A multi-facetted book offering some very critical perspectives on contemporary views and interpretations of Third Reich history. It covers many areas not normally seen in the more populist publications, and is recommended reading for serious Third Reich scholars.
Sir Richard Evans is President of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and Regius Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Cambridge. His many books include The Coming of the Third Reich, The Third Reich in Power and The Third Reich at War.
This collection of essays is essentially his critical reviews of published Third Reich studies from the past two decades. He doesn’t pull any punches where he feels interpretations are wrong or exaggerations have crept in. You’d have to be on very sure ground if you were a student submitting a treatise to him at university!
The book is split into 7 sections, Republic and Reich, Inside Nazi Germany, the Nazi Economy, Foreign Policy, Victory and Defeat, The Politics of Genocide and Aftermath. Each section contains between three and six essays.
Some of the essays are more interesting than others, but that may be just down to my personal areas of interest.
I found particularly interesting his views on how Nazi policies in Europe formed around Hitler’s image of Manifest Destiny and the American colonisation of the Great Plains. Hitler was apparently a big fan of the novels of Karl May, a famous German writer of novels set in the old American West, even though May had never set foot there.
There’s also a fascinating essay on how Italy was never de-fascistfied (nearest I could get to de-nazified).There are some in Italy who still deify Mussolini and his mausoleum gets an estimated 80,000 visitors a year with shops in the town doing do brisk business in Fascist memorabilia. You can’t imagine that in Braunau or Berlin…
Evans’ is particularly scathing in his criticism of widely acclaimed Timothy Synder’s Bloodlands, despite the book being awarded numerous prizes, including the 2013 Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought.
Overall this is a multi-facetted book offering critical perspectives on contemporary views and interpretations of Third Reich history. It covers many areas not normally seen in the more populist publications, and is recommended reading for serious Third Reich scholars.