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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars

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on 13 March 2017
I came to this book looking for a summary of the events that brought the Nazis into power last century, and for an understanding about how a democracy can fall to a one party authoritarian state. Beyond Indiana Jones, Allo Allo and films such as Where Eagles Dare my knowledge of this period in history was lacking.

The book is readable, organised into an accessible format and provides significant detail around the years leading up to 1933. It also summarises briefly the first world war and how this feed into the desire for a strong man to lead Germany into a stronger economy.

I'd recommend this to anyone such as myself who wants to get an overview of the themes that lead to the Nazis existence and rise to power. I'd also recommend it more generally as a warning not to get too complacent around the defence of our democracy or free speech as many of the themes touched on by the book are recognisable from the media of today.
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on 11 May 2017
I was unimpressed with the book in the beginning. The pre-WW1 and early Weimar years are not done particularly well and the information is no better than what you would get if you were taking a history GCSE. If you are not knowlegeable in the life and times of Bismark, you'll find this part inadequate. But the book picks up by the late 1920s and the details get fuller and more interesting. I found the book a good read, despite the fact that I teach Nazi Germany for the GCSE. I still learned a great deal. Evans clearly shows a continuity between the Germany of Kaiser Welhelm II and the rise of the Nazi Party. After reading this book it is impossible to think that the Third Reich was some anomoly in German history.

I was a little surprised, though, by some of the things Evans says. On page 207 he states that Goebbels called the Berlin Deputy Police Chief Bernhard Weiss, "Isidor-an entirely made-up name, commonly used by anti-semites for Jews." While it is quite likely that Goebbels chose to call him some generic Jewish name as an insult, Isidor is not, in fact, a made-up name. In fact, my great-grandfather is called Isidor, as are quite a few famous people, most notably Isidor Strauss, the founder of Macy's. It's a strange comment from a supposedly knowledgeable professor.

I also found it a bit strange that he makes a specific and notable emphasis that Rudolph Diels was a non-Nazi when he was head of the Prussian police force, when, although not a card-carrying member, was clearly on the same page and actually Goring's protege. I mean he is made the head of the Gestapo in April. How much more of a Nazi does the guy have to be before he is actually called one?

But the thing that annoyed me the most is that Evans puts forth the same, I feel rediculous, argument, that the Germans did not actually elect Hitler Chancellor. Of course, they didn't technically elect him, as the Chancellor during the Weimar years was not elected but appointed, by the President. But he was the head of the largest party in the Reichstag!! It is only in retrospect that we look back and find this problematic to the degree that we do. It actually makes perfect sense that he would be chosen. The Germans, in large numbers, went out and voted for an extreme party that was putting forth extreme and violent views! It is impossible to see this any other way! Even Evans shows on his map that large parts of the country voted over 50% in favour of the Nazis. That is how democracy works. We vote and we accept the winner even if we didn't vote for him personally.

One thing that did impress me,though, was that Evans shows us that the main goal of the Nazi Party wasn't just to make Germany great, or get rid of the Treaty of Versailles,or gain more territory for the nation, as most historians tend to suggest. But it was unabashedly aimed at getting rid of the Jews. it was the main thrust of the party and its greatest goal. Evans shows that their hatred of the Jews wasn't just part of a whole plan but it was the plan.

I think if you are interested in getting an overview of this topic, than this book is a good start. I would recommend and I look forward to reading the other two in the series.
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on 12 January 2017
I'm re-reading this Richard Evans Third Reich trilogy in the post-Brexit and post-Trump era, prompted by a nagging question in my own head: "Could it all happen again?" This is a compelling analysis of what happened in Nazi Germany and why and how. Not surprisingly, there are profound differences with today's world - but some uncanny similarities that will make you stop and think.
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on 25 July 2017
Big heavy detailed historical reference really. Not for light reading. Clearly a life's work for Mr Evans and probably best looked at as a reference book. Yet to start the other two parts. The content is interesting but the level of analysis slows it so much it becomes almost unreadable.
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on 21 July 2017
l can't help but wonder why; with what the Nazis were doing, alarm bells were ringing at Westminster long before they did.
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on 25 November 2016
first part of a superb trilogy.if you want the third reich warts and all,here it is.
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on 19 June 2017
Enjoyable read
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on 15 December 2014
The Coming of the Third Reich is the first instalment in Pr Evans's trilogy on the subject, the second being on the 1930s Reich and the third on the Reich in WWII. As Evans himself points out at the beginning of this series of three books, published material on the Third Reign runs into the tens of thousands, more than even a professional historian can expect to master in a lifetime. Evans's trilogy, coming from a specialist in the field, is probably the most complete one can expect to find in a single book or set of books. It forms an exhaustive survey, covering social, economic, cultural, and political history, and the student should look no further. All that said, nonetheless, this first volume is less strong than the other two, it overlaps substantially with the second volume, and it can conceivably be skipped over.

