Review: The Coming of the Third Reich – Richard J. Evans

My version: Paperback
Genre: Non Fiction, Nazi Germany
 Penguin Book Limited
First published: 2007
ISBN: 9780141009759
Pages: 656

From the cover:
“There is no story in twentieth-century history more important to understand than Hitler’s rise to power and the collapse of civilization in Nazi Germany. With The Coming of the Third Reich, Richard Evans, one of the world’s most distinguished historians, has written the definitive account for our time. A masterful synthesis of a vast body of scholarly work integrated with important new research and interpretations, Evans’s history restores drama and contingency to the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazis, even as it shows how ready Germany was by the early 1930s for such a takeover to occur. The Coming of the Third Reich is a masterwork of the historian’s art and the book by which all others on the subject will be judged.”

The Coming Of The Third Reich is definitely not one for the faint-hearted. It’s probably the book the word ‘thorough’ was invented for. If you’ve read Ian Kershaw‘s The End, as I did recently, you know the kind of thing I’m talking about. If you’ve read that and thought it went into the most minute detail, wait until you get to grips with this one. But it has to be a huge book, dealing as it does with hugely difficult themes; like trying to tie down just why in Germany after the First World War, the circumstances were ready to let the Nazi Party firstly, come into being and secondly, come to power. As anyone with even the most limited knowledge of this period might instantly suspect and this book proves; there are no simple, short, easy answers when trying to get inside the minds and psyche of a people in a time that seems here to be so staggeringly different from ours’ now. We hope.

This book, the first in a trilogy, covers the period from the unification of Germany and the formation of the second ‘Reich’ in 1871, to the Nazis full assumption of power and declaration of the ‘Third Reich’ in 1933. Any investigation into ‘why’ has to of course look a lot further back than the period after WWI and the manufactured feeling of being ‘stabbed in the back’ and being hard done by, by the terms imposed upon Germany by Britain and France at Versailles. Why the Germans felt so wounded, so determined to exact revenge and so determined it should never happen again, requires some pretty exceptional vision and scholarship – and Richard J Evans provides it. And then some.

The Coming Of The Third Reich covers everything before, after and during the Nazis rise to power. He looks at every level and aspect of German society. Sounds like tough going, eh? It isn’t. Despite the book’s dry-sounding thoroughness, Richard Evans’ style of writing is always open and inviting – the only way I can think of describing it. Reading never feels like a chore. It is presented in a satisfyingly logical manner and interesting details and insights are always just around the corner. The clear, patient and concise style is never tiring and never feels like it’s saying ‘Academics Only.’ Just thinking about how he began researching this and how he managed to hold control of the whole in his mind, is just awe-inspiring. This really is, setting the subject matter aside, an incredible work of art. However you want to look at it.

It isn’t going to be a book for everyone. It isn’t a book you’re going to read in one or two sittings and say ‘a real page turner – couldn’t put it down.’ The range and amount of information is very nearly overwhelming. But stick with it and it will reward you in the end. To use a cliche, it reads rather like watching a car crash. Where you know the outcome. And you know the outcome is bad. But you can’t take your eyes off it.

If anyone wants to go deeper, much deeper into the background surrounding and the history behind the Nazi’s becoming the dominant party in German government in 1933, then this is the book for them. There is so much here to wonder at, marvel at, puzzle over and understand, that it will surely help make reading of other World War II histories more rewarding.

As this one is so rewarding, it seems churlish not to follow on with the others. Click on the pictures to go to their Book Depository pages.

Book two: The Third Reich in Power 1933-1939, How The Nazis Won The Hearts And Minds Of A Nation

Book three: The Third Reich at War, How The Nazis Led Germany From Conquest To Disaster.

You can buy The Coming Of The Third Reich from The Book Depository

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