The Third Reich at War: 1939-1945

The Third Reich at War: 1939-1945

by Richard J. Evans

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A New York Times bestseller!

An absorbing, revelatory, and definitive account of one of the greatest tragedies in human history

Adroitly blending narrative, description, and analysis, Richard J. Evans portrays a society rushing headlong to self-destruction and taking much of Europe with it. Interweaving a broad narrative of the war's progress from a wide range of people, Evans reveals the dynamics of a society plunged into war at every level. The great battles and events of the conflict are here, but just as telling is Evans's re- creation of the daily experience of ordinary Germans in wartime. At the center of the book is the Nazi extermi­nation of the Jews. The final book in Richard J. Evan's three-volume history of Hitler's Germany, hailed "a masterpiece" by The New York Times, The Third Reich at War lays bare the most momentous and tragic years of the Nazi regime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101022306
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/19/2009
Series: The History of the Third Reich , #3
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 944
Sales rank: 144,137
File size: 63 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Richard J. Evans was born in London and educated at Oxford University. He has taught at Columbia University and Birkbeck, University of London, and since 2014 has been the Regius Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Cambridge. His many publications include an acclaimed three-volume history of the Third Reich and a recent collection of essays, The Third Reich in History and Memory. A Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Literature, he is a past winner of the Wolfson History Prize, and was twice a History Honoree at the Los Angeles Times Book Awards. In 2012 he was appointed Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s birthday honors list, for services to scholarship.

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Note: The views or opinions expressed in this book and the context in which the images are used do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of, nor imply approval or endorsement by, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


This book tells the story of the Third Reich, the regime created in Germany by Hitler and his National Socialists, from the outbreak of the Second World War on 1 September 1939 to its end in Europe on 8 May 1945. It can be read on its own, as a history of Germany during the war. But it is also the final volume in a series of three, starting with The Coming of the Third Reich, which deals with the origins of Nazism, the development of its ideas and its rise to power in 1933. The second volume in the series, The Third Reich in Power, covers the peacetime years from 1933 to 1939, when Hitler and the Nazis built up Germany’s military strength and prepared it for war. The general approach of all three volumes is set out in the Preface to The Coming of the Third Reich and does not need to be repeated in detail here. Taken together, they aim to provide a comprehensive account of Germany under the Nazis.

Dealing with the history of the Third Reich during the war poses two special problems. The first is a relatively minor one. After 1939, Hitler and the Nazis became increasingly reluctant to refer to their regime as ‘The Third Reich’, preferring instead to call it ‘The Great German Reich’ (Grossdeutsches Reich) to draw attention to the massive expansion of its boundaries that took place in 1939-40. For the sake of unity and consistency, however, I have chosen, like other historians, to continue calling it ‘The Third Reich’; after all, the Nazis chose to abandon this term silently rather than repudiate it openly. The second problem is more serious. The central focus of this book is on Germany and the Germans; it is not a history of the Second World War, not even of the Second World War in Europe. Nevertheless, of course, it is necessary to narrate the progress of the war, and to deal with the Germans’ administration of the parts of Europe they conquered. Within the scope even of so large a book as this, it is not possible to pay equal attention to every phase and every aspect of the war. I have chosen, therefore, to focus on the major turning-points - the conquest of Poland and France and the Battle of Britain in the first year of the war, the Battle of Moscow in the winter of 1941- 2, the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942- 3, and the beginning of the sustained strategic bombing of German cities in 1943. In doing so, I have tried to convey something of the flavour of what it was like for Germans to take part in these vast conflicts, using the diaries and letters of both soldiers and civilians. The reasons for choosing these particular turning-points will, I hope, become apparent to readers in the course of the book.

At the heart of German history in the war years lies the mass murder of millions of Jews in what the Nazis called ‘the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe’. This book provides a full narrative of the development and implementation of this policy of genocide, while also setting it in the broader context of Nazi racial policies towards the Slavs, and towards minorities such as Gypsies, homosexuals, petty criminals and ‘asocials’. I have tried to combine the testimony of some of those it affected - both those who survived, and those who did not - with that of some of the men who implemented it, including the commandants of major death camps. The deportation and murder of Jews from Western European countries is covered in the chapter dealing with the Nazi empire, while the reactions of ordinary Germans at home, and the extent to which they knew about the genocide, are covered in a later chapter on the Home Front. The fact that the mass murder of the Jews is discussed in almost every part of the book, from the narrative of the foundation of the ghettos in Poland in the opening chapter right up to the coverage of the ‘death marches’ of 1945 in the final chapter, reflects its centrality to so many aspects of the history of the Third Reich at war. Wherever one looks, even for example in the history of music and literature, dealt with in Chapter 6, it is an inescapable part of the story. Nevertheless, it is important to reiterate that this book is a history of Nazi Germany in all its aspects; it is not in the first place a history of the extermination of the Jews, any more than it is a history of the Second World War, though both play an essential role in it.

