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The fiftieth anniversary edition of the National Book Award–winning bestseller that is the definitive study of Adolf Hitler, the rise of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and World War II. This special edition now features a new introduction by Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and How the End Begins.

No other powerful empire ever bequeathed such mountains of evidence about its birth and destruction as the Third Reich. When the bitter war was over, and before the Nazis could destroy their files, the Allied demand for unconditional surrender produced an almost hour-by-hour record of the nightmare empire built by Adolph Hitler. This record included the testimony of Nazi leaders and of concentration camp inmates, the diaries of officials, transcripts of secret conferences, army orders, private letters—all the vast paperwork behind Hitler''s drive to conquer the world.

The famed foreign correspondent and historian William L. Shirer, who had watched and reported on the Nazis since 1925, spent five and a half years sifting through this massive documentation. The result is a monumental study that has been widely acclaimed as the definitive record of one of the most frightening chapters in the history of mankind.

Here is the complete story of Hitler''s empire, one of the most important stories ever told, written by one of the men best equipped to write it.

This worldwide bestseller has been acclaimed as the definitive book on Nazi Germany; it is a classic work.

Review

""The New York Times Book Review" A splendid work of scholarship, objective in method, sound in judgment, inescapable in its conclusions." --Hugh Trevor-Roper

"A monumental work, a grisly and thrilling story." --Theodore H. White

"One of the most important works of history of our time." -Orville Prescott "The New York Times"

"One of the most spectacular stories ever told." -John Gunther

Hugh Trevor-Roper "The New York Times Book Review" A splendid work of scholarship, objective in method, sound in judgment, inescapable in its conclusions.

John Gunther One of the most spectacular stories ever told.

Orville Prescott "The New York Times" One of the most important works of history of our time.

Theodore H. White A monumental work, a grisly and thrilling story.

About the Author

William L. Shirer was an American journalist and historian. He became known for his broadcasts on CBS from the German capital of Berlin through the first year of World War II.

Ron Rosenbaum is the bestselling author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars and has written or edited six other books. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. He writes a column for Slate and lives in New York City.

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4.7 out of 54.7 out of 5
4,203 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Minnie I.
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Sixty Years Later, This Book Remains Chilling and Foreboding
Reviewed in the United States on January 15, 2019
After visiting a reunified Germany, I began to wonder how such intelligent, organized, proper people could have fallen for the myth of Hitler. So I decided to read this book. And although the book doesn''t specifically address this issue, even sixty years later, it provides... See more
After visiting a reunified Germany, I began to wonder how such intelligent, organized, proper people could have fallen for the myth of Hitler. So I decided to read this book. And although the book doesn''t specifically address this issue, even sixty years later, it provides insights into the ways a population (and the world) can be hoodwinked. As such, it also provides a stark warning to the 21st century about leadership, charisma, propaganda (the control of the media), courage, and critical thinking.

Shirer, unlike so many of today''s "journalistic" books, provides a narrative that is probably 90 percent objective. Throughout the book, Shirer bases his reporting on sources captured after the Nazi defeat. These include memoranda, entries from personal diaries, and even some one-on-one interviews with former Nazis. You can see the era''s bias such as those against homosexuals (often referred to as "perverts") come into play, but given WHEN the book was written, this is not unexpected nor does it diminish the significance of the report. When Shirer expressed a personal opinion, like those from his diary, he made it blatantly clear that these were his impressions. So what I appreciated most about this book is that Shirer cited almost everything he wrote about (I wish they had used letters or numbers for the chapter endnotes instead of asterisks in the Kindle edition) and often included exact verbiage (translated from German, of course) from the documents he reviewed.

