The Third Reich in Power

The Third Reich in Power

by Richard J. Evans

The definitive account of Germany's malign transformation under Hitler's total rule and the implacable march to war.

By the middle of 1933, the democracy of the Weimar Republic had been transformed into the police state of the Third Reich, mobilized around the cult of the leader, Adolf Hitler.

Evans tells the story of Germany's radical reshaping under Nazi rule.

The Nazi regime took more and more radical measures against the racially "unfit," including Germany's Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, mentally ill, "asocial" and "habitual" criminals.

After six years of foreign policy brinkmanship that took the Nazi regime from success to success, Hitler's drive to prepare Germany for the war he saw as its destiny reached its fateful hour in September 1939.

The Third Reich in Power is the fullest and most authoritative account yet written of how, in six years, Germany was brought to the edge of that terrible abyss.

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Evans, is the second book in Evans Third Reich trilogy on the rise and fall of the Nazi's in Germany. The book takes place after the events of his last book, titled The Coming of the Third Reich, which focuses primarily on the ideological background and rising nationalism and fascism in Germany in the 1920's and early 1930's. His second book focuses primarily on the Third Reich in power in Germany (as the title may suggest...) from 1933, until the outbreak of WWII in late 1939, which is the subject of the next book. Germany's balance of trade also begins to suffer in this time, as the price of German goods becomes unattractive on the world market. This is a terrifying time in history, and Evans The Third Reich in Power is the definitive book, and part of the definitive trilogy, on Germany's Nazi years.

Without obsessing over the brutality and sadism of individual Nazi party members, this book provides a complete and unnerving account of how the Nazis, after coming in power, "won" the support of German people. This book provides a detailed account of the "small" changes which the Nazi leaders brought in legal system and coerced it to satisfy their ends.

I've read some interesting critiques that Evans seems to overemphasize the Nazis coercing of the broader German population while underemphasizing the populations' enthusiasm and support of the regime. One fascinating point that surprised me: Evans claimed there was a generational divide between parents and children. I was a bit surprised as to Evans' reliance upon William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as a source. Would seem that as a historical work Shirer's book is better viewed as a primary source than as a history that showcases deep historical analysis.

This is a detailed and sociological analysis of Hitler and the Nazi regimes years in power prior to the outbreak of war in 1939. The author pursues various themes: Germany as a police state, the suppression and take-over of all media, the struggle with the Churches, the appropriation of business and putting it on a war footing, the indoctrination and manipulation of the people (by the Hitler Youth, subsidized vacations), the war against German Jews for the support of racial purification and finally the foreign achievements (the annexation of the Rhineland, Austria) All this is approached from the internal German perspective; little is mentioned of Germanys traditional enemy France and all the foreign tensions Hitler created during this period. There were times where I felt that the author over-emphasized the coerciveness of the Nazi regime as if Germans were forced into Nazism. So many photos and films with joyful flag-waving Germans (like on the cover of my paperback edition) illustrate the enthusiasm with which the German people revered their country and leader with little in the way of compulsion.

For all that, there of much of great interest, pertinent and fascinating aperçus and insights scattered throughout; he treatment of the economic material is intelligent and, indeed, quite masterful -- something quite rare in a political historian....; The final chapter -- on the march to war (Anschluss, Munich, Poland) -- is brief and presupposes some knowledge, but is a superb synthesis.

(view spoiler)BLURB:The second work in a planned three-volume series (after 2004's Coming of the Third Reich) this book starts with the Nazis' complete assumption of power and creation of a one-party state in 1933, and goes to September 1939 and the beginning of World War II. In sharp detail, Evans shows how Hitler seized upon his political victory and immediately began his plan for the Nazi infiltration of every aspect of German society.

