The best books for understanding Nazi Germany

David Luhrssen Author Of Hammer of the Gods: The Thule Society and the Birth of Nazism
By David Luhrssen

The Books I Picked & Why

Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris

By Ian Kershaw

Book cover of Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris

Why this book?

I enjoy good writing most of all, and if the writing is non-fiction, it’s important to me that the scholarship is sound. Although he never set out to be a biographer, British historian Ian Kershaw found the subject of Adolf Hitler so important—and so large a topic—that he needed two volumes. Hubris and Nemesis achieve a good balance in understanding Hitler’s life, the society that shaped him, and the society that embraced him.


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The Face of the Third Reich

By Joachim C. Fest

Book cover of The Face of the Third Reich

Why this book?

I found this book by the German scholar Joachim Fest many years ago at a flea market. Fest’s portrait of Hitler and a dozen high-ranking officials of the Third Reich became models for my own writing. Fest maps out the range of personalities—their cruelty, greed, and misplaced ideals—and the way in which Hitler encouraged rivalry among them to preserve absolute power for himself.


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Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich

By George L. Mosse

Book cover of Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich

Why this book?

George Mosse was a refugee from Nazi Germany who enjoyed a long career in my home state, teaching at the University of Wisconsin. With Nazi Culture, he collects essays, proclamations, journalism, and fiction by Nazi authors during the Third Reich. His editorial comments put the ideas of Nazism in context—and remind us that Hitler found an audience well prepared for his message.


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The Last Days of Hitler

By Hugh Trevor-Roper

Book cover of The Last Days of Hitler

Why this book?

There have been more recent accounts of Hitler’s retreat to the bunker in the last weeks of his life. But even if some new information has surfaced since Britain’s H.R. Trevor-Roper wrote his report, the vividness is hard to match. Trever-Roper recorded his thoughts on Hitler’s end before the rubble of war had been cleared away. It was almost on-the-scene reporting.


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Inside the Third Reich

By Albert Speer

Book cover of Inside the Third Reich

Why this book?

Albert Speer was the German leader who appeared sorry for what he did at the Nuremburg war crimes trial. I was a teenager when I came across the book at a public library and rediscovered it a few years ago in a used bookstore. Yes, Speer was determined to show himself in the best possible light and minimize his crimes. However, Inside the Third Reich remains one of the most clear portraits of Hitler and his circle in their everyday life.


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