While his coverage of the Fuhrer and his growing megalomania is frightening enough, I found that his reporting on Joseph Goebbels'' role in creating an atmosphere of belief in the Nazis in Germany the most frightening--and foreboding--of all. Goebbels understood from the getgo that people believe what they want to believe, and he used this understanding effectively. Goebbels controlled ALL media, all messaging, all symbolism for the Reich. As a media professional myself, I was stunned at his ability, as early as the 1930s, to understand the power of popular media. Not only did he use thuggery to silence opposing views, but his media savvy in movie-making, radio broadcasts, timing, event-staging, and even bunting were used to inspire a demoralized population into believing or at least not contradicting the unthinkable. He successfully usurped music, philosophy, and even religion to create a mass delusion among the German people. In my opinion, this may have been one of the main reasons a decent population eventually was caught up in the whole hegemony of Hitler. Certainly, there are other important contributing factors--the economy, a weak government, the depression, etc.--but Goebbels leveraged all of this things to create the big lie that others, particularly the Jews and the Slavs--were responsible for the fate of Germany. To me, this insight has the most relevance for today when Hollywood creates its own version of history, where "journalists" have no problem slanting news (on both sides of the aisle) to their point of view, where politicians have no problems with telling people what they want to hear, and where both political parties have stooped to a level of name-calling and dehumanization of the other. These were tactics that were found in the political milieu of Nazi Germany. While we have not reached that level, it is important to understand just exactly what and how Goebbels created a societal belief that supported the war machine and extermination of so many innocent people. And part of that media message was always terror and intimidation.

