The Coming of the Third Reich

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In 1900, Germany was one of modernity's great success stories: The most progressive and dynamic nation in Europe, it was the only country whose rapid economic growth and innovation rivaled that of the United States. Its political culture was far less authoritarian than Russia's and less anti-Semitic than France's. Representative institutions thrived, and competing political parties and elections were a central part of life. How, then, could it be that in little more than a generation this stable modern country ...
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Overview

In 1900, Germany was one of modernity's great success stories: The most progressive and dynamic nation in Europe, it was the only country whose rapid economic growth and innovation rivaled that of the United States. Its political culture was far less authoritarian than Russia's and less anti-Semitic than France's. Representative institutions thrived, and competing political parties and elections were a central part of life. How, then, could it be that in little more than a generation this stable modern country would fall into the hands of Adolf Hitler and the violent, racist, extremist political movement he led, a movement that would lead Germany and then all of Europe into utter moral, physical, and cultural ruin?

There is no story in twentieth-century history more important to understand, and Richard Evans 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 he shows how ready Germany was by the early 1930s for such a takeover to occur. Its citizens were angry and embittered by military defeat and economic ruin, and its young democracy undermined by a civil service, an army, and a law enforcement system deeply alienated from the new order. The electorate was beset by growing extremism and panic about communism; and the small but successful Jewish community was subject to wide-spread suspicion and resentment. In the end, though nothing about what happened was preordained, Germany proved to be fertile ground for Nazism's ideology of hatred.

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Editorial Reviews

Omer Bartov
Evans has accomplished his goal of writing a readable account of the origins of the Third Reich from the unification of Germany in 1871 to the establishment of the Nazi regime in 1933. He provides many insights into the political culture of imperial and Weimar Germany, the mentality of the Nazi storm troopers and the impacts of the inflation of the early 1920s and the depression and unemployment of the early 1930s.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
Richard J. Evans's Coming of the Third Reich is an enormous work of synthesis -- knowledgeable and reliable, and playing to the author's strengths as it highlights the interconnections between politics and society. Evans, the author of several books about Nazi Germany, reminds us at the outset that we should not read too much into the activities of nasty but small anti-Semitic and nationalist extremist groups before World War I. Instead he underscores the importance of the postwar crisis, a Germany left bitterly divided between Social Democrats and Communists, an economy ravaged by unemployment and a country led astray by a political and industrial elite with no real commitment to democracy. This is a vivid although familiar account of why the Weimar Republic collapsed. Evans shows how the ingredients for Nazi triumph were assembled and what was needed to make them jell: add war and depression, cook in a turbulent political atmosphere for several years and serve hot. — Mark Mazower
New York Newsday
Evans asks, in different ways, whether the movement's rise to power was as irresistible as the Nazis tried to make it seem.
Publishers Weekly
On March 30, 1933, two months after Hitler achieved power, Paul Nikolaus, a Berlin cabaret comedian, wrote disconsolately, "For once, no joke. I am taking my own life.... [U]nfortunately I have fallen in love with my Fatherland. I cannot live in these times." How Germans could remain in love with their fatherland under Nazism and even contribute willingly to its horrific extremism is the subject of Cambridge historian Evans's gripping if overwhelmingly detailed study, the first of three projected volumes. Readers watch a great and historic culture grow grotesquely warped from within, until, in 1933, a dictatorial state was imposed upon the ruins of the Weimar republic. A host of shrill demagogues had, in the preceding decades, become missionaries to an uneasy coalition of the discontented, eager to subvert Germany's democratic institutions. This account contrasts with oversimplified diagnoses of how Nazism succeeded in taking possession of the German psyche. Evans asserts that Hitler's manipulative charisma required massive dissatisfaction and resentment available to be exploited. Nazism found convenient scapegoats in historic anti-Semitism, the shame of an imposed peace after WWI and the weakness of an unstable government alien to the disciplined German past. Although there have been significant recent studies of Hitler and his regime, like Ian Kershaw's brilliant two volumes, Evans (In Hitler's Shadow, etc.) broadens the historic perspective to demythologize how morbidly fertile the years before WWI were as an incubator for Hitler. 31 illus., 18 maps. (Feb. 9) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
This first part of what will be Evans' three-volume history of Hitler's regime is the most comprehensive and convincing work so far on the fall of Weimar and Hitler's rise to power. Unlike past accounts suggesting that things could have turned out differently had some of the key players been less foolish, Evans builds, stone by stone, a monument to prove that Hitler's ascent was the only possible outcome even though the Nazi Party never captured an absolute majority of votes. He begins with the legacy of the past: how "mainstream parties" adopted anti-Semitic ideas; how pseudoscientific notions of racial hygiene developed starting before 1914; how Germany's defeat in World War I allowed Nazism to emerge as a serious political force by causing Germans to seek "an authoritarian alternative to the civilian politics that seemed so signally to have failed Germany in its hour of need." He finds the Weimar Constitution no worse than many others, but "the fatal lack of legitimacy from which the Republic suffered magnified the constitution's faults many times over." With that lack of legitimacy compounded by hyperinflation, depression, and cultural clashes, the Nazis managed to prevail through a deadly combination of violence and propaganda, both unprecedented in their intensity.

