While traveling this year I ended up visiting a Gestapo museum in Cologne as well as the Holocaust museum in DC. Wanting to learn more, I recalled my college years when my history-major friend Kris was lugging around this immense book with a swastika on the cover. I procured the (much lighter) Kindle version of it and went to work. Well, months later, I have finished it. It was an incredible experience to read: artfully written and absolutely dense with fascinating information. Terrifying but exciting. Gruesome but essential.
Hitler and the Nazis are quasi-taboo today in that while they’re brought up in every internet argument, such comparisons are dismissed as unattainable. They were so evil, people say, that it’s offensive to even begin comparing anything modern to them. But 1933 wasn’t all that long ago from civilization’s perspective, not to mention evolution’s. Human brains today are nearly identical to the brains of that time.
I totally reject the idea that Germans are some how pre-dispositioned as a people to have been the spawning ground of Nazism (aka Sonderweg). This book goes there a little and has been criticized for doing so. It’s clear that what happened there could have happened anywhere given the circumstances, and so we must be wary of it happening again in the future given any similar circumstances. Desperate, beaten, embarrassed people were conned by their own cognitive dissonance and one truly charismatic (yet crazed) leader into thinking it was some outsider’s fault, and that eliminating the outsiders would solve all the painful problems. The results were catastrophic.
But anyway let’s get to the book. Here are some notable things that I really had no idea about. I’m obviously no student of history so excuse me if this is all common knowledge.Continue reading Reading “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William L. Shirer