April 8th, 2017

The Rise and Fall

Last month I got William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich out of the library.

I had actually read it many moons ago, when I was a teenager. But “read” is a bit of a euphemism. It was so very long—over 1,000 pages—that although I did “read” all those pages, I did so rather quickly, focusing only on the bits that interested me most at the time. I did get an overview, but I was so young that I had no context in which to place that overview.

What I got from the book was more or less “This happened and then this and this and this.” I had so little knowledge or life experience to relate it to that it seemed just a series of inexplicable although terrible events.

It’s seemed to me more recently that I’d be able to bring more to the table if I managed to read it now. But it’s still over a thousand pages long, and there a lot of demands on my time these days. So back it went—mostly unread—to the library when due.

I have a host of books like this, all of which I want to read, and so little time. I was merely middle-aged when I started the blog, but somehow here I am and I’m—well, let’s just call it “older.” Prioritizing my time seems more important now than ever for that reason. But getting and spending we lay waste our powers.

Gotta have some fun, too. Each thing that I do seems important to me as I do it. And I have to eat and shop and cook and clean. I want to see friends, and take in theater or a movie now and then. YouTube is a huge time-sucker, but a lot of what I watch there is cultural, such as looking at dancers or musicians of the past or even the present.

Then there’s paying bills, filing the papers that come with dismaying regularity. Taxes at this time of the year (I’m about 95% finished at the moment). It seems as though getting rid of a lot of old stuff—papers and otherwise—would help, too, but that is incredibly time-consuming in itself. I used to joke to my husband that he’d spent the first half of his life amassing things (especially paper and photos) and might spend the second half getting rid of those things. It’s no joke.

And that first sentence of the paragraph two above this—“gotta have fun, too”—predictably sparked a trip to YouTube. So it shouldn’t be a total waste, I’ll share with you the fruits of that trip:

39 Responses to “The Rise and Fall”

  1. Vanderleun Says:

    Just join a book group and put this into the mix. Magic.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Vanderleun:

    Ah yes, if I want to provoke an instant shunning.

  3. Vanderleun Says:

    What sensitive and wonderful person could ever shun such a fair minded person?

    Of course if the shunning were about the length I could understand it and support it.

  4. Brian Swisher Says:

    Shirer’s “Berlin Diary” is also good, and a lot less lengthy.

  5. miklos000rosza Says:

    I would suggest the British historian Michael Burleigh. He has a book dealing with the Third Reich, another about morality and good and evil in World War 2. He also wrote SMALL WARS, FARAWAY PLACES, which covers the French in Algeria and Vietnam, the British in Malaya and India, America in the Philippines and Vietnam, etc, from 1945-1965. He’s an original thinker without this originality leading him into unsound thought.

    If you want to know much more about America in Afghanistan and Iraq, I recommend Thomas Ricks THE GAMBLE, David Kilcullen and Emma Sky, as well as Joby Warrick’s BLACK FLAGS: THE RISE OF ISIS.

  6. OldTexan Says:

    I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich during my second of three years living in Germany, stationed in the US Army. I lived off post in a high rise apartment in the old university city of Erlangen outside of Nuremberg where my wife worked in the Palace of Justice Building for the US PX system.

    I had a lot of time to read not having a TV or telephone and working rotating shift work while my wife worked regular hours. When I finished the book my wife wrapped plain blue construction paper over the paper back cover because she knew the Germans would still be sensitive about swastika on the cover and she rode the train and streetcar to work.

    When we both finished we started visiting various areas around Nuremberg looking at specific sites and then we went on down to Munich with Dachau close by, less than 23 years after the fall and liberation.

    We were struck with contrast of the recovery and the fact that we really liked the Germans and wrestled with how fast they transformed from and Empire to depression to falling in line and ramping up a huge war machine that failed with so much death, destruction and pure evil.

    As two young Americans in our early 20’s it changed us with a strong dose reality. And yes we did have fun, traveling, drinking beer and eating good food. Life is interesting.

