitler, who was possessed of a demonic personality, a granite will, uncanny instincts, a cold ruthlessness, a remarkable intellect, a soaring imagination and—until toward the end, when, drunk with power and success, he overreached himself—an amazing capacity to size up people and situations, there almost certainly would never have been a Third Reich...
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