The last part of the book is a detailed, depressing account of Hitler's transformation of Germany in a few months in 1933, including the "cultural revolution" in which both Martin Heidegger and storm troopers played key roles. The Nazi "revolution," Evans concludes, was meant to be "the world-historical negation of its French predecessor," offering "a synthesis of the revolutionary and the restorative." Unconcerned with overthrowing the social system, Nazism focused on "race, culture and ideology"-and on creating "a dictatorship the like of which had never yet been seen."

Library Journal
Do we really need another history of the Third Reich? Evans (history, Cambridge Univ.; Lying About Hitler) answers that while studies of Nazism have proliferated, what is lacking is a narrative and analytical history directed at the general reader. His projected trilogy aims to provide just that. This impressive first volume covers the period from the founding of modern Germany (1871) through Hitler's coming to power (1933). Evans argues that to regard Hitler's rise as the logical by-product of a fundamental flaw in the German character often requires bending evidence for this thesis from disparate events and themes throughout German history. Although Evans does not regard Nazism as inevitable, he does not lose sight of the myriad anti-Semitic movements that populated the German landscape, along with the various forces-militarism, socialism, capitalism-vying for influence in German society. Germany was an industrial giant by 1914, yet paradoxically its economic success concealed the fact that it had not yet completed the process of nation building. Evans argues that during the crisis of 1933, the leaders of the Weimar republic assumed that the Nazis had at least "a minimal willingness to abide by the rules of democratic politics." Hitler, however, was adept at using democratic institutions, while planning their destruction. Recommended for all libraries.-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A brilliant synthesis of German history, enumerating and elucidating the social, political, and cultural trends that made the rise of Nazism possible. But by no means inevitable, writes Evans (History/Cambridge Univ.; In Defense of History, 1999, etc.); indeed, many of the material and cultural conditions for the rise of a regime that "would make a systematic attempt to kill all the Jews of Europe and kill nearly six million in the process" were more pronounced in France and Russia than in Germany. Yet, he notes, "Nazism, while far from being the unavoidable outcome of the course of German history, certainly did draw for it success on political and ideological traditions and developments that were specifically German in their nature." Some of those traditions arose during the reign of Otto von Bismarck, who, in unifying Germany, universalized military service and "saw to it that the army was virtually a state within a state," answerable to a strong leader alone. Others welled up from Social Darwinist thinkers who believed that the fittest should survive and the weakest be eliminated, thus improving racial stocks and building supermen. The early Nazis found comfort in the example of Weimar leader Paul von Hindenburg, who "had no faith in democratic institutions and no intention of defending them from their enemies"; they found more comfort in the brutal example of the Russian Revolution and the Leninist state, which threatened to spill over into Germany and drove many a middle-class man and woman far to the right. All these strains came together such that there was "substantial overlap between the Nazis' ideology and that of the conservatives [and] even, to a considerable extent, that ofGerman liberals"-opening the door to the Nazi ascendancy while offering hope to many Germans of the time that their country's future would be one "in which class antagonisms and party-political squabbles would be overcome" and prosperity and national pride restored. A peerless work, the first of a projected three volumes. Of immense importance to general readers-and even some specialists-seeking to understand the origins of the Nazi regime.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594200045
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/21/2004
  • Pages: 656
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard J. Evans is professor of modern history at Cambridge University. His books include Death in Hamburg (winner of the Wolfson Literary Award for History), In Hitler's Shadow, Rituals of Retribution (winner of the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History), In Defense of History, and Lying About Hitler.
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Read an Excerpt