  7. Doug Says:

    I “read” audio books while I drive. Audible.com has a highly-rated audio version of Rise and Fall.

  8. The Other Chuck Says:

    A well liked retired man in a neighboring community wrote an editorial page article for the local newspaper last month about this subject, titled A Trip to the Attic. He decided to get rid of years and years of accumulated stuff, everything from the remnant of his mother’s first bedroom set, to his now middle-aged children’s high chairs, to his Wilson A2000 baseball gloves, old records, you name it. This is how he summed it up:

    Somewhere about halfway through my attic-cleaning saga it occurred to me that the stuff we value and save is not about the stuff at all, but rather events and people and memories that made us value the stuff in the first place.

    Old letters, ticket stubs, snapshots, broken jewelry, just about anything becomes memorabilia. It’s all put away in a safe place to lest we forget.

  9. The Other Chuck Says:

    …to save lest we forget.

  10. David Foster Says:

    A very readable and valuable book about the trends/events leading to the Third Reich is the memoir of Sebastian Haffne, who grew up in Germany between the wars. His book is more social history than conventional political history:

    “If you read ordinary history books…you get the impression that no more than a few dozen people have are involved…According to this view, the history of the present decade is a kind of chess game between Hitler, Mussolini, Chiang Kai-Shek, Roosevelt, Chamberlain, Daladier, and a number of other men whose names are on everybody’s lips. We anonymous others seem at best to be the objects of history, pawns in the chess game…It may seem a paradox, but it is none the less a simple truth, to say that on the contrary, the decisive historical events take place among us, the anonymous masses. The most powerful dictators, ministers, and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large…Decisions that influence the course of history arise out of the individual experiences of thousands or millions of individuals.

    This is not an airy abstract construction, but indisputably real and tangible. For instance, what was it that caused Germany to lose the Great War of 1918 and the Allies to win it? An advance in the leadership of Foch and Haig, or a decline in Ludendorff’s? Not at all. It was the fact that the ‘German soldier’, that is the majority of an anonymous mass of ten million individuals, was no longer willing, as he had been until then, to risk his life in any attack, or hold his position to the last man.

    Today the political struggle is expressed by the choice of what a person eats and drinks, whom he loves, what he does in his spare time, whose company he seeks, whether he smiles or frowns, what pictures he hangs on his walls. It is here that the battles of the next world war are being decided in advance. That may sound grotesque, but it is the truth.

    That is why I think that by telling my seemingly private, insignificant story I am writing real history, perhaps even the history of the future. It actually makes me happy that in my own person I do not have a particularly important, outstanding subject to describe. That is also why I hope my intimate chronicle will find favour in the eyes of the serious reader, who has no time to waste, and reads a book for the information it contains and its usefulness.”

    My review here:

    http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/42473.html

  11. charles Says:

    While certainly not as all-encompassing I’d also recommend:

    “This is Berlin: radio broadcasts from Nazi Germany”

    It is transcripts of Shirer’s broadcasts from his time in Nazi Germany.

  12. sammy small Says:

    Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945 by Marie Vassiltchikov is also a first person account of the war from inside Germany by someone who had interesting connections via her White Russian background. It is riveting.

  13. Patrick Says:

    I think maybe you are saying what I’ve come to realize – everything you do comes at the cost of doing something else, so you have to weigh each thing and decide if you want to devote however much time it will take to doing that thing (reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich for example). Always seems to be something to do to fill the time. Plus a person has down periods, where just doing nothing seems fine.

  14. F Says:

    Interesting discussion, Neo. Thanks for triggering it. I have ordered “Small Wars, Faraway Places.” Through your Amazon link.

  15. Mac Says:

    “everything you do comes at the cost of doing something else”

    Yes, I’ve had the feeling for many years, but it has *really* come home to me now in my late ’60s. I have this notion that everything after the biblical three-score-and-ten is gravy. So: do I want to read 1000 pages of how the Third Reich happened? Yes, I do. But do I want to read it more than, say, St. Augustine’s City of God? Probably not.

