Having replaced the embattled Weimar Republic, Adolf Hitler set to work stripping Germany’s government of any lingering democratic impulses and preparing the country for war. The Nazi program aimed at a fundamental transformation of German society: the "degenerate art" of Klee, Kandinsky, and Kokoshka was belittled; schoolteachers feared being reported by the Hitler Youth; racial distinctions were emphasized through unremitting propaganda, ghettoization, the infamy of Kristallnacht, and the construction of the first concentration camps. In his second volume of a planned three-part series (after Coming of the Third Reich, 2004), Evans integrates a surfeit of primary source material and scholarly work to create a compelling, clear-headed account of German society under Hitler’s push for war.
Penguin. 941 pages. $37.95. ISBN: 1594200742
"This is a work drawn from a mountain of scholarship by a generation of other historians. As a readable, compelling synthesis of the period, Evans’s second volume, like its predecessor, is a major achievement." John Merriman
"At this point, the field of Third Reich history has been turned over countless times, so it should not be surprising that these books have not yielded anything noticeably new. What sets them apart, aside from their sheer bulk, is the narrative command Evans exercises over the innumerable components of the history and the breadth and depth of his synthesis." Roger K. Miller
New York Times
"Mr. Evans, as he carefully constructs a portrait of life in Germany under the Nazis, makes it clear that the Nazi program, in virtually every arena, met with only spotty success. He challenges the notion that Germany was, by tradition and history, uniquely susceptible to Hitler’s message and totalitarian rule." William Grimes
NY Times Book Review
"In contrast to many other writers, Evans does not pretend that these vignettes can unlock the secrets of the Third Reich. But when he turns to the larger areas of politics, economics and ideology, his book becomes more demanding. In order to understand the lives of people grappling with forces beyond their control, we are asked to comprehend what they could not." Brian Ladd
"There are things wrong with both the content and the writing of this massive book. Its long chapters about economics, finance and nationalization of German industry, detailing their difficulties, miss the essence of Hitler’s thinking." John Lukacs
Fans of William Shirer’s classic Rise and Fall of the Third Reich might be disappointed by Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans’s ongoing history of Nazi power. This second volume is not a gripping yarn of Hitler’s cult of personality but an evenhanded, intensively researched, synthesized history. That said, it’s no stuffy academic tome; the New York Times Book Review dubs Evans an "Heir to a British tradition of dons who write engagingly for a broad public." A few reviewers take aesthetic umbrage at the author’s use of English words for well-known German terms like Führer and Mein Kampf, and the Washington Post picks at perceived inconsistencies in Evans’s story. Otherwise, reviewers place Evans’s work atop the ever-expanding heap of World War II histories.
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960): More than 45 years after its publication, this remains the definitive single-volume work on the Nazis. In just over 1,100 pages, Shirer recounts the birth of the Nazi party and efficiently and compellingly traces the party’s and Germany’s fate through the end of World War II and Hitler’s suicide. It is a compelling mix of expert perspectives and eyewitness accounts. | William Shirer