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THE THIRD REICH AT WAR by Richard J. Evans Kirkus Star

THE THIRD REICH AT WAR

By Richard J. Evans

Pub Date: March 23rd, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59420-206-3
Publisher: Penguin Press

Superbly written finale to Cambridge University historian Evans’s three-volume study of Nazi Germany (after The Coming of the Third Reich, 2004, and The Third Reich in Power, 2005).

Hitler had promised, “Give me ten years and you’ll see what I’ve made out of Germany,” and early on in the 1940s his subjects had the growing feeling that what he was making was not good. By 1945, one woman recorded, the promise “has for months been his most often-quoted, out of bitterness.” Daringly, she burned her Nazi flag, joining a resistance that had been gathering strength since 1943, when, as Evans notes, the French and various Yugoslavian factions, among many other groups, became a real military presence in German-occupied lands. Evans’s view is panoramic and thematic. Early in this sprawling book, he recognizes the Nazi “final solution” as a primary motive for war, particularly in the East, and he discusses the Nazi policy of Jewish eradication in chilling detail. Interestingly, the author is always looking for chinks in the armor. He notes, for instance, that Hermann Göring objected to the resettlement of Jews as detrimental to the war economy, even as Nazi typologists were trying to invent categories to admit pro-Nazi poles into the German ethnic ranks. (Uncomfortably for them, Poles in the resistance, by Nazi accounts, tended to have “a significant proportion of Nordic blood.”) Evans charts the steadily deteriorating German course of war, from the end of the U-boat campaign in the Atlantic to Stalingrad and the Allied advance into the German homeland. His notes on the denouement—including the incomplete denazification of German government and the arrival into the United States and many South American nations of known war criminals—are fascinating as well. But why another book on the Third Reich? Evans closes stirringly: It is necessary to study the Nazi regime as an example of what can happen if—well, let Evans tell that story for himself.

A resounding victory in historiography.