Besides this insight, Shirer provides us with personal glimpses into some of the key players of the Reich. He documents how "fateful" incidents impacted the decisions of the combatants'' strategic decisions and the outcome of the war. The book is long and detailed but provides a good look at this unfortunate time in history. While most of the "greatest generation" have long since left this world, this book reminds us of the circumstances that created the twelve horrific years of the Third Reich. It is vital that we remember those years and the lessons learned from World War II. Unfortunately, I think many people will think the sheer volume of this book is overwhelming. But once into the book, I think readers will find it hard to put down. I know I did.
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Elliott
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Should be required reading.
Reviewed in the United States on April 20, 2017
What is to say about this book. It should be considered among the most important books written. Well researched yet reads like it should, written by a journalist. The fact that Shirer was there adds to the intensity of the narrative. This should be required reading for... See more
What is to say about this book. It should be considered among the most important books written. Well researched yet reads like it should, written by a journalist. The fact that Shirer was there adds to the intensity of the narrative. This should be required reading for any person seeking to understand the how the world can spiral into insanity. Particularly with the detailed accounts of the politics surrounding the diplomatic negotiations surrounding Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the invasion of Poland. If you are interested in the evolution of the fascist state read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. If you are interested in the implementation of the unthinkable, read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. If you want to understand how the Third Reich could happen, read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
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Gene
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Recommend it.
Reviewed in the United States on August 17, 2017
I wondered at first if I could get through such a long book on history. However, I found that while not "easy" reading it was not the drudgery I have encountered in other such books. Actually it moves freely if you don''t spend too much time remembering all the names. The... See more
I wondered at first if I could get through such a long book on history. However, I found that while not "easy" reading it was not the drudgery I have encountered in other such books. Actually it moves freely if you don''t spend too much time remembering all the names. The main characters are mentioned enough that they will stick with you. It covered a lot but without spending too much time on any individual topic. It gave me the big picture with enough detail to educate me on a lot of things of which I had been unaware. Lastly, it was interesting that it was a first hand account rather than a look back on history.
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Aivars Straume
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A lesson in history like no other.
Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2016
Written by a man who lived through the years leading up to the Nazi Party''s birth, growth, eventual election to power and all the subsequent insane and inhuman events that followed; a journalist keeping detailed diaries and then supplementing with years of detailed research... See more
Written by a man who lived through the years leading up to the Nazi Party''s birth, growth, eventual election to power and all the subsequent insane and inhuman events that followed; a journalist keeping detailed diaries and then supplementing with years of detailed research through vast amounts of other documents, diaries, court records, interviews. Amazing! To read this book is a formidable but engrossing task and the end result is enormous satisfaction that I have truly learned an honest and complete historical lesson. My parents lived through WWII in Latvia, my father was drafted into the Nazi Army to fight the Soviets on the Eastern front and was severely wounded during the occupation, my mother escaped from Liepaja with the fleeing Nazi troops abandoned there on the day Berlin fell. The emotions which this book raised then resolved are indescribable as I finally felt I had learned all there was needed to know about what my parents went through because they would speak none of it. They hated the Nazis, they hated the Soviets, they could speak of none of it.
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jscantone
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Still Compelling and Sadly Still Relevant.
Reviewed in the United States on August 17, 2017
Read some of this tome back in the 60s, now that I''m in my sixties I''m still fascinated with this era in Germany. I''ve read other books about the Nazi Reich and Adolf Hitler, one by Joachim Fest, one by Alan Bullock, read the "eyewitness" accounts by Albert... See more
Read some of this tome back in the 60s, now that I''m in my sixties I''m still fascinated with this era in Germany. I''ve read other books about the Nazi Reich and Adolf Hitler, one by Joachim Fest, one by Alan Bullock, read the "eyewitness" accounts by Albert Speer. Have to say that William Shirer, the CBS News Correspondent, has the best account of all. He was an eyewitness to it all, particularly chilling is his eyewitness account of the French surrender in the railway car at Compiegne, where he is covering it and describes the facial expressions on Hitler''s face. He writes so passionately, lucidly and clearly, I feel like these events just happened yesterday. And because of the Relevance to our times, is still the most compelling story of the 20th Century.
64 people found this helpful
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Alan F. Spear
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great work, terrible editing for Kindle release
Reviewed in the United States on January 29, 2016
This is a very interesting work -- I can hardly put it down. The problem is that the editors who "prepared" it for Kindle release, didn''t. There are entire sections of the book out of place. You go along reading about complex and critical issues, and all of a... See more
This is a very interesting work -- I can hardly put it down. The problem is that the editors who "prepared" it for Kindle release, didn''t. There are entire sections of the book out of place. You go along reading about complex and critical issues, and all of a sudden you are in an entirely different place and time dealing with a completely unrelated subject for a page or so, and then hop back to where you started. It is really irritating. I guess I think it''s worthwhile to buy the book on Kindle, if only for the convenience of not having to lug a 1280 page book around, but if you want continuity and consistency, buy the book and skip the Kindle edition.
172 people found this helpful
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Prince of Peas
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Anyone interested in today''s politics should read this. History repeats itself, this is your primer.
Reviewed in the United States on May 10, 2020
This is my third read of this seminal book. I always looked at this and thought, "I''m glad that this has been recorded for history so that this can never happen again". Instead, it is being used as a playbook for today''s politics. From the concept of the Lügenpresse to the... See more
This is my third read of this seminal book. I always looked at this and thought, "I''m glad that this has been recorded for history so that this can never happen again". Instead, it is being used as a playbook for today''s politics. From the concept of the Lügenpresse to the belief that only one man has all the answers and therefore deserves total control, to the politics of fear, xenophobia, and blaming, this book will chill you. With the exception of the first few chapters (Hitler grew up poor and was considered to be intelligent) the manner in which he grew his following, the people he chose to be his menials, the idol/cult worship he instilled in those whom he deceived into believing that he cared about them, his dismissal of anyone who was not loyal to him, his use of repetitive and obvious lies and propaganda to the point where people believed and repeated those lies and, especially, his ascension from the chancellor to the Fuhrer in his second term is absolutely spine chilling and should induce fear in those who believe that we are too wise to let this happen again. We forget that Hitler was loyal to no one and that many of those who supported him were subject to the same fate as those that they hated and, ironically, whom they thanked Hitler for destroying.
“Those who don''t know history are doomed to repeat it.” ― Edmund Burke

Read this and suggest that everyone you know does the same. And vote!
21 people found this helpful
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Max Prendergast
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Still the standard against which all the rest should be judged
Reviewed in the United States on March 10, 2019
As a schoolboy I first read this in the mid 1960''s in the then ubiquitous, monstrously fat, red-covered paperback edition. It was one of the books that ignited a life-long interest in modern European history. Now, decades later, I sought out this nice hardcover edition to... See more
As a schoolboy I first read this in the mid 1960''s in the then ubiquitous, monstrously fat, red-covered paperback edition. It was one of the books that ignited a life-long interest in modern European history. Now, decades later, I sought out this nice hardcover edition to add to my shelves, really just for the sake of completeness. When it arrived, I opened it at random to a page about one third of the way in, then casually glanced at the text. And I could not stop reading. Even with all that has been researched and written since this book was first published in 1959, the opening of the Soviet archives and so forth, it remains, in my view, the most fluidly written, compelling, and comprehensive telling of the rise and fall of the Nazi''s. Shirer of course had the incomparable advantage of actually being in Berlin through the early war years, hearing and seeing many of the events at first hand, while talking to actual participants. But it is his talent has a journalist and writer that took that experience and turned it into a superb narrative. Detailed and insightful but never boring or tedious, this book remains the standard against which all other histories (in English) of this dark era should be judged.
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Top reviews from other countries

