Genre: Historical Non-Fiction

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
Category:
Publisher:
Published: October 23, 2011 (first published 1960)
William L. Shirer (February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993) was a journalist and war correspondent. This book is a combination of Shirer's personal experiences as a correspondent in Nazi Germany, as well as a collection of memos, letters, and journal entries from the people involved in the rise and fall of the Third Reich.

It took me a couple of weeks to read through this book, the contents were just both riveting and at the same time so hard to stomach. It is a very engrossing book, and I will highly recommend it if you want to understand what the Third Reich was and what led to its rise and fall.

Shirer did a great job of documenting not just the events that he witnessed first hand as a journalist during that time, but also compiling memos, journal entries, letters, papers, and other documents that were not destroyed during the fall of the Third Reich. He also included portions of transcripts and other eyewitness accounts. This is a very robust book that is also quite easy to read, even for people who are not history buffs (like me). It’s remarkable how Shirer was able to establish the historical and cultural context that led to the rise of Nazi Germany and Hitler.

Just a side note, it helped a lot that I purchased the Kindle version because the X-Ray feature came super handy for this book. There were a lot of names, dates, and places involved and it can be a bit challenging to keep track of them all.

The way that Shirer laid out the context in such an accessible language helped me understand how a nation as great and cultured as Germany could possibly come under the thrall of a madman such as Adolf Hitler. Shirer described the unfolding of events not just in terms of what happened in politics or the government, but also in terms of how society itself changed during this time. How it affected the academe, the church, the family. How it affected arts and culture. How it affected the economy. How the nation somehow found itself in a state of complicity to this gangster government’s atrocities.

I had to stop reading the book once in a while because it really weighs on you. I got nightmares from reading it, and not just the parts about their atrocities but also the parts about how their propaganda machine was so destructively efficient.

The book is an authoritative account that takes the readers through the unfolding horrors of Nazi Germany. I highly recommend it. This wasn’t required reading during my high school or college days, but I think it really should be.

The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place
Category:
Publisher:
Published: 1/1/1971
During the World War II, Corrie Ten Boom and her family helped many Jews escape Nazi Germany. They were eventually captured and sent to concentration camps. The books isn't about the horrific conditions inside the camps though (even if it gives a very graphic account of it), it's about the grace of God that has enabled her to survive, live without bitterness, and find the strength to forgive.

I bought a copy of this book through my Kindle a few weeks ago. I haven’t heard of Corrie Ten Boom until Philip Yancey mentioned her in one of his books that I read a few years ago, but I had forgotten all about her until now. I bought the ebook because it popped up in my recommended books, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional journey it was going to take me on from the first page to the last.

The book’s first scene opened on the 100th anniversary of their family business, Ten Boom Horlogerie. The first few pages made a great impact on me because Corrie was able to describe the warmth and light that pervaded her community before the holocaust, and at the same time, inserted little glimpses of the near future that awaited her, her family and friends, like thin slivers of shadows in a beautifully-lit scene. I loved the way that she narrated the story of her life and described people. I found myself laughing out loud at her descriptions sometimes. She had this wholesome, delightful humor that wasn’t trying hard to be funny. In fact her story telling technique was so fluid; she wasn’t trying to be profound, she was just trying to tell her story. She had me both laughing and crying while reading the book.

She picked an interesting time to start her narration, because it described very well how that hateful darkness had begun take root. It shows how something can start out as a tiny dark cloud in the horizon, catching people unaware until it’s upon them. Corrie’s family is amazing. Their devotion to God, their desire to live in a way that pleases Him, their humility in surrendering their lives as a tool for His good work, everything about their testimony as individuals and as a family left an indelible mark on me.

This book details how the horror of the Holocaust unfolded around them, first as an angry voice on the radio from another country, until it crept into their home. The thread that weaves the chapters together is God’s grace, and the journey through the book from start to end was life-changing. Though the book tells of the heartbreaking experiences inside the concentration camps, when viewed in the light of God’s love, the family’s baffling, grace-filled reaction to an unspeakably horrible experience becomes easier to understand.

It’s definitely a must-read.