The book opens where The Third Reich in Power left off, with the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. Chapter 1 discusses the Germans’ occupation of Poland and in particular their ill-treatment, exploitation and murder of many thousands of Poles and Polish Jews from this point to the eve of the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. For the Nazis, and indeed for many Germans, Poles and ‘Eastern Jews’ were less than human, and this attitude applied, though with significant differences, to the mentally ill and handicapped in Germany itself, whose mass murder in the course of the ‘euthanasia’ action steered from Hitler’s Chancellery in Berlin forms the subject of the last part of the chapter. The second chapter is largely devoted to the progress of the war, from the conquest of Western Europe in 1940 through to the Russian campaign of 1941. That campaign forms the essential backdrop to the events narrated in Chapter 3, which deals with the launching and implementation of what the Nazis called ‘the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe’. Chapter 4 turns to the war economy, and looks at how the Third Reich ruled the countries it occupied in Europe, drafting in millions of forced labourers to man its arms factories and pushing ahead with the arrest, deportation and murder of the Jews who lived within the boundaries of the Nazi empire. That empire began to fall apart with the momentous German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad early in 1943, which is narrated in the concluding part of the chapter. It was followed the same year by reversals in many spheres of the war, from the devastation of Germany’s towns and cities by the Allied strategic bombing offensive to the defeat of Rommel’s armies in North Africa and the collapse of the Third Reich’s main European ally, the Fascist state of Mussolini’s Italy. These events form the principal focus of Chapter 5, which goes on to examine the way they affected the armed forces, and the impact they had on the conduct of the war at home. Chapter 6 is largely devoted to the ‘Home Front’, and looks at how religious, social, cultural and scientific life interacted with the war. It concludes with an account of the emergence of resistance to Nazism, particularly within the Third Reich itself. Chapter 7 begins with an account of the ‘wonder-weapons’ which Hitler promised would reverse Germany’s military collapse, before going on to tell the story of how the Reich was finally defeated, and to examine briefly what happened afterwards. Each chapter interweaves thematic aspects with an ongoing narrative of military events, so that Chapter 1 deals with military action in 1939, Chapter 2 covers 1940 and 1941, Chapter 3 discusses further military events in 1941, Chapter 4 takes the story on through 1942, Chapter 5 narrates the war on land, in the air and at sea in 1943, Chapter 6 moves the narrative on through 1944, and the final chapter gives an account of the closing months of the war, from January to May 1945.

This book is written to be read from start to finish, as a single, if complex, narrative, interspersed with description and analysis; I hope that the ways in which the different parts of the story interact with one another will become apparent to readers as the narrative proceeds. The chapter headings are intended more to provoke reflection on the contents than to provide precise descriptions of what each chapter contains; in some cases they are intentionally ambiguous or ironical. Anyone who wishes to use the book simply as a work of reference is recommended to turn to the index, where the location of the book’s principal themes, characters and events is laid out in detail. The bibliography lists works cited in the notes; it is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the vast literature on the topics dealt with in the book.

Much of this book deals with countries in Central and Eastern Europe where towns and cities have a variety of names and spellings in different languages. The Polish city of Lvov, for example, is spelt L’vov in Russian and L’viv in Ukrainian, while the Germans called it something different altogether, namely Lemberg; there are similar variations in the spelling of Kaunas in Lithuanian and Kovno in Polish, Theresienstadt in German and Terez’n in Czech, or Reval in German and Tallinn in Estonian. The Nazi authorities also renamed L’d’ as Litzmannstadt in an attempt to obliterate all aspects of its Polish identity altogether and used German names for a variety of other sites, such as Kulmhof for Chelmno, or Auschwitz for Oswiecim. In this situation it is impossible to be consistent, and I have chosen to use the name current at the time about which I am writing, or on occasion simply the name with which English and American readers will be most familiar, while alerting them to the existence of alternatives. I have also simplified the use of accents and diacriticals in place-names and proper names - dropping the Polish character Ł, for instance - to remove what to my mind are distractions for the English-language reader.

