The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer

(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), 1143


  • There were so many opportunities to stop Hitler's rise. And yet the people of Germany were either unaware or easily distracted, and the Western democracies (led by Chamberlain) were so horrified by WWI that they went to absurd lengths to give Hitler whatever he wanted in the hope he wouldn't bring war.
  • Likewise, once the Third Reich was at the peak of its power, there were many times it could have crushed Western civilization, but Hitler hesitated or made the wrong military decisions and thus the downfall was brought about.
  • Shirer lets the facts speak for themselves, but he clearly disdains Hitler and the evil he brought about. More importantly for us though is his illustration of how people who could have easily stopped him allowed him to come to power, particularly the German people, the Appeasers in the West (Chamberlain), and his subordinates who never carried out a coup.


  • "I detest totalitarian dictatorships in principle and came to loathe this one the more I lived through it and watched its ugly assault upon the human spirit. Nevertheless, in this book I have tried to be severely objective, letting the facts speak for themselves and noting the source for each."
  • "Adolf Hitler is probably the last of the great adventurer-conquerors in the tradition of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon, and the Third Reich the last of the empires which set out on the path taken earlier by France, Rome and Macedonia. The curtain was rung down on that phase of history, at least, by the sudden invention of the hydrogen bomb, of the ballistic missile and of rockets that can be aimed to hit the moon. In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on an uninhabited planet."

Ch 1

  • how Hitler's name was almost Schicklgruber, and how that could have altered his rise to power (8)
  • Johann von Nepomuk, the national saint of the Czech people (8)

Ch 2

  • We need to learn from history so as to not repeat it, even if from your own mistakes (i.e. Germany after the First World War)
  • What the Nazis needed for people to convince them: 'simple ideas to push through their brains, symbols to win their faith, and acts of violence to give them sense of power over the weak'
  • the development of the swastika as the Nazi symbol (43)

Ch 3

  • “the eternal court of history”

Ch 4

  • “mythology contains the fate of the nation”
  • a hero is the fusion of the politician and the thinker (what Hitler thought of himself)

Ch 5

  • “ this history, like all history, is full of sublime irony”

Ch 6

  • the Nazis came to power, and Germany lost democracy, because there was not a strong middle class as in England, France, and the US which was the “backbone of democracy”...this is a risk of a weakening middle class in the US today...

Ch 7

  • Hitler’s strategy to gain power as a revolutionary was to align himself with existing powerful institutions (i.e. the Army, industrialists) and then take control

Ch 8

  • how he persecuted Christians and no one seemed to notice or stand up

Ch 19

  • plans for invasion of the west were almost discovered when German plane got lost in the clouds and landed in Belgium, crazy

Ch 20

  • Hitler cracking under pressure after military defeats (first seen during the Norway campaign) greatly contributed to the eventual fall of the Third Reich

Ch 21

  • at peak of power in the summer of 1940 Hitler and his associates didn’t know how to move forward because they had no overall strategic plan

Ch 27

  • the Nazi atrocities were horrendous: telling people to lay down one after another in mass graves to be shot, only to be followed by the next row of victims, freezing and pressure chamber experiments, and killing tattooed prisoners and making lamp shades out of their skin

Ch 30-31

  • the fall of the Third Reich was surprisingly swift, yet Hitler maintained his delusions about final victory until almost the very end


Topic: World War II

Created: 2019-6-13
Updated: 2022-02-21-Mon