The Coming of the Third Reich


By Richard J. Evans

Penguin Books

Copyright © 2005 Richard J. Evans
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0143034693

Chapter One

the legacy of

the past

german peculiarities

i

Is it wrong to begin with Bismarck? On several levels, he was a key figure in the coming of the Third Reich. For one thing, the cult of his memory in the years after his death encouraged many Germans to long for the return of the strong leadership his name represented. For another, his actions and policies in the mid-to-late nineteenth century helped create an ominous legacy for the German future. Yet in many ways he was a complex and contradictory figure, as much European as German, as much modern as traditional. Here, too, his example pointed forwards to the tangled mixture of the new and the old that was so characteristic of the Third Reich. It is worth calling to mind that a mere fifty years separated Bismarck's foundation of the German Empire in 1871 from the electoral triumphs of the Nazis in 1930-32. That there was a connection between the two seems impossible to deny. It was here, rather than in the remote religious cultures and hierarchical polities of the Reformation or the 'Enlightened Absolutism' of the eighteenth century, that we find the first real moment in German history which it is possible to relate directly to the coming of the Third Reich in 1933.

Born in 1815, Otto von Bismarck made his reputation as the wild man of German conservatism, given to brutal statements and violent actions, never afraid to state with forceful clarity what more cautious spirits were afraid to say out loud. Coming from a traditional, aristocratic background, rooted both in the Junker landowning class and the civil service nobility, he seemed to many to represent Prussianism in an extreme form, with all its virtues and vices. His domination over German politics in the second half of the nineteenth century was brutal, arrogant, complete. He could not conceal his contempt for liberalism, socialism, parliamentarism, egalitarianism and many other aspects of the modern world. Yet this seemed to do no harm to the almost mythical reputation he acquired after his death as the creator of the German Empire. On the centenary of his birth, in 1915, when Germany was in the midst of fighting the First World War, a humane liberal such as the historian Friedrich Meinecke could take comfort, even inspiration, from the image of the 'Iron Chancellor' as a man of force and power: 'It is the spirit of Bismarck', he wrote, 'which forbids us to sacrifice our vital interests and has forced us to the heroic decision to take up the prodigious struggle against East and West, to speak with Bismarck: "like a strong fellow, who has two good fists at his disposal, one for each opponent".' Here was the great and decisive leader whose lack many Germans felt acutely at this crucial juncture in their country's fortunes. They were to feel the absence of such a leader even more acutely in the years after the war ended.

Yet in reality Bismarck was a far more complex character than this crude image, fostered by his acolytes after his death. He was not the reckless, risk-taking gambler of later legend. Too few Germans subsequently remembered that it was Bismarck who was responsible for defining politics as 'the art of the possible.' He always insisted that his technique was to calculate the way events were going, then take advantage of them for his own purposes. He himself put it more poetically: 'A statesman cannot create anything himself. He must wait and listen until he hears the steps of God sounding through events; then leap up and grasp the hem of his garment'. Bismarck knew that he could not force events into any pattern that he wanted. If, then - to adopt another of his favourite metaphors - the art of politics consisted in navigating the ship of state along the stream of time, in what direction was that stream bowing in nineteenth-century Germany? For more than a millennium before the century began, Central Europe had been splintered into myriad autonomous states, some of them powerful and well organized, like Saxony and Bavaria, others small or medium-sized 'Free Cities', or tiny principalities and knighthoods which consisted of little more than a castle and a modestly sized estate. These were all gathered together in the so-called Holy Roman Reich of the German Nation, founded by Charlemagne in 800 and dissolved by Napoleon in 1806. This was the famous 'thousand-year Reich' which it ultimately became the Nazis' ambition to emulate. By the time it collapsed under the weight of Napoleon's invasions, the Reich was in a parlous condition; attempts to establish a meaningful degree of central authority had failed, and powerful and ambitious member states such as Austria and Prussia had tended increasingly to throw their weight around as if the Reich did not exist.

