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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2014
The Third Reich at War by Richard J. Evans is an excellent book detailing the story of the Nazi party and Germany during the Second World War. It is well-written, detailed, informative and opinionated, providing details and arguments certainly on the conduct and military capabilities of the German Field Commanders and on the Battle of Kursk and other later Russian offensives that run counter to most people's perception. It is important to note that even though in this review I have mentioned military details this is not a history of Germany in the Second World War, with an obsessive focus on battles and warfare, but a more rounded and in-depth examination of that country, its people and its leaders during the conflict. Although it is still a thematic work, like the previous two volumes, it does have more of a chronological underpinning and while it is an attempt at a comprehensive history it does focus on a number of key issues and events. Overall, an excellent, sometimes unsettling to read, concluding volume.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 September 2009
Richard J Evans has written a magnificent book. The structure, narrative and sources are of the highest quality and the notes make this volume a veritable encyclopedia of life in war time Germany. In particular, the way in which Evans weaves in the leadership's strategy with the experience of ordinary people is outstanding.

Although on occasion his interpretation is open to dispute and the coverage is brief, possibly because of the amount of knowledge available elsewhere, it should be remembered that the war lasted almost six years and to re-tell it in less than 800 pages is an achievement in itself. The bibliography is extensive and includes many works in German.

What is clear from the outset is that the Nazis were motivated by an anti-human racism in which they identified themselves as the master race with the absolute right of determining the individual and collective fates of those they considered inferior. This expression of social darwinism facilitated acts of extreme cruelty which were considered normal behaviour, especially amongst those soldiers who were inculcated into the army under the Nazi regime. Old soldiers had more qualms about shooting women and children.

What is also clear is that the policy of murdering all and sundry was carried out with a ruthlessness that makes one wonder just how firm the concept of civilisation is in reality. SS Task Units were "Beasts in Human Form" and it was rare (though not impossible) to find anyone prepared to deny the Nazis' philosophy of treating other races as subhuman. In so doing they managed to draw on the racial hatred against the Jews present in conquered countries, whether such hatred was based on the Jews' success in business, clannishness or desire to retain their separatist traditions. The Nazis created the ideology but other non-German groups quickly bought into it.

Of course, history proved the Nazis and their ideology to be a chimera. Not only did Hitler's belief in the superiority of his military strategy contribute to the weakening of the German attack on the Soviet Union - by dividing the focus of the attack - but when the crunch came he, Himmler, Goebbels and, in time, Goering, all took the coward's way out. Hitler blamed everyone but himself for the failure of his regime. Evans puts the blame back firmly where it belongs on the Nazi leader and his cohorts. They created a dream for many Germans then fled the scene when it turned into a nightmare.

Other reviewers have stated they have been waiting for this volume having read Evans's earlier books on the Nazis. My situation is the reverse. I haven't seen Evans's other volumes but having read this brilliant work I'm putting my order for the two earlier volumes immediately. I'm sure all three will serve as fundamental texts for future study of the Third Reich.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2008
With this third volume, Professor Evans brings his rightfully acclaimed "History of the Third Reich" to a very fruitful end indeed. All the major developments from 1939 till 1945 are at least touched upon in a very insightful and balanced manner, blending social history, the biographies of well-known heavyweights of the Nazi regime such as Hitler, Göring, Goebbels, Himmler or Speer and the lesser known experiences of ordinary Germans into one complex but highly readable narrative, exposing a good deal of the inner workings of Hitler's dictatorship rather than taking an overly abstract bird's eye view on this disastrous epoch.

Abstaining from any form of moralising, which is unnecessary anyway in the face of the well-known enormity of the crimes committed, there is, of course, a heavy emphasis on the horrifying genocidal activities of the Nazis and the political arena, yet economic, cultural and military events are also accounted for in a convincing way. Most of the major controversies concerning the historiography of Nazi Germany like Daniel Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners" are mentioned, although Evans does not always take up a clear position and understandably refrains from making any new untested hypotheses, for which a book of this scope cannot be intended anyway.

For students of modern history the book offers a remarkably well-crafted starting-point to develop their own research interests, providing also a detailed bibliography of the major works on the Nazi era. The only real downside perhaps, along with a certain tendency towards oversimplifying complex military events, is an apparent lack of explicit theoretical reflection on his own position within the field of historical research on the part of Evans, like his rejection of the Great man theory of history, which is responsible for his concentration on social history. As a consequence, lay readers not familiar with the major currents in historical research may not be able to fully comprehend and appreciate Evans' findings. Reading the preface to the first volume, in which Evans explains his methodology in greater detail, is therefore strongly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The author has done an excellent job of producing a detailed account of World War II from a German perspective - what went on within Germany as well as mostly a German perspective of the invasion of Poland and the War in the East. The book engages with the extensive German archives as well as others. The book was recommmended to me by another writer; and although an extensive book is a relatively "easy" read. For anyone interested in World War II history this makes a valuable contribution.
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on 12 August 2014
I am on holiday in Poland and Germany. I downloaded the third volume after reading the previous two.

