The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany - William L. Shirer

This monster work by Shirer is a valuable relic.  As a journalist in Europe during Hitler’s rise, he brought a personal perspective to his history of the Third Reich.  He attended Nazi rallies and was inundated, along with the rest of Germany, by the Goebbels' propaganda apparatus.  He was present when Hitler accepted the surrender of France in the same railcar in which the Treaty of Versailles was signed.  The Third Reich he saw, and wrote about, was a clan-like cluster of misfits who captured the imagination and hopes of a country.

This is not a military history, it’s a psychological one.  Specific discussions of tactics and troop movements are glossed over.  The focus is on the bluffing, the bullying and relentless manipulation.  In compelling detail, he writes about the men:  Hitler’s ravings, Mussolini's docility, Goering’s avarice and many, many more.  It’s a fantastic record of motivations and personalities.  The war is just a backdrop for the increasing megalomania and corruption in the Reich.   Heavily annotated, Shirer is more interested in anecdote than historical objectivity.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  It’s not only historically important, but fascinating as well.  An unapologetic reminder of how the will of a determined few can cause incalculable destruction and that, despite all noble intentions, violence is never that far away.