When the dust settled after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the European states set up a successor organization to the Reich in the form of the German Confederation, whose borders were roughly the same and included, as before, the German and Czech-speaking parts of Austria. For a while, the police system established across Central Europe by the Austrian Chancellor Prince Metternich successfully kept the lid on the boiling cauldron of liberal and revolutionary activity stirred up amongst an active minority of educated people before 1815 by the French. Yet by the middle of the 1840s, a new generation of intellectuals, lawyers, students and local politicians had grown dissatisfied with the situation. They came to believe that the quickest way to rid Germany of its many great and petty tyrannies was to sweep away the individual member states of the Confederation and replace them with a single German polity founded on representative institutions and guaranteeing the elementary rights and freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of the press and so on - which were still denied in so many parts of Germany. Popular discontent generated by the poverty and starvation of the 'Hungry Forties' gave them their chance. In 1848, revolution broke out in Paris and bashed across Europe. Existing German governments were swept away and the liberals came to power.

The revolutionaries quickly organized elections in the Confederation, including Austria, and a national parliament duly assembled at Frankfurt. After much deliberation the deputies voted through a list of fundamental rights and established a German constitution along classic liberal lines. But they were unable to gain control over the armies of the two leading states, Austria and Prussia. This proved decisive. By the autumn of 1848, the monarchs and generals of the two states had recovered their nerve. They refused to accept the new constitution, and, after a wave of radical-democratic revolutionary activity swept across Germany the following spring, they forcibly dissolved the Frankfurt Parliament and sent its deputies home. The revolution was over. The Confederation was reestablished, and the leading revolutionaries were arrested, imprisoned or forced into exile. The following decade has been widely seen by historians as a period of deep reaction, when liberal values and civic freedoms were crushed under the iron heel of German authoritarianism.

Many historians have regarded the defeat of the 1848 Revolution as a crucial event in modern German history - the moment, in the historian A.J.P. Taylor's famous phrase, when 'German history reached its turning-point and failed to turn'. Yet Germany did not embark upon a straight or undeviating 'special path' towards aggressive nationalism and political dictatorship after 1848. There were to be many avoidable twists and turns along the way. To begin with, the fortunes of the liberals had undergone a dramatic transformation once more by the beginning of the 1860s. Far from being a complete return to the old order, the post-revolutionary settlement had sought to appease many of the liberals' demands while stopping short of granting either national unification or parliamentary sovereignty. Trial by jury in open court, equality before the law, freedom of business enterprise, abolition of the most objectionable forms of state censorship of literature and the press, the right of assembly and association, and much more, were in place almost everywhere in Germany by the end of the 1860s. And, crucially, many states had instituted representative assemblies in which elected deputies had freedom of debate and enjoyed at least some rights over legislation and the raising of state revenues.

It was precisely the last right that the resurgent liberals used in Prussia in 1862 to block the raising of taxes until the army was brought under the control of the legislature, as it had, fatally, not been in 1848. This posed a serious threat to the funding of the Prussian military machine. In order to deal with the crisis, the Prussian King appointed the man who was to become the dominant figure in German politics for the next thirty years - Otto von Bismarck. By this time, the liberals had correctly decided that there was no chance of Germany uniting, as in 1848, in a nation-state that included German-speaking Austria. That would have meant the break-up of the Habsburg monarchy, which included huge swathes of territory, from Hungary to Northern Italy, that lay outside the boundaries of the German Confederation, and included many millions of people who spoke languages other than German. But the liberals also considered that following the unification of Italy in 1859-60, their time had come. If the Italians had managed to create their own nation-state, then surely the Germans would be able to do so as well.