I have not finished this book but at the moment it is making very grim reading. I have the sense that the author is going into terrible detail of the crimes of the Nazis to explain the terrible punishment that occurs at the end.

In Berlin I visited the National History Museum, (Deutsches Historisches Museum);

The museum is located in the Zeughaus (armoury) on the avenue Unter den Linden. The museum was originally conceived as a celebration of Prussian military success.

I visited the special exhibition on the First World War. What has struck me from my travels is how representative Hitler was of German thought in that period. That there was nothing that Hitler did or said that was particularly original.

The German treatment of people on the Eastern Front in the Second World War was similar to their treatment in the First World War.

It is easy for me to make a blanket statement. What Richard J Evans does, is follow such statements with facts to back them up.

Some of the one and two star reviews appear to have been made by Nazi sympathisers who question Richard J Evans grip on the subject matter. I have read widely on this subject and I have found nothing that Richard J Evans says that conflict with other accounts that I have read. On the other hand, Richard J Evans presents additional information, perspective and facts.

I can see how this was a war between societies. Productive capacity and actual output was more important, than individual acts of cowardice or heroism.

Why this history is important, and why I have rated it five stars, is because it was also a war between ideologies, of propaganda, and the interpretation of events.

Well researched!


This is the fourth book I have read in the Kindle format. In this format, there is a tendency to read books from beginning to end.

When I bought the paperback, The Third Reich in Power, 1933 - 1939: How the Nazis Won Over the Hearts and Minds of a Nation I read the final chapters - first, and then read the read the other chapters in a different order, eventually reading the whole book.

With a paperback: I started reading about the bits that interested me most, and that I knew something about. Because I found them readable and interesting, I went on to read the entire book. I find it difficult to get a similar overview with the Kindle edition.

With this book I have got rather bogged down. Even when I have got to bits of history that I have found interesting, The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris, I found that I was so over whelmed by what I had just read that I was no longer interested. I stopped taking it in.

It was not that it was inaccurate or conflicted with what I had previously read. It was simply that I was no longer interested. Somewhere along the line, I had lost the plot.

I am going to have another go. I am looking forward to the bombing of Germany.

Criticism of Kindle:

Normally I enjoy looking at maps. However in the Kindle edition the maps are practically useless when I use my desktop computer. With my laptop I can turn the laptop to one side to look at a map. But then they are very small. I would like to click on a map and for it to open as a proper web page. I would also like to cut and paste from a Kindle book.

The importance of history:

I came across some gross distortions of history on the following web site. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the best examples for my review.

"After this trip, I began to research what happened with our people in the North-Eastern part of Germany during the Red Army invasion.... OMG! It made me sick!!! And now I understand why all of the people that belonged to my father's generation, as well as the older ones, have always avoided talking about the war. The atrocities that the Red Army and the Bolsheviks committed against our people and our land is so far beyond horrors that anyone of us could hardly imagine."

A guest submission by Pablo von Köeller, whose German family still resides in exile today in South America.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Third Reich at war is the third and final installment in a trilogy of books by Richard Evans on the Third Reich, the other two being The Coming of the Third Reich and The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939. Although there have been many thousands of books and articles about the Third Reich in the second world war, this is the first book that I have read with this specific focus and so I am not in a position to say whether it adds anything 'new'.

However, coming to the subject as a relative novice, I can say that I found the book well written, informative, well paced and therefore very accessible for a layperson with a serious interest in popular history.

Firstly, the The Third Reich at War is not primarily about the German people, or Germany, in the Second World War; it is about the Nazi regime. In other words the focus is very much on the actions of state and party rather than the experiences of ordinary Germans, who feature only really in their relationship to that regime, whether as its victims (with the main emphasis on the mentally disabled and Jews) or as its passive or active supporters.

As Evans himself acknowledges, despite the best efforts of the Nazis, the German people and the Nazi regime where never one and the same entity. This was true even at the height of the regime's popularity, after the defeat of France and the reclamation of German speaking territories to the East and West in 1940-41.

This focus on the regime rather than the people results in a detailed study of the actions and machinations of various senior Nazis in the party, state and military in relation to the progress of the war at home and abroad at the expense of the experiences of ordinary Germans; the diaries and letters of the latter are drawn upon but usually in relation to a particular statement or action by the regime.