I noted in my review of the first volume of this trilogy, The Coming of the Third Reich, that Evans does not offer revisionist history, and that the same bad people do the same bad things that anyone who has read about this period already knows about. As far as what happened inside Germany, most peoples knowledge is limited to the Night of the Long Knives and early Nazi actions against political opponents and Jews. He talks in turn about the Nazi police state, propaganda, attacks on religious believers and institutions, economics, building social unity, persecutions based on race and defect, and the descent to war. Political violence from the Left has increased exponentially, most dramatically in the attempted assassination of the Republican leadership of Congress by a partisan Democrat whipped up by the left-wing media (stopped only by the chance presence of armed police, since, for no reason I can fathom, Congress refuses to simply erase the gun control laws in the District of Columbia). From 1933, the Nazis pursued this process aggressively in every area of society, with the partial exception of the churches, which were directly attacked, and the military forces, which were subject to other forms of control and had a limited ability to resist direct Nazi domination. For co-ordination, the focus was not on political activity as suchany overt political opponents of the Nazis, especially the Social Democrats but also others less directly opposed to them such as the Center Party and the Nationalists, had already been dealt with by direct dissolution. Instead, the focus was on private life, private communications, and especially private associations, which were then extremely important to the lives of nearly all Germans (as they were also in the United States at that time, before their precipitous decline in recent decades). The goal was to achieve compliance to outward adherence to Nazi ideology, and therefore apparent unity of thought and action. Policing also meant, now that the Nazis were in power, preventing further disorder resulting from freelancing Nazis, whether powerful ones like Ernst Röhm or random brownshirt thugs, except to the extent such disorders were approved by the Nazi hierarchy as useful for some immediate political end. Evans covers, at least briefly, all aspects of the nascent security statenot just the new legal structures, but the perversion of existing ones (for example, ex post facto laws); the growth of concentration camps, holding both political prisoners and common criminals who, if deemed in any way habitual, often became permanently imprisoned for petty crimes; and the administration of the police themselves, especially in the institution of the secret police, the Gestapo. We have a view of the Gestapo as the cartoon villains of a thousand movies, portrayed as lurking in every corner, and even at this time, Evans says, The Gestapo in particular quickly attained an almost mythical status as an all-seeing, all-knowing arm of state security and law enforcement. But there were plenty of legitimate denouncementsthe human impulse to control others through mechanisms of power is strong, as can be seen a few weeks ago by the fat and ugly hobgoblin Lena Dunham, an actress of no discernable talent celebrated mostly for being aggressively fat and ugly, proudly declaiming that she will continue to use her (inexplicable) social media power to expose and punish conservative wrong-think, such as of airline workers she supposedly overheard having a private conversation about the mental illness of so-called transgender people. The section of most interest to me was Converting the Soul, which covers the Nazis well-known aversion to Christianity. Most leading Nazis wanted what was in effect a new national religion, retaining some Christian elements and forms, but shorn of Jewishness and weakness, with a fake Nordic Jesus and dropping inconvenient requirements like loving ones enemies. Regardless of what the Nazis themselves believed, as with other co-ordination efforts, the key goal was to eliminate all independent or oppositional power of the established Churches, especially the Catholic Church, such that outward conformity of all individuals was achieved. Nonetheless, the German Christian Church never managed to achieve the Nazi goal of a unified state Church, even though only the Catholics were broadly and consistently opposed to Nazism. As to Catholics, despite the Concordat with the papacy, the Nazis shut down any political action and closed or co-ordinated private associations, including youth groups and schools. Naturally, the Nazis responded to this resistance by intensifying their campaign, using the press to widely circulate lurid stories of priestly sexual immorality combined with attacks on Catholicism as anti-German and Catholics as corrupters and poisoners of peoples souls. and it also killed some thousands of its own real or supposed opponents within Germany, but its major violence was reserved for people outside the country and was carried out in wartime. All of this was done in opposition to traditional German and Christian moralsEvans repeatedly notes that Nazis had a purely instrumental view of such things (just like contemporaneous Progressive eugenicists in America, though Evans doesnt mention that).

That being said, this book is indispensable to understanding how in six and a half short years, Hitler and his associates were able to transform Germany from an economically ravaged, morally, emotionally and physically depleted country to a mostly revitalized economy capable of invading Saarland, Malme, Austria and Czechoslovakia before the French and the British took any substantive action. I found this book to be mind-blowing for a number reasons: first, it lays out in detail that even before the Reichstag fire in 1933, Hitler, along with Goring, Goebbels and a handful of others, had a plan for world domination that was driven by Hitler's absolute certainty that he was invincible. Also, while other countries sought to rebuild their economies based upon an assumption of peace, Hitler immediately made Germany's rearmament his number one priority upon gaining the Chancellorship. As soon the Olympics departed, Hitler unleashed his forces against the Jews, beginning with Kristallnacht, or The Night of Broken Glass, when Jewish homes and storefronts were destroyed, looted, and set on fire by the Brownshirts and their confederates, and thousands of Jews were arrested and many were ultimately sent to concentration camps. Although there had been many actions against the Jews before this, Kristallnacht was a turning point and marked the moment in time when the Third Reich laid bare its plan for their eradication.

He was born in London, of Welsh parentage, and is now Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Gonville & Caius College.