Bismarck belonged to a generation of European politicians, like Benjamin Disraeli in Britain, Napoleon III in France or Camillo Cavour in Italy, who were prepared to use radical, even revolutionary means to achieve fundamentally conservative ends. He recognized that the forces of nationalism were not to be gainsaid. But he also saw that after the frustrations of 1848, many liberals would be prepared to sacrifice at least some of their liberal principles on the altar of national unity to get what they wanted. In a series of swift and ruthless moves, Bismarck allied with the Austrians to seize the disputed duchies of Schleswig-Holstein from the Kingdom of Denmark, then engineered a war over their administration between Prussia and Austria which ended in complete victory for the Prussian forces. The German Confederation collapsed, to be followed by the creation of a successor institution without the Austrians or their south German allies, named by Bismarck for want of a more imaginative term the North German Confederation. Immediately, the majority of the Prussian liberals, sensing that the establishment of a nation-state was just around the corner, forgave Bismarck for his policy (pursued with sublime disdain for parliamentary rights over the previous four years) of collecting taxes and funding the army without parliamentary approval. They cheered him on as he engineered another war, with the French, who rightly feared that the creation of a united Germany would spell the end of the predominance in European power-politics which they had enjoyed over the past decade and a half.

The crushing of the French armies at Sedan and elsewhere was followed by the proclamation of a new German Empire, in the Hall of Mirrors at the former French royal palace of Versailles. Built by Louis XIV, the 'Sun King', at the height of his power nearly two hundred years before, the palace was now turned into a humiliating symbol of French impotence and defeat. This was a key moment in modern German and indeed European history. To liberals, it seemed the fulfilment of their dreams. But there was a heavy price for them to pay. Several features of Bismarck's creation had ominous consequences for the future. First of all, the decision to call the new state 'the German Reich' inevitably conjured up memories of its thousand-year predecessor, the dominant power in Europe for so many centuries. Some, indeed, referred to Bismarck's creation as the 'Second Reich'. The use of the word implied, too, that where the First Reich had failed, in the face of French aggression, the Second had succeeded. Among the many aspects of his creation that survived the fall of Bismarck's German Reich in 1918, the continued use of the term 'German Empire', Deutsches Reich, by the Weimar Republic and all its institutions was far from being the least significant. The word 'Reich' conjured up an image among educated Germans that resonated far beyond the institutional structures Bismarck created: the successor to the Roman Empire; the vision of God's Empire here on earth; the universality of its claim to suzerainty; in a more prosaic but no less powerful sense, the concept of a German state that would include all German speakers in Central Europe - 'one People, one Reich, one Leader', as the Nazi slogan was to put it. There always remained those in Germany who thought Bismarck's creation only a partial realization of the idea of a true German Reich. Initially, their voices were drowned by the euphoria of victory. But with time, their number was to grow.

The constitution which Bismarck devised for the new German Reich in 1871 in many ways fell far short of the ideals dreamed of by the liberals in 1848. Alone of all modern German constitutions, it lacked any declaration of principle about human rights and civic freedoms. Formally speaking, the new Reich was a loose confederation of independent states, much like its predecessor had been. Its titular head was the Emperor or Kaiser, the title taken over from the old head of the Holy Roman Reich and ultimately deriving from the Latin name 'Caesar'. He had wide-ranging powers including the declaration of war and peace. The Reich's institutions were stronger than those of the old, with a nationally elected parliament, the Reichstag - the name, deriving from the Holy Roman Reich, was another survival across the revolutionary divide of 1918 - and a number of central administrative institutions, most notably the Foreign Office, to which more were added as time went on. But the constitution did not accord to the national parliament the power to elect or dismiss governments and their ministers, and key aspects of political decision-making, above all on matters of war and peace, and on the administration of the army, were reserved to the monarch and his immediate entourage. Government ministers, including the head of the civilian administration, the Reich Chancellor - an office created by Bismarck and held by him for some twenty years - were civil servants, not party politicians, and they were beholden to the Kaiser, and not to the people or to their parliamentary representatives. With time, the influence of the Reichstag grew, though not by very much.



Continues...