This regime centric approach isn't a criticism of the book in itself, but it is a caveat for those who are looking for a bottom-up peoples history from the perspective of ordinary Germans.

Perhaps as a consequence of this focus on the Third Reich as a regime rather than on the experiences German people caught up in the war, I found Evans treatment of the suffering of ordinary Germans to be a little cursory. While Evans doesn't shy away from citing the numbers involved, the horrific breadth and depth of the slaughter of civilians in what even Winston Churchill called 'the terror bombing' of German cities feels rushed (see Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945), as is the systematic rape of women and girls by the Red Army (see Berlin: The Downfall 1945 or Joy Division [DVD] [2006]).

The bombing by the US and British is present, as is the Red Army's unchecked programme of rape and murder, but both are light-touch compared to Evans' examination of the 'T-4' euthanasia programme, where disabled Germans were systematically murdered by Nazi doctors in the early stages of the war, before the advent of the extermination camps in Eastern Europe.

This focus on the direct victims of the regime, rather than on the experience of the German people as a whole, is disappointing in a book that promises to explore 'how the Nazis led Germany from conquest to disaster', since that disaster is not expanded upon in the depth I would have expected of a book that is nudging 800 pages plus notes and bibliography. Even if we were to accept that victims of Nazism deserve greater pity than those who Daniel Goldhagen controversially labelled'Hitler's Willing Executioners', was not a 14 year old raped by the Soviets in 1945 as worthy of sympathy as any other victim of the second world war?

As a final criticism of an otherwise excellent book, Evans does not say very much about the expulsion from Eastern and Central Europe of ethnic Germans at the end of the war, communities who had lived on that land in some cases for hundreds of years. This was an act of ethnic cleansing comparable in its brutality with the ethnic cleansing of the recent Yugoslav wars and, like those wars, cannot be justified on the basis that paramilitaries from those communities had committed criminal acts earlier in the war.

Moving on, while of course I knew about the holocaust and the antisemitism of Nazi Germany, Evans book really brought home to me how insanely antisemitic the Third Reich was. I say insanely because Hitler and is accomplices seemed to genuinely believe that all Jewish people, whether Hollywood directors, Wallstreet Bankers or peasant farmers in rural Poland where somehow connected in a global conspiracy to destroy Germany. Hitler seemed to really believe that Jews had started the second world war!

To use an unpopular minority as a scape goat in order to unify the mainstream population, and then to allow or direct extremists to eradicate that minority, is criminal in its Machiavellian indifference to human rights and justice, but to genuinely believe in the righteousness of a global race war against that minority is criminally insane.

In terms of layout and execution, the quality of Evan's well paced writing in complimented by a robust chapter and section system that keeps the narrative tight and coherent despite the large size of the book; each chapter is clearly summarised and the argument never really loses its sense of direction.

The concluding passage, which concludes both this book and its two companion volumes, is worth quoting here:

'History does not repeat itself: there will be no Fourth Reich [... But the] legacy of the Third Reich is much wider. It extends beyond Germany and Europe. The Third Reich raises in the most acute form the possibilities and consequences of the human hatred and destructiveness that exist, even if only in a small way, in all of us. It demonstrates with terrible clarity the ultimate potential consequences of racism, militarism and authoritarianism.'

Cynical efforts by British Prime Ministers and American Presidents, along with the reactionary media of both countries, to justify foreign wars of aggression by trying to squeeze foreign regimes into the ill-fitting garb of the Third Reich is absurd and utterly misses the point; the danger of a resurgence of the evil of Nazism does not lie primarily in 'appeasement' abroad but in acquiescence to racism, militarism and authoritarianism at home. Put in this light, we should be at least as worried about the endless growth of the criminal law, extension of police powers and the rise of surveillance in the UK as we are concerned about engaging in wars against various regimes in the Middle East and Asia.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2009
I ordered this book because of the fine review in The London Review of Books. And because I have long been puzzled by the success of the Nazi regime in a country which I have visited a number of times and always felt at home. (Despite being a Protestant Scots-Canadian)
It was a long read and mostly heart-breaking as much for the horrors described as for the author's controlled compassion in describing them. To say nothing of his meticulous scholarship!
Enjoyable hardly seems the appropriate word to describe the experience of reading this work but worthy it certainly was! So much so that I have ordered the previous volume of his trilogy and greatly look forward to an almost life-changing pleasure of reading it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is the final book in a trilogy spanning Nazi Germany right through from its origins in the years after the First World War through to the end of the war in the 1945, but it's just as good as a stand-alone read. This book deals with the war itself, purely from the pespective of the Germans. It's quite interesting to read about the book from this one angle, since most histories of the period deal with the whole thing or all of the combatants or a particular front.