The issue with The Coming of the Third Reich, indeed, is that it is neither a history of the Weimar Republic nor a survey of the Reich's origins, but something between the two. As a result, the book has too much of an air of inevitability to it - even if Evans warns against that once in a while. The Weimar regime simply looks doomed from the start: perhaps a fair conclusion, but one that looks too obvious in a book that is explicitly about its Nazi successor. The set of chapters about German history and Nazism at the beginning are likewise awkward. A history of Nazism's ideological antecedents would have worked better, or alternatively a simple, and more neutral, survey of historical works on the question. This volume, finally, overlaps with the next in its account of the Nazi seizure of power from Hitler's appointment as chancellor. The material isn't exactly the same, but the story is, making the whole account repetitive from one book to the next. Overall, finally, I would still recommend the classic account that is Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to the general reader. Yes, it is far less complete than Evans's trilogy and it focuses more narrowly on political history, but for sheer narrative verve, it remains the book to read - or perhaps a combination of Shirer and Evans's second volume, which covers the typically less well known aspects of Nazism.
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on 10 March 2004
This is the first installment in a promising new series on the Third Reich by Richard Evans. In this book, Evans examines the Weimar Republic and the many factors that led to the rise of Hitler and his populist National Socialist Party. Far from being a foregone conclusion, Evans shows the many vacillations in German politics during the interwar years and how for a brief while, the Weimar Republic appeared to be on the road to recovery. However, by constantly overriding the parliament by using the Enabling Act, chancellors set the stage for eventual dictatorial rule, as Germany went through violent economic upheavals.
Evans does a great job of outlining the various political parties and the antagonisms that developed after WWI. He notes the ideological origins of the Nazis in the German Nationalist Party, which refused to let go of its venerated image of Bismarck. Evans strips the veneer off this image to show how badly the Nationalists, and later Hiter, interpreted Bismarck. He gives a lot of attention to the Center and Social Democratic Parties which formed the consensus in the Reichstag, and illustrates the rise of the Communist Party, which became the whipping post of Nationalists and Nazis as the threat of Soviet expansion grew.
Evans gives special attention to the plight of the Jews, but notes that Germany would have been the last place one would have expected such a virulent form of anti-Semitism to emerge. Jews were for the most part integrated in German life prior to WWI, and continued to enjoy a relatively unfettered life through most of the Weimar period. But, the rise of the Nazi party in the rural regions would cast the Jew in an increasingly unfavorable light.
One can't but hold out hope throughout Evans' engaging narrative, as he shows how Germany struggled to hold onto representative government during the Weimar Republic, but as Hitler changed his tactics and drew on an increasingly Populist base, he appealed to the German longing for Bismarck, especially in the wake of the Depression of 1929. It was between 1929 and 1933 that the Nazis saw their biggest gains in Parliament. Even still the Nazis failed to gain a majority, but used the Enabling Act to establish dictatorial control.
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on 11 July 2014
Richard Evans was the star defence witness during David Irving's disastrous 'Holocaust denial' libel in 2001. The Coming of the Third Reich is the 1st in a trilogy of histories the other titles in the series being ‘The Third Reich in Power’ and ‘The Third Reich at War’. This book starts long before the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and traces the Wilhelmina era rise of Anti-Semitism, Social and National Darwinism and rise of Aryan Master Race myths and Pagan Symbolism (Swastika first appearing as a political symbol in 1902). In the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the book identifies the growth of German Nationalism amongst the German Speaking Austrian elite with even German Speaking Politicians in Austrian Parliament speaking for amalgamation with the Reich of Wilhelm 2nd.