Excerpted from The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans Copyright © 2005 by Richard J. Evans. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Maps and Diagrams
Preface
1 The Legacy of the Past 1
German Peculiarities 2
Gospels of Hate 22
The Spirit of 1914 42
Descent Into Chaos 60
2 The Failure of Democracy 77
The Weaknesses of Weimar 78
The Great Inflation 103
Culture Wars 118
The Fit and the Unfit 139
3 The Rise of Nazism 155
Bohemian Revolutionaries 156
The Beer-Hall Purtsch 176
Rebuilding the Movement 195
The Roots of Commitment 217
4 Towards the Seizure of Power 231
The Great Depression 232
The Crisis of Democracy 247
The Victory of Violence 266
Fateful Decisions 289
5 Creating the Third Reich 309
The Terror Begins 310
Fire in the Reichstag 328
Democracy Destroyed 350
Bringing Germany Into Line 375
6 Hitler's Cultural Revolution 391
Discordant Notes 392
The Purge of the Arts 405
'Against the Un-German Spirit' 419
A 'Revolution of Destruction'? 441
Notes 462
Bibliography 535
Index 585
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2004

    Masterful 1st Volume Of Planned Trilogy On Third Reich!

    As Karl Marx once wrote, people make their own history, but not under conditions of their own choosing. So it is that academic Richard J. Evans from Cambridge University approaches the superb first volume of the planned trilogy of a complete history of the rise and fall of the Third Reich, ¿The Coming Of the Third Reich¿, recognizing the existential constraints people living in the era of National Socialism faced. As Professor Evans puts it, not only are men constrained and shaped by the unique and quite specific web of cultural and social conditions in which they are enmeshed, but they also view these particular conditions through a particular perspective, and through the prism of a socially prescribed set of values, beliefs, and ideologies. Thus, the author argues that in the vast bibliography of works covering the history of the Nazi era, no one has yet covered the epoch in a fashion that does justice to the complex welter of ways, as sociologist C. Wright Mills would phrase it, in which biography and history meaningfully intersect such that one can appreciate what it was like for an individual to live in the times of the National Socialists, and to experience life on the ground as real people who lived through the turbulent 1930s and 1940s did. Indeed, this trilogy is offered in a brilliant attempt to render such a comprehensive history that makes sense of how it that such a baffling and troubling phenomenon could arise in what was considered the most economically, socially, and culturally advanced society of the early 20th century. This volume recounts the story of the origins of the Third Reich in 19th century Germany, from the its very beginnings as Bismarck¿s foundling empire, through the events of the First World War, and the turbulent unrest and dissatisfaction of the Weimar years. It also describes the rise of the National Socialists through what the author describes as being an ingenuous combination of electoral success and massive political violence that took place in the chaotic epoch of the Great Depression. The books central theme centers around how the Nazis managed to forge a one-party dictatorship in a democratic society so quickly, and with so little organized resistance. This volume is, much like William Shirer¿s classic effort in ¿The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich¿, a narrative account of the events surrounding the events of the Nazi era. It is a massively documented effort to document the story of the Third Reich in chronological order, and much as Shirer did, attempts to ¿give voice to the people who lived through the years¿ of Nazi rule. The author is quite passionate in voicing his own concern that history once more render for the reader an intelligence recounting of the experiences of ordinary individuals, of the sheer complexity of the their existential constraints and available options, and the often incomprehensible choices they faced. So, what Evans aims to give to the reader in the early 21st century is a better understanding of the Nazi era by recreating all of its elements, in all their complexity and interweaving perplexity, thus reminding readers that, as L.P. Hartley said, ¿the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there¿. Given the fact that it remains as important today as ever to understand both how and why the Nazis came to power with such speed and relative ease, it is critical to better appreciate the nature of life in the Third Reich, to comprehend why their opponents failed to stop them, and to better realize the nature and the operation of the machinery of the Nazi regime once it had grasped the reins of power. Moreover, it remains crucial to understand the complex mechanism through which the operation and goals of the Third Reich so quickly and fatefully engulfed the rest of Europe and then the world in such a bloodbath of carnage and ruin. For while the 20th century has no shortages of such catastrophes, including the Soviet purge of the 1930s, no

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  • Posted December 16, 2012

