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.

The books I picked & why

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

By William L. Shirer,

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

Why 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.


Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

By Keith Lowe,

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

Why 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.


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

By Tim Heath, Michela Cocolin,

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

Why 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.


A Social History of the Third Reich. Richard Grunberger

By Richard Grunberger,

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

Why 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.


Hitler's Alpine Headquarters

By James Wilson,

Book cover of Hitler's Alpine Headquarters

Why 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.


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