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A-The Third Reich at WarClosing a trilogy that began with The Coming of the Third Reich (2003) and continued with The Third Reich in Power, 1933–1939 ( 4 of 5 Stars May/June 2006), Richard J. Evans, a professor of history at Cambridge University, brings nuance and clarity to the all-too-familiar details of the final years of Germany under Nazi power. 

The Topic: Germany took Poland—and the world—by surprise as the nation launched into what soon became World War II. This auspicious beginning—along its claim of Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France—ennobled the Third Reich and stoked Adolf Hitler’s megalomania. However, in Evans’s estimation, a more practical leader would have seen the writing on the wall: under no circumstances could the Führer realize his goal of world domination. For all its technical innovations and no matter how many countries it invaded, the Reich couldn’t produce enough weapons, tanks, planes, and ammunition—let alone food—to fuel the war machine and a demoralized populace. Adding to the complications were a culture complicit in mass murder and soldiers fearing retribution if Germany lost the war. In retrospect, it is clear that the Third Reich was destined to fail. 
Penguin. 944 pages. $40. ISBN: 1594202060

Christian Science Monitor 5 of 5 Stars
"This superb book is not simply a military history; it is a comprehensive portrait of a society at war. … Drawing on official documents, extensive research by other scholars, and a careful review of diaries and records kept by individual Germans—from field marshals to housewives—the book provides as complete a picture as any reader except the most demanding specialist can want." Terry Hartle

Washington Post 5 of 5 Stars
"His goal is to appeal to the general reader rather than the professional historian, and he succeeds brilliantly, producing a book that is beautifully written and, despite its length and grim subject matter, easily digestible, even gripping. … This is history in the grand style, the kind of large-scale narrative that few historians dare to write these days. It is difficult to imagine how it could be improved upon, let alone surpassed." Benjamin Carter Hett

Guardian (UK) 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Professor Evans is history’s master of the Holocaust. He knows its macabre facts and figures; his Reich books demonstrate in chilling detail how German hatred and resentment for failure turned in on itself and millions of its own inhabitants; he does not spare civil servants or doctors or scientists, or simple pillars of German society—they knew what was happening, they shared the guilt."  Peter Preston

Spectator (UK) 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Evans achieves a remarkable degree of success in meeting the demands of this most intractable subject. He makes a sustained assault on the great mountain of published sources available and presents his summary in a remarkably lucid and vigorous narrative, mercifully free from theory. Instead, significant themes emerge clearly from a vast array of evidence." Edward Harrison

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The tone of this work is factual and precise, but the enormous horrors break out through the adroit use of powerful phrases. This three-volume masterpiece will, alongside Ian Kershaw’s two-volume biography of Hitler, serve as superb accounts of this dreadful part of history." Joseph Losos

Atlantic 4 of 5 Stars
"Throughout his history, Evans has chronicled the corrosive effects on German society of the Nazis’ network of surveillance and intimidation. In this latest volume, he perceptively highlights the effectiveness of the Nazi state’s coercive methods of winning and sustaining popular compliance, and the constrictions thus imposed on even the most innocuous individual action." Benjamin Schwarz

Critical Summary

Evans receives a hero’s welcome in the press as he lays his final World War II tome, a towering, somber achievement of scholarship and narrative, to rest. As in the preceding volumes, Evans judiciously employs first-hand sources, measured judgments, and impeccable research to craft what most reviewers hail as the definitive work on the Third Reich of our generation. Evans never flinches from the gruesome details of this tragic historical period, yet as the Guardian notes, "in an almost Wagnerian way, you need to see the madness complete; you need to watch Berlin burning, a pyre of malevolent dreams. This is the fire Hitler built." Despite the Spectator critic’s minor complaints about confusing endnotes and maps, that critic’s view represents the others: "If you have the time to read only a single book on Nazi Germany, this is the one."