The best books on the rise and fall of the Third Reich

Adrian Greaves Author Of Albert Speer - Escaping the Gallows: Secret Conversations with Hitler's Top Nazi
By Adrian Greaves

Who am I?

As a junior British army officer, I regularly had the unique privilege of being Guard Commander at Spandau Prison (1961-64) and I regularly saw and met with top Nazi prisoners Rudolf Hess, Shirach, and Albert Speer, then serving long prison sentences. Albert Speer taught me German. I was intrigued to see photographs of these three important Nazis in better times even though they were clearly lauding it over the Germans. I had regular conversations with Speer and our relationship resulted in him admitting facts that would have seen him on the gallows in the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg in 1945.

I wrote...

Albert Speer - Escaping the Gallows: Secret Conversations with Hitler's Top Nazi

By Adrian Greaves,

Book cover of Albert Speer - Escaping the Gallows: Secret Conversations with Hitler's Top Nazi

What is my book about?

In 1961, the newly commissioned author, as the British Army Spandau Guard Commander, was befriended by Speer, who taught him German. Adrian Greaves’ record of his conversations with Speer over a three-year period makes for fascinating reading. While the top Nazi admitted to Greaves his secret part in war crimes, after his 1966 release he determinedly denied any wrongdoing and became an intriguing and popular figure at home and abroad. Following Speer’s death in 1981 evidence emerged of his complicity in Hitler’s and the Nazi’s atrocities.

In this uniquely revealing book, the author skilfully blends his own personal experiences and relationship with Speer with a succinct history of the Nazi movement and the horrors of the 1930s and 1940s. In so doing new light is thrown on the character of one of the 20th century’s most notorious characters.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

Why did I love this book?

The book which first stimulated my personal interest in Germany's defeat after World War Two, and which made the most impression on me, is the highly respected The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by American author William L. Shirer.

This is the classic work of events and Nazi leaders' guilt, which he personally witnessed while living in Germany at the end of the Second World War. It shows the two swings of the pendulum from Germany's ascent on the world stage to the country's near-total destruction and shocking after-effects on the defeated German people. This book is a remarkable work that has stood the test of time and which led the way for subsequent historians and authors of the subject to follow.

By William L. Shirer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was Hitler's boast that the Third Reich would last a thousand years. Instead it lasted only twelve. But into its short life was packed the most cataclysmic series of events that Western civilisation has ever known.

William Shirer is one of the very few historians to have gained full access to the secret German archives which the Allies captured intact. He was also present at the Nuremberg trials.

First published sixty years ago, Shirer's account of the years 1933-45, when the Nazis, under the rule of their despotic leader Adolf Hitler, ruled Germany is held up as a classic…

Book cover of Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

Why did I love this book?

Keith Lowe is a brilliant researcher and this account of the after-effects of the Second World war on Europe makes for harrowing reading. When Europe was still shuddering from the war's destruction, the allies frequently behave brutally towards the vanquished Germans. The worst excesses, especially against women, were deliberately committed by the Russians followed by the French. This aspect of the war has mostly been overlooked by historians.

By Keith Lowe,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Savage Continent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Keith Lowe's Savage Continent is an awe-inspiring portrait of how Europe emerged from the ashes of WWII.

The end of the Second World War saw a terrible explosion of violence across Europe. Prisoners murdered jailers. Soldiers visited atrocities on civilians. Resistance fighters killed and pilloried collaborators. Ethnic cleansing, civil war, rape and murder were rife in the days, months and years after hostilities ended. Exploring a Europe consumed by vengeance, Savage Continent is a shocking portrait of an until-now unacknowledged time of lawlessness and terror.

Praise for Savage Continent:

'Deeply harrowing, distinctly troubling. Moving, measured and provocative. A compelling and…

Book cover of Hitler's Lost State: The Fall of Prussia and the Wilhelm Gustloff Tragedy

Why did I love this book?

A detailed and terrifying account of the German civilians' plight as they were overwhelmed by the vengeful Russians - and of the Russian sinking of the German liner the ' Wilhelm Gustloff' resulting in some 6,000 civilian deaths, the worst maritime disaster ever.

By Tim Heath, Michela Cocolin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hitler's Lost State as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seen as an agricultural utopia within Hitler's Germany, it is often the view that both East and West Prussia had remained relatively untouched during the Second World War. Yet the violence, prejudice and murder associated with the National Socialist regime that brought most of Europe to ruin were widespread throughout Prussia during its brief existence.

When the MV _Wilhelm Gustloff_ was sunk by a Russian submarine just after 9pm on 30 January 1945, 9,343 passengers - 5,000 of them children - would perish. It was the worst loss of life in maritime history, six times greater than the one of…

Book cover of A Social History of the Third Reich. Richard Grunberger

Why did I love this book?

The Nazis developed a unique social structure of total compliance with fear and terror just out of sight. The work describes family life struggling with the ritual of Nazism from the privileged elite, the average German family seeking some normality to the open oppression of the Jews.

By Richard Grunberger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Social History of the Third Reich. Richard Grunberger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most devastating portraits ever drawn of a human society - life in Hitler's Germany during the Third Reich

The Nazis developed a social system unprecedented in history. It was rigidly hierarchical, with the seemingly beneficent and ascetic figure of Hitler at the top - focus for the homage and aspirations of every man,
woman and child. How did the 'ordinary citizen' live under such a system? The author discusses such subjects as beauty in the Third Reich (no cosmetics, no slimming) as well as charting how you progressed to the elite Nazi cadres - administrators, propagandists or…

Book cover of Hitler's Alpine Headquarters

Why did I love this book?

The book's wealth of contemporary photographs and maps is a spellbinding work and makes the complexity of Hitler's alpine headquarters easy to understand - and reveals how the German people adored Hitler - at least in his early days.  Hitler's headquarters and adjacent Nazi properties were seriously plundered and looted by the victorious allies - although, in the interest of history, the location has been largely restored.

By James Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hitler's Alpine Headquarters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hitlers Alpine Headquarters look at the development of the Obersalzberg from a small, long established farming community, into Hitlers country residence and the Nazis southern headquarters. Introducing new images and additional text, this book is a much expanded sequel to the authors acclaimed Hitlers Alpine Retreat (P & S 2005). This book will appeal to those with a general interest in the Third Reich. It explains how and why Hitler chose this area to build a home and his connection to this region.

New chapters focus on buildings and individuals of Hitlers inner circle not covered in the earlier book.…

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