I was reading the news from Ukraine yesterday and needed to get away mentally. So I put on the audiobook of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by, William L. Shirer. I look forward to listening to it everyday. Like ya do. Wut?
The writer and reader has this old fashioned, Futurama reporter voice plus sass and ‘tude to spare. Shirer was a reporter in Berlin and Vienna for CBS until late 1941 when the US declared war on the Japanese Empire, and Hitler declared war on us in response. He watched Hitler’s rise to power up close. He has his personal diaries. Plus, he uses information from “secret captured German documents,” first hand records from within the 12 year Reich.
As he loads his cannon with facts, he dresses down these slimeballs like they deserve. Less “the most evil minds of the 20th century!” More, “carpet chewing,” “enormous waistline,” “drug addled,” “former pimp,” and “pervert.” A lot of “Beck knew Hitler was talking out his . . . hat.” The names like Von Stupnaegel. Minor characters who “ate half a pound of ham to calm down” after meeting with Hitler. And he always is keen to note how each of these characters ended up, mainly hanged. Hurrah!
Sure you have to gut through the barbarity, but that ultimately is what gives moral impact and urgency to the book. Those are the stakes. Saving humanity from these inhumane men. But I also know how the story ends. Bunker tirades, poison, bang!, shallow grave on fire. And Nuremberg. 👍🏽
He doesn’t spare the Brits or the French for the sort of blindness that makes me want to reach through the book and strangle the appeasers like Chamberlain. He is kinder to Roosevelt and Churchill. But makes note of the hypocrisy of our treatment of American minorities, the British colonies, and the Americans and British who defended the Nazis, like Charles Lindbergh and the shamed Prince Edward.
He speaks honestly about the so-called “Good Nazis” such as Albert Speer who used slave labor. And the German generals who later said they opposed Hitler all along, yet still planned and executed his campaigns. He gives credit to the heroic attempts on Hitler’s life, particularly Valkyrie. And the actual guy who was played by Tom Cruise was an even better man than depicted, and handsomer.
There are some exciting stories, like the rescue of Mussolini, which would be a great movie except it’s about a Nazi daredevil pilot and, well, Mussolini. I would love to somehow find a way to make that story work.
There are the journals of Goebbels. The diary of translator Dr. Schmidt. The actual words and thoughts. Like lackey Jodel’s lament that none of the Wehrmacht got how brilliant Hitler was. The infuriating treatment of Russia by England, forcing them right into the arms of the Nazis. The drugs, the sick parties, and 3 hour monologues Hitler made his dinner guests endure.
It’s absorbing, interesting, horrifying, and entertaining (which even this history still needs to be), yet its ultimately a warning.
I catch all sorts of odd reactions to my obsession with memorizing this tome. But it’s not much different than reading The Lord of the Rings or any high stakes book or film, except it happens to be true. Yes, it’s factual, but it wouldn’t have survived all these years as THE book on, well, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich if it weren’t also True, powerful, and moving. Even if you are laughing at the impossible German names.
Dark times are sometimes best reflected on through a mirror. The past several years have been one long dark night. And this is the book that helps me through. Because it’s over. The bad guys lost. Hitler and his cronies are dead. And while mass murderers, like the shooters in Buffalo, NY and in Christchurch, NZ, are reaching back in time for the same old Nazi B(aloney) S(andwich) and pseudo-science, and “Florida Math” sounds a lot like the “Aryan Math” that rejected Einstein — The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich may also be the most important book out there. Did you know that the Nazis actually encouraged young Aryan women to have children without co-parents and raise the babies of their rapists? Mm-hm. You could also do far worse for storytelling. Have a laugh at these freaks, but take them seriously, and keep hoping that the good guys win. Or at least suck on the sweet tears of defeated Nazis.
– JL ✌🏼💙💛🖖🏼🌻🎸
PS – If you’d like a PDF copy, you can contact me via my “First Contact” page in the menu. Also, cut me some slack. I listen to Morrissey to cheer myself up. That’s how I do!
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