In the preparation of this book I have enjoyed the huge advantage of access to the superb collections of Cambridge University Library, as well as to those of the Wiener Library and the German Historical Institute in London. The University of Melbourne kindly appointed me to a Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellowship in 2007, and I was able to use the excellent research collection on modern German history purchased for the University Library from the bequest of the late, and much-missed, John Foster. The Staatsarchiv der Freien- und Hansestadt Hamburg and the Forschungsstelle f̈r Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg kindly permitted consultation of the unpublished diaries of Luise Solmitz. The encouragement of many readers, especially in the United States, has been crucial in spurring me on to complete the book, though it has taken longer to do so than I originally intended. The advice and support of many friends and colleagues has been crucial. My agent Andrew Wylie and my editor at Penguin, Simon Winder, and their teams have been enormously helpful. Chris Clark, Christian Goeschel, Victoria Harris, Sir Ian Kershaw, Richard Overy, Kristin Semmens, Astrid Swenson, Hester Vaizey and Nikolaus Wachsmann read early drafts and made many useful suggestions. Victoria Harris, Stefan Ihrig, Alois Maderspacher, David Motadel, Tom Neuhaus and Hester Vaizey checked through the notes and saved me from many errors. Andr’s Berezn’y provided maps that are a model of clarity and accuracy; working on them with him was extremely instructive. The expertise of David Watson in copy-editing was invaluable, and it was a pleasure to work with Cecilia Mackay on the illustrations. Christine L. Corton applied her practised eye to the proofs, and provided essential support in too many ways to mention. Our sons, Matthew and Nicholas, to whom this final volume, like the previous two, is dedicated, have cheered me up on innumerable occasions during the writing of a book the subject matter of which was sometimes shocking and depressing almost beyond belief. I am profoundly grateful to them all.

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The Third Reich at War, 1939-1945 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Willp More than 1 year ago
This magnificent book completes Evans¿ trilogy on the Third Reich. It covers all aspects of the war including the home front: morale, the role of women, the effect of the bombing, food, wages and conditions. He also examines the roles of the air force, navy and army, and gives us shrewd portraits of the leading personalities in the Nazi state.

Nazi ideology blamed the Jews for all ills, including the Second World War itself, and saw communism and socialism as essentially Jewish. Hitler created a genocidal mentality and justified a genocidal policy.

The Nazis committed countless atrocities. They killed thousands of handicapped children. They killed as many Gypsies as they could. They deported Jews from all the countries they occupied to death camps like Auschwitz. They murdered six million Jews and four million Soviet prisoners of war. The war they started killed 50 million people.

Evans nails the lie that Nazism was in some sense socialist; he shows how ¿Germany was still a capitalist economy, dominated by private enterprise.¿ Hitler¿s policies were not `autarchic¿, which means `self-sufficiency as an economic system¿. Nazism was not contained in one country but expansionist, predatory and aggressive. It never relied on its own national resources but on stealing other people¿s equipment and materials. Nazi Germany extracted more than 30% of the wartime national production in the occupied countries of Western Europe.

Nazi Germany ¿invaded Russia, unprovoked, and caused an almost unimaginable degree of death, suffering and destruction.¿ But Hitler¿s invasion of the Soviet Union caused his downfall.

