The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is – by far – the longest book I have ever read. Longer than Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, longer than Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. It seems like I have been reading this book – FOREVER. And it’s a non-fiction book!
While it drowned out all my reading and occupied all my spare time, its 1143 pages of small print captivated my attention, spellbound me, drove me to google images of the key players, review historical accounts, look up other books on the subject and dig into fringe Internet sites like those of Holocaust denial movements. I collected enough materials to write many more blog posts on the subject.
Since I always read before going to sleep, sometimes my dreams were deeply disturbed. When I turned the last page today of Shirer’s afterword, I was relieved. This was hard work, it was consuming.
Shirer starts telling the story of Adolf Hitler, with that of his parents and grandparents in Austria in the latter part of the 1800s. All through the story, of course, I knew how it ends, but I never knew any of the details. Shirer was actually present in Germany during the early years of the Nazi regime and he was often in the room – or in the arena – when Hitler spoke. As he told the story of the Third Reich, he guided me through conversations and events, making me feel like the proverbial fly on the wall when momentous things were going on. He showed events from the perspective of the German perpetrators, every step of the way, memo for memo, order for order, phone call for phone call, speech for speech.
Reading Rise and Fall laid open for me how disastrous this period of history was for Germany and for the world. I always knew it was bad. However, it was much, much, much worse than my worst nightmares could have played out. I am now stunned, shocked, disturbed and astonished. Most importantly, I am motivated to learn more and to research and write further.
I regret only that I didn’t read this book when I was 18 years old. Why is it that as young people, with few exceptions, we are not very interested in politics and history? Somehow, for most of us, history does not captivate us until later in life.
When I was young, my paternal grandfather was still alive. He was born in Silesia 1905 and was in the war in Italy through 1945 as part of a German unit. He lived until 1987, and I am now kicking myself for not having talked to him – ever – about his views and his experiences of that terrible time. I was born only 11 years after the fall of Hitler, that’s a blink of an eye. That time of history affected me directly – and that’s another blog post.
I cannot state enough times how important it is for every citizen of the world to read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It should be required reading for humanity.
Somebody should dictate that!