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    Superb and Readable

    Truly, destined to become a classic and, together with his two further volumes, will replace William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as the standard history for the educated public, as well as for the more academically inclined in allied fields. The great thing about Evans is that his familiarity with this period is so broad, that he is able to write a detailed, comprehensive account, bolstered by copious footnotes, founded on an astonishing range of primary and secondary material, that reads with a clarity, fluidity and excitement possessed by no other equally-comprehensive account. It genuinely reads easily, and even rather quickly, and can make you forget how many facts, figures and observations are crammed into each paragraph. Another wonderful thing about Evans, is that he combines a general survey and account of the broad sweep of European events, with fascinating individual stories, incidents and anecdotes that give his book that extra flavor of bringing you closer to the actual events. If you are very well-read on this period (like myself), you can follow the footnotes, and you will learn more even from them. But, you can omit them with not too-devastating results. But I tell you one thing: You won't be able to put it down. Allen Roth

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2009

    This book is instrumental to truly understanding why Hitler and the Nazis were able to came to power, and why Germany, specifically and Europe generally ignored the international presses condemnation of the anti-semetic violence that spread.

    A general overview of the ideas and ideologies that were common currency in Germany prior to the Nazi take over, and how easy certain ideas and policies were to implement for the Nazis. Some of these find that origins in the Middle Ages others in the Thirty years war others at the end of the nineteenth century some even gained acceptance during the Weimar years.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2007

    From Chaotic Disaster to Disasterous Order

    This is a well-written and informative book that I would recommend over some lengthy 'and drier' volumes on the subject 'e.g. The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany'. Richard Evans' book follows the rise of German fanatical nationalism from the early Weimar years to the Nazi's assumption of state power in 1933. However, he starts his analysis by examining the roots of authoritarian politics 'monarchist, nationalist, authoritarian, conservative' in Wilhelmine Germany. In essence, like so many other nations in the early 20th Century Germany faced a bewildering array of change in lifestyle, technology, and economics. And like many nations to the present, many people clung to the reassuring steadiness of conservatism in turbulent times. Where social democrats and moderates were interested in promoting personal freedoms and rights, the conservatives opted to focus on retaining economic and political power combined with financial and social stability. In a country torn apart by an undeclared civil war in 1918-1919, the choice was a difficult one. And it was a compromise - superficial moderate social democrat rule reliant on dangerously ambivalent and authoritarian military support. And yet, this need not have led to Nazi Germany. The one man who would lead Germany down that path spent the early Weimar years observing the anarchic, democratic, and economic disasters unfolding before his eyes. Convinced 'like many other Germans' that Germany's greatness was being subsumed by malign foreign influences, he decided to join in the political fray. Shortly after joining the German Worker's Party, he discovered 'and practiced' his tremendous public-speaking abilities. As the party's main draw at all its assemblies, Hitler demanded and won uncontested leadership of the party, thus instituting 'the leadership principle' which Germany itself would hold a decade later. Since most Germans wouldn't have been to a Baptist sermon, Hitler's emotional and dramatic speeches were a unique, entertaining, and compelling performance. His was a searingly ruthless nationalistic and ethnic belief, though. Evans recounts how Hitler, like any good professional speaker, adjusts his message according to his audience. Speaking with workers, he promised more jobs and to free up those held by anti-Germans 'i.e. communists, Jews, etc.'. When speaking with business leaders, he offered control over many workers and a competing dogma to worrisome communism. When speaking with the middle classes, he offered a return to stability, prosperity, and German greatness. But unlike most modern-day politicians, he also had a violently effective weapon immediately at hand, the Brownshirts, to follow his orders. 'This tradition was common among political parties at the time, though.' And though bent on authoritism, Hitler used all the modern technology available to successfully spread his gospel - airplanes, radio, films. And he needed to do so, as it turned out that the earliest enthusiastic Nazi supporters were located in hard-to-reach conservative rural areas and small towns across Germany. Hitler also realized the importance of pageantry and ritual, such as awe-inspiring assemblies and dramatic torchlight parades, keying in on many people's psychological need of being part of something greater than themselves. And Hitler successfully used these tactics throughout his rise from political oblivion to the threshold of power. However, after the Nazis' great election victories in the early 1930's, the Communists and Social Democrats caught on by successfully copying the Nazi's PR tactics. At this point, Hitler began to intrigue with Weimar officials to inveigle his way into power, despite holding less than a majority in the Reichstag. After some near-run victories by the Communists, the Weimar leaders sought Hitler's support in forming a gov't. Hitler refused to accept anything less than the leading position - the Chancellorship - which he won.