The battle of Stalingrad was the decisive turning-point of the whole war. As Evans writes, ¿What happened on the Soviet Front dwarfed anything seen in France, Denmark, Norway or the Low Countries. From 22 June 1941 onwards, at least two-thirds of the German armed forces were always engaged on the Eastern Front. More people fought and died on and behind the Eastern Front than in all the other theatres of war in 1939-45 put together, including the Far East¿ It was in the end on the Eastern Front, more than any other, that the fortunes of war were decided.¿
wildbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is the third volume in Richard J. Evans history of Nazi Germany. The Third Reich in Power told how Adolf Hitler fashioned Germany into a totalitarian state where life was lived according to Nazi ideology and whose sole purpose was waging war. This volume tells what happened when Germany waged their planned war and used mass murder to implement the Nazi principles of eugenics and racism throughout Europe. Like the whole series it is written for the general reader and should replace The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as the authoritative history of this era. The book is a history of Germany during World War II and not a history of World War II. Selected excerpts of the history of the war are discussed in depth when their effect on life in Germany was pronounced. The fall of France revenged the shame of 1918 and filled the German people with pride. The goal of Adolf Hitler formed in a hospital bed after he learned of the German surrender in World war I was realized. Two years later the battle of Stalingrad, with an estimated two million total casualties, was a disastrous defeat that marked the the beginning of the end for Germany and her allies. As the defeat became obvious Hitler's speeches no longer thrilled the masses.The author shows a complete command of the source material for his topic. The footnotes and bibliography list a wide variety of contemporary and secondary sources in English and German. Diary excerpts convey the experiences of individuals and numerous statistics illustrate the breadth and depth of events.The combination of war, genocide and repression produced an era of death and destruction on a scale unrivaled in human history. The author's thorough and detailed narration conveys to the reader the day to day events that combined to produce an epic of horror that belied the concept of the banality of evil. Reading over and over again, he was executed by being shot in the back of the neck, fails to reduce the emotional impact of that statement1939 brought the beginnings of mass murder and genocide but it was the war with Russia that brought wholesale slaughter. It is estimated that the civilian and military casualties of the Russians were a total of twenty million people. The German Army suffered seventy percent of their casualties on the Eastern front, thirty percent of those in 1945, and the Russian invasion of Germany exacted revenge for the suffering of the Russian people. The mass murder of eastern European Jews began in the summer of 1941.The author makes it clear that the genocide was done on the specific orders of Adolf Hitler. In a speech on January 30, 1939 Hitler said that if a world war started it would be the fault of the Jews and they would be killed in retribution. There are numerous references to this speech in the discussion of the genocide of the Jews. The genocide continued up to the end of the war. As late as March of 1945 trainloads of Jews were being deported from Slovokia to the extermination camps.Another important theme of the book is the destruction of Germany as the war was fought to the bitter end. The bombing of Germany day and night often created fire storms. These tornadoes of flame destroyed large portions of major cities and one in February of 1945 killed 35,000 people in the city of Dresden. As the Allied troops moved into Germany Hitler called for a scorched earth policy of destruction of everything in their path. This was resisted by Albert Speer who saw the need to preserve the ability of the German people to provide for themselves after the end of the war.The taking of Berlin and Hitler's suicide ended the war. Germany was defeated and the ideas that had led her to war in 1914 and 1939 were destroyed as thoroughly as her bombed out cities. All that was left was her collective guilt and knowledge for future generations described by the author as follows:" The Third Reich raises in the most acute form the possibilities and consequences of the human hatred and dest
RTS1942 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The final volume in Evans' trilogy of World War II. This is a long, but readable, book of suffering, on all sides. The subject matter is arranged thematically rather than chronologically which results in a thorough reporting and analysis of each topic. Copious statistics and data but these do not generally interfere with the flow of the narrative.
Narboink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Three thick volumes is the new minimum for a survey of Nazi Germany geared toward the general reader. The final installment of this series seamlessly continues the story to its conclusion, which is welcome indeed. Being steeped in Nazi history for the duration of three long books is a fatiguing exercise in misery; one can only imagine what it must have been like to actually live (or die) amongst the carnage of such a hideous moral vacuum. "The Third Reich at War" does a spectacular job answering the basic questions of how and why the Nazi regime (and greater Germany itself) was able to indulge in genocide, unprecedented levels of military violence, and all other manner of horrors. Highly specific geopolitical considerations and deep analysis of military tactics are largely glossed over in favor of a wider (and more inclusive) cultural perspective; this is principally an effort to illuminate the forest without entirely dispensing with the trees. The pace and style throughout is consistent, smoothly erudite, and unflaggingly interesting. It is especially helpful to have previous histories and perspectives reevaluated and subtly adjusted (or refuted) by diligent and meticulous data mining. The overall effect is one of volatile history settling - at long last - into a semblance of substantiated truth.
CliffBurns on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Superlative account of the descent into World War II--the Nazis instigated the conflict and were determined to truly make this one "the war to end all wars". And as the tide turned and the mighty Wehrmacht was driven back, utterly defeated, Hitler vented his rageon the Jews, Communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, enemies of the state, employing an industrial era killing machine (whose levers he silently and invisibly operated) to do its cruel work right up to the closing days of the war.This is the third book of Mr. Evans' weighty trilogy but there's not a word wasted. A solid, perhaps even indispensable addition to Second World War scholarship, to be read alongside Bullock's biography of Hitler and Shirer's RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH.
jorgearanda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As Evans says in his introduction, this is not a book about World War II, or about the Holocaust, but the final volume on his history of the Third Reich, which covers the period of 1939-1945 and necessarily deals with war and genocide since these were the two overwhelming themes of Nazi Germany in this period. But there are many other intertwined stories in this book as well: the perception of Hitler by ordinary Germans of the time, the unethical experimentation with prisoners, particularly Jews and Gypsies, the dynamics and internal conflicts of the Nazi government and the military, corruption, art smuggling, propaganda, and much more.It is a thoroughly researched book. It is also accessible for the general public, and although it is deeply depressing and horrifying it carries an important message. I see it as a single piece along with Evans' two previous volumes, adding to 2000+ pages that altogether deal with the captivating and cohesive story of the rise and fall of the Third Reich.
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Well researched, gripping, terrifying telling of WWII.
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Bosshog More than 1 year ago
Evans final third book of his series on The Third Reich is a masterpiece!!! Evans explains in detail of the nazis military succeses and ultimate deat in WW2. Anyone studying or loves WW2 history has to read Evans three part series. In this particular book, Evans brings you into the heart and minds of the Nazis, ordinary German citizens, and victims of the nazis. I came away with a real understanding of WW2 from reading from a great professor and author as Evans!!!
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