In 1815 whilst Prussia was a growing power, Germany did not exist as a country but German speakers were spread across the continent from the Rhine into the Russian Empire. For Evans the Germany before 1815 has no relevance to the rise of Nazism – it is a different territory and people altogether. From 1815 however the story changes with the rise of first nationalism and then in short order of an industrial working class. Under Bismarck Germany was united in the 1860s though Bismarck deliberately excluded Austria from his 2nd Reich. Bismarck’s victories – over Denmark (1864), Austria (1866) and France (1870) – led to the growth of German Nationalism that was to last into the 1st World War, by which time Germany had overtaken Britain as an industrial, though not financial, power.
For many Germans the war was seen as just in that it would allow Germany to achieve her ‘rightful’ place amongst the European Nations. And for most Germans defeat was a shock that came as unexpected when the western front collapsed in 1918. At this point the military dictators (Hindenburg and especially Ludendorff) rapidly transferred power and blame for defeat to the extant civilian parliament they had previously circumvented. Thus arose the ‘stab in the back’ myth that was further exacerbated by the so-called harsh terms of the Versailles settlement (though in fact these terms were significantly lighter than the Allies could have expected had Germany won the war and were no worse than those imposed on France by Bismarck in 1870).
The majority of the book deals with events after 1918 beginning with the establishment of the Weimar Republic. Evans charts the attempts of the Weimar republic to hold together the Germany of the 1920s but identifies the weaknesses of the constitution and its key office holders as well as the essentially Nationalist nature of the organs of state terror – the Police and Army as well as the Freikorps - that led eventually and perhaps inevitably to the seizure of power by the Nazis or some other group. The period of hyperinflation of the early ‘20s and the following stabilisation had a disproportionate negative effect on the working and middle classes steadily eroded the legitimacy of the parties that supported democracy and the republic. Political unrest throughout the 1920s and into the ‘30s is told from the viewpoint of contemporary sources, anti-Semitism in Germany seems to have been rife throughout the period and of course the Nazis capitalised on the pre-existing prejudices to define the Jews as an internal enemy along with the ‘November Traitors’ of 1918.
Right from the inception of the Republic the Presidential right to rule by decree, which was meant to be applied only in extremis, was abused by President Ebert. From here on in this precedent legitimised all future applications of Rule by Decree – including by President Hindenburg (successor to Ebert) and Chancellors such as Papen and Schleicher as well as eventually Hitler. In spite of vicious and deadly political unrest between Nazis and Communists and well as other Nationalist and Socialist groupings the Republic never established itself as Leviathan and the parliamentary immunity granted to politicians supporting both sides allowed them collude on several occasions to provide amnesties for ‘political prisoners’ guilty of crimes including murder.
Evans notes that in the 1920 75% of the electorate had voted for parties that supported democracy. After the turmoil of the Weimar years a similar percentage voted for parties, of left and right, opposed to democracy. Evans’ work takes one coolly through all the key events of the Weimar republic and its subjugation by the right wing politicians who negotiated with Hitler to appoint Hitler to the role of Chancellor – in the belief they could control the Nazis. Once Hitler is in power the Reichstag Fire (which Evans does not attribute to the Nazis) provides Hitler’s excuse to outlaw opposing political parties starting with the Communists but eventually subsuming all. Evan’s account of the terror and sadism unleashed by the Nazis almost instantaneously upon Hitler’s accession is all the more appalling because it concentrates on small detail. It is clear that the Nazis under Hitler, Goering, Himmler and Goebbels were well prepared to seize power but were also rapidly adaptive to events to ensure they made best use of other’s vacillation and hubris.
A fascinating book that records events that without making moral judgements – these are left to the reader – clearly highlights the evil of the Nazis; the hubris of the right wing coalition that brought them to power and structural weakness of the Weimar republic as well as the massive levels of political violence in the Germany of the 20’s and 30’s coupled with polarisation of left and right. That Germans of all shades were antipathetic towards ‘Jews and Foreigners’ to such a degree did come as a surprise.
Having read William Shirer’s 1st hand account of the rise of the Nazis (Berlin Diary and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) both of which I highly recommend I was surprised how much more Evan’s volume has added to my knowledge and understanding of these events. 10 out of 10.
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