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  • Posted February 3, 2012

    First class! Not to be missed!

    A work which readily takes its place on any bookshelf.Evans writes in a readable style which is free from esoteric arguments and the narrative flows easily.For anyone seeking to expand his/her knowledge of this period,it is an indispensable book.

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  • Posted October 2, 2011

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    Highly Recommended

    The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J Evans is the first in a three volume history of Nazi Germany. In this volume the author discuesses how Adloph Hitler and the Nazi "movement." came to power. Mr Evans traces many of the Nazi believes back to the 19t6h century. The belief in German superioritory is nothing new. It can be traced to such 19th French raciest Count Joseph Author de Gobineau.

    Gobineaur influences a crackpot German thinker with the name of Wilhelm Marr. He coined the term antisemitism. Marr borrowed heavily for Gobineaur who wrote a book called An Essey in the the Inequality of the Human Races which developed the theory of an Aryan master race. The book was written in 1853 and 1855.

    Core Nazi beliefs were taken from many sources from many countryies. They were organized under the banner of nazism after the disaster of World War I. The war was a military disaster for Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate. A new government was able to e stabliesh Germany's attempt at a democratic goverrnment. Unfortnately it was doomed from the start.

    The victors of WWI forced upon the new leadeers of Germany a bitter peace known as the Versailes Treaty. Germany was forced to admit it bore responsibly for the war. Germany was also forcerd to accept huge reparation payments. She lost a considerable amount of territyr and the military was severely limited. Fro example the Army was limited to 100,000 men.

    The German people felt very humiliated. They grew to hate the new democratifc government. The thought calling its leaders the Novembver Criminals. Although defeated the military blamed the civilin government and claimed the German Army was stabled in the back. The So called Weimmar Republic was never fully accepted.

    There was no peace in Germany after the war. Germany experienced went through years of polical chaos and hyperinflation. Rvolutionaries of both right and left threatened the fldging democracies. Because Germany could not or would not pay back the war repearations France and Belgium troups occupied the Rhur from 1923 1925. This futther weakened the government.

    These chaotic conditions set the stage for Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist. The author tells how Hitler was able to organized the Nazi party from a small gathering of macontents to one of the largest po;litical parties in Germany. Hitler swore to do away t=wht the Republic, rearm Germany return the nation to first class status. He was able to use antisemitism to blame all of Germany's problem o n the Jews.

    I thought this was a facinating book and I thought the author did veryh important servie retelling the story of the Nazi era. Hitler offerend nothing new for the German people; his polices of hate destoryed Germany. But there are some people who still believe Hitler to be a compelling leader. There are some people who will deny the hollocaust. Evans gave a true, straight forward and compelling account of the history of that era which must be reotld or we might make the same mistakes.

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  • Posted September 17, 2011

    One of the best Accounts on the Subject

    Unlike William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (which is bent more on entertaining the reader) Evans presents himself as a serious historian. Evans takes us back to the rise of military Prussia and the attitudes and ideologies which made Germany a comfortable bed for the NSDAP to lay its head; and then moves forward to the timultous and chaotic street fights between brownshirts and communists which defined many Weimar cities. Drawing from primary sources of the everyday German and high ranking officials Evan's work is a must for any fan of history and most especially the history of the third reich as political party.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2005

    Generaly Well Written

    Overall, I would say that this book was well written and provided some very interesting insight into Pre-Nazi history originating in the Bismark era. Good analysis of the social, philosophical, economic, scientific, historical, and political factors which contributed to the rise of the Third Reich. The only thing I found disturbing, or lacking, was in the discussion of the Reichstagg fire. There is only discussion of the 'official' Nazi story that it was caused entirely by a 'lone wolf', so to speak. There is barely any reference to the pretty well accepted theory that the fire was likely started by the Nazi's themselves and that van den Lubbe was a Patsi. I would have expected a purported historical work to have presented that in more depth, even to refute the theory, should that be the opinion of the author. To have almost entirely ignored it, I feel was irresponsible. Other that that glitch, I found the work well written and a very quick read.

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