    I like The Other Chuck’s comment about memorabilia, too. I have all sorts of little things that I don’t want to get rid of because, for instance, they came from my maternal grandparents’ house which has been twice sold and remodeled since they died. But they won’t mean anything to my children and grandchildren. I should start getting rid of them now so they don’t have to fool with them.

  16. OM Says:

    miklos000rosza:

    “Moral Combat” Good and Evil in World War II by Michael Burleigh is indeed very good. What modern man is capable of, not so long ago.

  17. liberty wolf Says:

    Yes, time is more precious now than ever. I just turned 60 last month and feel that pressure…

    I bought THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH as an Audible book not too long ago. It is like a few Audible books and not one. I am a member so they toss me credits as part of that membership and I cash them in – have to get something. I admit I have not yet listened but I figure I will listen eventually. Reading it is a bit too challenging, I guess I have to admit that. But that might be an idea, the Audible version. You can listen while you clean or do other things. I think I would only read a book that long if it was very well written, I am not sure this one is? At any rate, an idea.

  18. AesopFan Says:

    What to do with the memorabilia “no one wants” anymore? One way is to take a picture, label it, and stick in an album of family history. Takes up less space and the memories are still there (not really the same as touching them, but might do for some of them).

    If the items have any historical value (and even the plainest everyday things can), consider donating to your local museum “scenes of everyday life” exhibits.
    What was “just my stuff” to our grandparents can be “really cool” to our grandkids.

    You can combine the two by opening an account on the LDS Family Search website and uploading the pictures to your family files; clears out your space, the grandkids can still see what Great-grandma’s weird bed looked like without having to lug it home with them.

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    liberty wolf:

    Good idea, except I have a big problem with auditory books. See this.

    And Happy Belated Birthday!

  20. parker Says:

    I bought and read the Rise and Fall in high school, after my English teacher assigned Gunter Grass’s Tin Drum. I was fascinated by the Tin Drum which lead me to Shirer’s opus magnimus. It was after grinding through his masterful epic history of the 3rd Reich that I realized the horror of the Reich and Imperial Japan could happen anywhere given the right circumstances.

    That set in concrete the teaching of my deeply conservative parents. “A republic if you can keep it.” Perhaps Jefferson was right about watering the tree of liberty. I want to be alive if that time comes, but trust my children to teach their children well.

  21. DaveMay Says:

    This is why this blog is so great: Cyndi Lauper and William Shirer in the same post! Very eclectic.

  22. Patrick Says:

    Speaking of libraries, if anyone is a library fan, they don’t make ’em like this anymore –

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/briangalindo/15-gorgeous-photos-of-the-old-cincinnati-library?utm_term=.jonM3J12r#.nj3o7OnEb

  23. Philip Says:

    Hey, OldTexan, you didn’t happen to live on Hartmannstrasse back then, did you? That’s the only high-rise apartment building that I think of in that part of town, unless there was something on the north side of the base. I lived by the engineering/science campus down that way, so sometimes had occasion to ride by the main gate of the base.

    I do miss Erlangen sometimes. (I was there on scholarship in the early ’90s.)

  24. liberty wolf Says:

    Thanks Neo for the birthday wishes! It is a new frontier being 60! But a good one. I actually have found your attitude to be inspiring. Not old yet dang it!

    I will check out that link – thanks — didn’t catch that info earlier.

  25. liberty wolf Says:

    Neo – Ah, yes! I do remember your issue with political oratory. So that would extend to auditory books, of course. I do think that’s part of why Obama love never made sense to you. I could not stand the guy and I was resistant but I think it is his voice (a deep baritone that is very resonant) and of course his use of civil rights movement tropes to get to his listeners. Those two in combination got to people. It is far better to be like you and be able to resist a siren song!

  26. OldTexan Says:

    There were three high rise buildings in Erlangen that were clustered kind of together in the late 60’s on Gerhart Hauptmann Str. where they built the expressway on the West side of Erlangen. I was stationed at Herzo Base a few miles West. Our old base is not the international HQ for Adidas.

