I am not sure which was the first book about the Second World War that I read as a kid. I rather suspect it was “Reach For The Sky” by Paul Brickhill, that enthralling story of Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, the legless RAF fighter ace. This led me to read more and more books based on the Second World War and due to my interest in military history, I became a confirmed fan of stories about the War. I must add that I was reading them in India some 20 odd years after the war had ended with the total surrender of first Nazi Germany, and later of the Imperial Japan of those times.One of the books that I remembered a few days ago was that war classic, “The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich” by William L. Shirer. I was delighted to find a Kindle version on Amazon.com which I promptly ordered. The book was first published in 1960 and won for Shirer the National Book Award For Non-Fiction in 1961. Since then it has sold millions of copies.
Looking back at those years, it is not surprising that someone like Hitler could rise to lead Germany which was in total shambles in the early 1930s. The Germans were still paying a huge price for the First World War which they had started and later lost in 1918. Shirer knew more about Germany than most since he lived and reported from there during the pre-War years from 1934, right up to 1940 when he left Germany.
As a print and later radio journalist, Shirer brought to his writing a fast paced tempo, seldom seen till then in books on history. This was non-fiction but it read like a gripping novel. This was writing at its best. When it was published, this book became the definite biography of Nazi Germany as you can see from the following quotes about the book:
“One of the most important works of history of our time.” -Orville Prescott The New York Times
“The New York Times Book Review A splendid work of scholarship, objective in method, sound in judgment, inescapable in its conclusions.” –Hugh Trevor-Roper
“A monumental work, a grisly and thrilling story.” –Theodore H. White
“One of the most spectacular stories ever told.” -John Gunther
Shirer passed away in 1993 leaving behind a rich legacy of books on the war. History will remember him as a competent professional in both the print and radio media who was far ahead of his times.