What comes across very clearly is the persistant Nazi over-reaching, particularly with the invasion of the Soviet Union. The author clearly ascribes to the belief that the Nazi defeat was inevitable once that happened, that even with the resources of all the occupied countries at their disposal, the Nazis couldn't hope to defeat the combined resources and economic power of the Soviet Union, the British Empire and, later, the United States.

It also highlights Hitler's own role in Germany's downfall, in refusing to listen to his generals, in refusing to accept facts that didn't fit his view of the situation, and allowing his genocidal desire to exterminate the Jews to divert vital manpower, finances and arms away from the war itself.

This is a very very good book, one of the best on Nazi Germany I've read.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2009
The Third Reich at War is the final volume of Professor Evan's magisterial account of the rise and fall of the Third Reich. This volume, which can be appreciated on its own,deals with the period from the outbreak of WWII in September 1939 up to the collapse of Germany in the Summer of 1945.It is not a chronological account of the war but rather a thematic description of the events of that period as they impacted on those within the Third Reich, Germans and non-Germans, leaders and ordinary people, victims and purpatrators.
Whilst avoiding the pitfalls of excessive repetition and detail, this book offers a comprehensive and very thorough description of the totality of the impact of Hitler's War. Specifically, it avoids several common errors such as the tendency to assume that the war was won by the Western Allies rather than lost by Hitler's attack on Russia or indeed the common tendency of British military historians to treat the Nazis' war on the Jews and other "subhumans" as entirely separate from their great military campaigns. This book constantly recognises the comprehensiveness of the Nazis' wish to entirely destroy their perceived enemies including their blood-thirstiness to their own people .
In creating a total picture the author has nonetheless retained great humanity and sensitivity to the individual human stories that contribute to the whole picture by referring often to diaries and other personal testimony. He also offers several insights that are genuinely new and thought-provoking such as his assessment of Speer and his contribution to the German war effort.Particularly interesting are Professor Evans' analysis of the passivity of the organised Christian Churches as well as his thorough and well nuanced description of the 20th of July 1944 plot against Hitler.
This book, in spite of its heavy subject, is written in a style both appropriate to the content and easy to read. I recommend it highly.
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39 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2009
So many books have been written about the Third Reich and WWII - do we need another one on the subject? Richard J. EVANS sets himself a challenge: "The central focus of this book is on Germany and the Germans" is the promise in the preface, and he continues: "it is important to reiterate that this book is a history of Nazi Germany in all its aspects." Does the book fulfil the promise? The answer is a qualified yes.

Two out of the first three chapters deal with the gruesome tale of crimes of Nazi Germany against humanity, foremost the Jews. They set the gloomy tone for the whole book. There is no question that this is a central aspect of the war, but this story has been fulsomely told many times over, and one wonders whether gruesome detail - down to the fate of individuals on the basis of diaries and testimonials - adds knowledge. On the other hand the `grand genocidal design' that encompasses Jews as well as Slavs, but also assorted minorities and 'social deviants', might have been fleshed out better to show that if the Jews suffered first and worst, other groups were the target of racist ideology and proportionately suffered just as much or even more. If history writing should be more than just 'one damn battle after another', the history of the Third Reich at War should be more than one murder after another.

We know what the Third Reich did - in the battlefields, in the ghettoes, in the vast regions it conquered. The interesting question is: how was this achieved? What were the material means, how did the country organise itself to make the horror possible? The `audit of war' The Audit of War: The Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation is missing from this book. We hardly hear about the organisation of German industry, war production, supply of raw materials (often from distant - and neutral lands). 'Germany' is monolithically portrayed as enduring, producing, and having affects about it all. No details given about the inner workings of the German society at war, or the differences in its many regions, townships, and lands. Hence my rhetorical question: "But did German women wear trousers on the shop floor?" American and British women, as they entered the work force, did - a signal of profound changes in social relations. How was war production organised? What social changes did the war bring about in Germany? What made the ensuing reconstruction and Wirtschaftswunder possible?

The chapter on the professions and the universities is poor. Reducing the effort of the German medical establishment during WWII to medical experiments by Mengele is no way to treat the subject. Lawyers, judges, philosophers also get all too short shrift. This chapter appears to be a hurried afterthought.

Contrary to Hitler's wishes Germany as a society somehow survived destruction and occupation. Political figures like Adenauer, Erhard and Brandt, but also Ulbricht and Honnecker emerged, and led the two rump countries out of the pits. Evans never even mentions them. Where were they? How could the political structures that brought them to power emerge after defeat? They must have existed - albeit inchoately. The seeds of resurgence - political, material, social, and artistic - were planted while the Nazi ruled. In the end, this missing link to the aftermath somehow seems to me the worst shortcoming.
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