    The Bergkirchweih Fair in the spring which dates to 1755 was wonderful, lots of great food, beer and all the music you can eat.

  27. OldTexan Says:

    Above is an answer to Philip, thanks for asking I was there 50 years ago.

  28. Gringo Says:

    Vanderleun
    Just join a book group and put this into the mix. Magic.

    neo-neocon
    Ah yes, if I want to provoke an instant shunning.

    I have belonged to a book club for nearly 10 years. When we have our annual elections for choosing books, we are told to choose books that are 300 pages long or shorter. We do occasionally go over, but not to the extent of choosing Rise and Fall.

  29. texexec Says:

    I started to read RAFOTTR in the waiting room while my wife was having our first child. She had him VERY quickly, so I only got 4 pages into it! I finished it about 4 years later…when things settled down.

  30. Mike K Says:

    “I “read” audio books while I drive. ”

    I do, too. I am working through Bernard Cornwell’s “Richard Sharpe”series of novels. I read most of his “Saxon Tales” and his period work is just excellent. Th men reading the novels do accents very well but I have trouble with them sometimes.

    I read Rose and Fall a couple of times over the years and his “Collapse of the Third Republic” is also excellent. His memoir is also good.

  31. Philip Says:

    OldTexan, aha! I just looked it up on the map. That’s a part of town I very seldom visited, but I lived just a few blocks from there (on the other side of the canal) the first time I was in the country!

    What did the music at the Kerwa taste like in your time? 🙂

  32. Ray Van Dune Says:

    Far from convincing me that Nazism could occur here or anywhere, “Rise and Fall” showed me that it grew in a society ripe for it. Worshipful of heredity, unquestioning of its innate superiority, and unhesitantly xenophobic, Germany was the perfect seed bed for an evil fruit.

    I expected to read what I had been told about the Germans being victimized by the Allies after WW I, and falling unwittingly under the spell of the Nazis. BS, according to how I read Schirer. They were ready and eager to set things right, and “right” was their boot on everybody else’s neck! And the second time they would do it properly.

  33. parker Says:

    RVD,

    Are we not seeing this hive mind from the left since 11/8/16!? Are they capable of achieving their goal? Not yet, but they never give up. Vigilance is required..

  34. DNW Says:

    ” Ray Van Dune Says:
    April 9th, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Far from convincing me that Nazism could occur here or anywhere, “Rise and Fall” showed me that it grew in a society ripe for it. Worshipful of heredity, unquestioning of its innate superiority, and unhesitantly xenophobic, Germany was the perfect seed bed for an evil fruit.

    I expected to read what I had been told about the Germans being victimized by the Allies after WW I, and falling unwittingly under the spell of the Nazis. BS, according to how I read Schirer. They were ready and eager to set things right, and “right” was their boot on everybody else’s neck! And the second time they would do it properly.”

    Yes, there was something amiss before the first war.

    How else does one explain the business in South West Africa, the toast “Der Tag!”, and the Rape of Belgium?

    It’s difficult to reconcile this with what we know of German Romanticism, appreciation for natural beauty, and a seeming sensitivity to the human condition (think of “little Herr Friedmann”) …. but there you are.

    There is an element of bellicose brutality which was celebrated by some in the German upper classes. They seem to have neither respected man, nor feared God.

    I think one can see this developing in 19th century German political philosophy as well; as a number of sociopolitical writers self-consciously sought to distance themselves from the classically liberal natural law tradition, and re-orient east rather than west.

    I have had a number of exchanges with German political progressives; and though they all know Marx, and Nietzsche, and Hegel, and possibly Carl Schmitt, not to mention numerous others more modern; none I have exchanged with, knew anything about Wilhelm Von Humboldt.

    https://fee.org/articles/wilhelm-von-humboldt-german-classical-liberal/

    There is a kind of almost aggressively anti-God, or anti-transcendent strain in some German thinking. Something I cannot quite put my finger on that may be characterological more than anything. Or maybe not.

