In this book, historian Evans tells of Germany's radical reshaping under Nazi rule. Every area of life, from literature, culture, and the arts to religion, education, and science, was subordinated to the relentless drive to prepare Germany for war. Evans shows how the Nazis attempted to reorder every aspect of German society, encountering many kinds and degrees of resistance along the way but gradually winning the acceptance of the German people. Those who were seen as unfit, including Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, mentally ill, "asocial" and "habitual" criminals, were dealt with in increasingly brutal terms. 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.--From publisher description.
With over 120 pages of notes for the 700 pages of text Evans shows an encyclopedic command of all available source material. He makes extensive use of statistics to document the changes in German life.
The party created institutions that controlled all aspects of the day to day life of the German people. Labor unions were replaced by party groups. Leisure activity was controlled by the Strength through Joy programs. All writers, artists, teachers, lawyers, and other professions were required to belong to party groups in order to be certified to work. The Hitler Youth worked to replace the family and schools as the primary influence on young people. The school systems and the universities deteriorated under the pressure of Nazi Party organizations. All personnel in the armed services were required to swear a personal oath to Adolf Hitler. There is a map in the book showing where "Degenerate Art Exhibits" were held all over Germany from 1933 on to publicize what art was acceptable in the New Germany. Hitler took a personal interest in the pictures placed in the exhibits. The Gestapo was the ruthless enforcer of the primacy of the Nazi Party. Of all the peoples in Europe that went into the concentration camps the Germans were the first.
The Nazi rise to power was aided by the actions of Marinus van der Lubbe. On the night of February 27-28, 1933 he set fire to the Reichstag. His actions were blamed on the Communists whose members were arrested and kicked out of the Reichstag. This gave the Nazi Party a majority in the government with the ability to pass into law the Party program. Then on June 30, 1934, in what was called "The Night of the Long Knives", Hitler murdered the leadership of the stormtroopers whose large membership made them a rival for his power. At the same time other assorted enemies of Hitler were murdered. Hitler's actions were a message to anyone who would challenge him that he could be ruthlessly violent.
During this period the antisemitism of the Nazi party became government policy. Step by step the Jews were marginalized in Germany. With a slight let up in 1936 for the Olympics the Jews were made nonpersons deprived of their property and livelihood. Many fled and those who did not ended up in the camps and were murdered in numerous ways. The socially "unfit" joined the Jews in the camps as the eugenic ideas in Nazi ideology were put into practice.
On November 7, 1938 a young Pole shot and seriously wounded a German diplomat in Paris. This was made the excuse for a nationwide pogrom against the Jews referred to by the author as The Night of The Broken Glass and elsewhere as Kristallnacht. All over Germany the property of Jews was destroyed and Jews were beaten and killed at the instigation of the government.
The Nazi goal of rearmament and war became the prime goal of German policy. Since he had learned of the armistice in a hospital at the end of World War I Hitler sought victory in war for Germany. He dreamed of the conquest of Eastern Europe to provide lebensraum for the German people. The economic policy of this era centered on rearmament. The Four Year plan begun in 1936 run by Hermann Goring put the economy on a war footing. Shortly thereafter shortages began affecting the civilian economy as all resources were directed to a war economy. In April of 1938 Austria became part of Germany. Later that year the British and French agreed to the German takeover of part of Czechoslovakia which was completed in early 1939. The book ends as the war with Poland in 1939 is about to begin. The final volume The Third Reich at War finishes the story.
I could add pages of actions taken by the Nazi party that furthered their revolution. While I had some knowledge of many of the events in the book before reading it, the author's account of this period was very thorough and detailed. It is that quality that makes this a prime source for the life and events of this period. The rule of the Third Reich was a revolution of evil. Destruction of the ordinary way of life in the name of hate and war was the constant theme of the book as it was the constant theme of life in the Third Reich. The author does not rant he merely sets out fact after fact. Fear ran rampant through the country as a civilized society was hammered bit by bit into a killing machine. At times the constant details became overwhelming emotionally and I had to take a break in my reading. I gained a new level of understanding that a true revolution in all ways of life took place in the Third Reich. The author emphasized that Adolf Hitler was the leader, he was in charge of all major decisions. While this has been disputed by others the author documents this idea very well. Hitler's power radiated out through the Nazi Party organization to control the life of Germany. What he created was appalling and eventually destructive beyond measure. We must never forget lest it happen again
Evans provides innumerable statistics on all facets of German social and cultural life to satisfy any scholar, while also managing to provide a readable narrative that never gets too bogged down in the figures.
Unlike some historians, he isn't interesting in taking on the role of moral arbiter; he has enough respect for the reader to let him make his own mind up about the material. Of course, he can't fail to mention the contradictions and irrationalities that defined the Nazi ideology and subsequent actions, but it's very hard not to!
There's a lot more to say about the book, but you'll learn a lot more from reading it than you ever could from a review. The only thing that needs to be said is that the three volumes are an ideal introduction to the complex and ever-changing climate that defined the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, and should be required reading for any student who is new to this period in Germany's history.
The benefit of hindsight allows for the characters in this story, including the most die hard Nazis, to display an amazing ability to simultaneously defy and conform to stereotypes. It is, in the end, not enough to vilify the top Nazi bureaucrats and summarily indict them for their crimes; the infrastructure of society as a whole - its politics, values, pressures - must be illuminated as well to create a truly meaningful understanding of the catastrophe of Nazism. This Evans accomplishes with great skill. I look forward to the final book in the series, "The Third Reich at War."
It claims to be a definitive History of the Germans 1928 - 45. This second volume of a trilogy , covers the domestic scene from 1933 to Sept. 1939. There is not any military detail, but his scope is about the actual society that the Nazis tried to create and control. I think the claims of this book are well founded.
In his second book of the trilogy about the Third Reich, Richard Evans describes the german state, its main features and institutions. A police state that implemented terror, murder and despised the law. The arrival of the nazism to power, so argued the author, was accompanied with massive propaganda and the abolition of individual rights. There was no valid law against the desire of state agents. The politics enemies (communists and social-democrats) and minorities (homosexuals, non-arians and jews) are purged. Nazi's project is put into practice. The german territorial expansion begins with the invasion of Austria and Czech Republic. All this are covered by the book that ends in the beginning of the second world war (invasion of Poland). A great description of a modern totalitarian experience.