This book, The Coming of the Third Reich, by Richard J. Evans, is a first of a 3-part series by author Richard Evans, which discusses the story of Hitler and the Nazis, from the Party’s rise into power, up to the Second World War, and ultimately, the Third Reich’ complete and utter destruction in 1945.
The Coming of the Third Reich tells the story of how a small German Workers’ Party, upon accepting former WW1 Corporal Adolf Hitler as its member, transformed into the NSDAP – known to everybody as the Nazi Party – and, throughout the life of the ever-fragile Weimar Republic, rose into power and came to dominate Germany until 1945. And more than that, in fact, as the antisemitism at the core of Nazi ideology didn’t just come from out of thin air. It has always been there, beneath the surface, a lingering philosophy and way of life for many – but not most – of the Germans, ever since the Bismarckian era.
The failures of the Weimar Republic became the fuel to the fire that both the Communists and the far-right groups, including the Nazis, used to burn down the democracy that most people didn’t approve of anyway. The hyperinflation of 1923-1924, and the Great Depression, both became the catalysts for groups on opposite sides of the political arena, who used all methods of violence available at their disposal to try and destroy one another, while also competing for dominance of the Reichstag. And in this is the irony, that the people who most wanted to destroy the Republic, actually availed of democratic methods to bring down that very system that they somehow belong to.
The Coming of the Third Reich is a tragic story of how Germany, limping about after the Great War, throughout its period of “decline and fall”, transformed into the Nazi Germany that, in 1939, would plunge the world once more into absolute war. Above all, it is the story of the failure of democracy, and the triumph of evil and violence, in a country that so proudly boasts itself as a model of civilized society.
Finally, the rapid “Nazification” after Hitler’s ascent into Reich Chancellor is one of tragedy and fury – and so much fury I felt reading this, as helpless Germans – most specifically the Jews, who were stripped of everything they have – were forced into total submission, their democratic ways of life turned completely upside down, through an unprecedented level of violence unraveled in full view of the world, without even the slightest hint of remorse.
There are many lessons to learn from the history of the rise of the Nazis into power, and the author explicitly notes that they are “for the reader to take from this book, not for the writer to give.” There isn’t much discussion of morality in here, as the writer believes it’s not what writing and telling history is about – a view that probably isn’t for everyone to agree with. But if you ask me, you wouldn’t really need such moral arguments in this book – for the horror and the tragedy of Hitler’s rise to power is laid bare, and after reading this book, whatever lessons to take from it will be all too clear and obvious for the reader.