    I like most of the Germans I have met. I cannot claim to understand them.

  35. TrueNorth Says:

    Amazon had a sale on the Kindle version of Rise and Decline of the Third Reich last year so I got it and found it a fairly easy and engrossing read. I find Kindle is great for the big-format books like this. I polished off Churchill’s six volume history of WW II around the same time too.

    I have always been a voracious reader, but I do find my concentration isn’t what it used to be before the internet. As a tool for encouraging myself, I make a list of every book I read each year. Usually, I manage around 80. I find there is a natural tendency to make the list look more impressive by increasing both the quality and quantity of books on it, otherwise it would tend to be dominated by re-reads of Agatha Christie books and the like.

    Some books have so far proved impervious though. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann remains un-climbed as yet.

  36. Llwddythlw Says:

    I would also recommend Lord Bullock’s “Hitler: A Study in Tyranny”, a mere 776 pages. I read quite a lot of it sitting at Typhoon Lagoon in Florida.

  37. Janetoo Says:

    I also “read” audio books more than I read while sitting. I am able to enjoy books AND do housework and work at my sideline business. I am addicted to Audible and have built up a pretty extensive library. I have even listened to a few favorites more than once. I highly recommend. I listened to the book you mention here – it took me awhile.

  38. Philip Says:

    DNW, I think you’re onto something pointing out the anti-transcendent thread that exists in German philosophy. As much as I also like German culture, with the changes that my life has undergone since my time there, they now strike me as a really unspiritual people. For all that the German Romantics wrote about Geist, I think now that they had a poor conception of real spirituality. It’s both a symptom and a cause of their generally secular outlook. I think it would be good for me to get to know Polish or Hungarian culture more so that I could have more points of comparison within central Europe. Right now, my main reference is Greek thought.

  39. DNW Says:

    ” Philip Says:
    April 10th, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    DNW, I think you’re onto something pointing out the anti-transcendent thread that exists in German philosophy. As much as I also like German culture, with the changes that my life has undergone since my time there, they now strike me as a really unspiritual people. For all that the German Romantics wrote about Geist, I think now that they had a poor conception of real spirituality. It’s both a symptom and a cause of their generally secular outlook. I think it would be good for me to get to know Polish or Hungarian culture more so that I could have more points of comparison within central Europe. Right now, my main reference is Greek thought.”

    Just caught your remark. The psychology of the German, or of the group of people we are referring to as Germans, baffles me.

    To a limited extent, a very limited extent, and within a particular context of a homogeneous, taken for granted kinship relation life, it reminds me a bit of a 19th century Middle American mindset; with its assumptions concerning “people like us”. And no harm there, insofar as it goes.

    But then there is that matter of “spirituality” which they seem to identify with a more extreme form of the originally un-reflective animal spirit just described – only, in this case, developed ideologically, or as an ideology of life.

    The most naive hillbilly, who’s immersed up to his neck in the very kind of world-encountering outlook that passes for what I am taking to be German spirituality, would have in general a more highly developed sense of the real transcendent, and less relative regard for “us” as “us” than it seems an educated German does. Even when the Germans are busy rejecting themselves, it is based on some alternative “we” theory, crap.

    Even the rejection of the Das man, is a kind of amazingly flat thing.

    I’ve spent some years trying to figure out whether Heidegger is one of the most profoundly deep and penetrative intellects ever, or the most profound, as in tireless, explicator of half inch deep life-waters that most of us hardly notice.

    I’ve read that German university students crammed his early lectures with the greatest enthusiasm and excitement; and that his message resonated with them and opened new vistas and possibilities.

    Had they been unconscious before?

    Perhaps it’s impossible for someone like me, whose intellect was fashioned as a child with the template of a hierarchy of being etched into it, (whether one continues to affirm it as real or not as an adult) to grasp the mindset of someone who lives in a two dimensional reality; where “spirit” and transcendent are just names for different spaces, over there a bit, on the same horizontal checkerboard plane.

    And here I will stop; since I am not sure I am making sense even to myself.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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