Taff22
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Rise & Fall
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 30, 2018
An immensely detailed history of a dysfunctional, criminal & totally corrupt collection of mentally deficient, power mad people, who led a not unwilling nation into an horrific slide to destruction, both physically & economically. The book also details the shortcomings of...See more
An immensely detailed history of a dysfunctional, criminal & totally corrupt collection of mentally deficient, power mad people, who led a not unwilling nation into an horrific slide to destruction, both physically & economically. The book also details the shortcomings of the so called Allied politicians & military leaders, who must take an large amount of the blame for the success of the Nazis in rising to such giddy heights of power. A must read for anyone interested in those dreadful years. The author has a perfect grasp of the events, both as an eyewitness & having taken details from captured documents & writes in an easily read manner.
23 people found this helpful
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Alionsar
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Very long, but a must-read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 18, 2018
Beware, this is a very long tome but essential reading for anyone interested in the Nineteen-thirties in general and the rise of Hitler in particular. Very detailed (the author was an American journalist present at most of the events described, who knew many of the...See more
Beware, this is a very long tome but essential reading for anyone interested in the Nineteen-thirties in general and the rise of Hitler in particular. Very detailed (the author was an American journalist present at most of the events described, who knew many of the personalities involved.) Beware, I got very angry at some of the background to the appeasement years - it''s not a comfortable read.
14 people found this helpful
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D.W. Glenn.
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Slightly dated but remains essential reading.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 9, 2020
First read this 30 years ago and have just re read it. It remains essential reading for anyone who has a real interest in the subject matter. Although a long read its written in an easily accessible journalistic style made more poignant by the fact that he was a personal...See more
First read this 30 years ago and have just re read it. It remains essential reading for anyone who has a real interest in the subject matter. Although a long read its written in an easily accessible journalistic style made more poignant by the fact that he was a personal observer of the machinations of the Nazi regime. It has dated in places inevitably as material is now available that wasnt available to him. In particular Shirer significantly underestimates Albert Speers role in perpetuating the war by over a year which was second only to Hitlers. I would recommend Gitta Serenys masterpiece ''Albert Speer his battle with truth'' as an excellent companion book for this one. One book covers the corruption of a nations soul. The other the corruption of a mans soul. Each are intrinsically linked.
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fantastic account of the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 3, 2020
This is one of the few books i didn''t finish because they felt too good. I always delayed learning about WWII since it was too "mainstream" for me, and when i read this book i was completely captivated. The Author was in the thick of it in Berlin, so you can get first...See more
This is one of the few books i didn''t finish because they felt too good. I always delayed learning about WWII since it was too "mainstream" for me, and when i read this book i was completely captivated. The Author was in the thick of it in Berlin, so you can get first person information about the situation in Nazi Germany and the Rise of Adolf Hitler. Since i know how it ends (lol), i didn''t read the last few pages, which is something i''ve noticed myself doing with a lot of books i enjoyed. I don''t know why, i stopped reading books when protagonists were on their deathbeds, and when nations were about to be destroyed, probably because i was too into the books. So if you want a vivid book, this one is for you
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Tariki
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Still one of the best records of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 7, 2017
I am now rereading this book. Since my first reading I have read many of the "heavyweight" biographies of Adolf Hitler, and some other detailed accounts of the Third Reich. To my mind, despite its age, William Shirer''s account remains one of the very best and could...See more
I am now rereading this book. Since my first reading I have read many of the "heavyweight" biographies of Adolf Hitler, and some other detailed accounts of the Third Reich. To my mind, despite its age, William Shirer''s account remains one of the very best and could even be called essential reading. Recommended.
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