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30+ quotes from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer

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

William L. Shirer ·  1614 pages

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“No class or group or party in Germany could escape its share of responsibility for the abandonment of the democratic Republic and the advent of Adolf Hitler. The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it. ”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on and uninhabited planet.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“Adolf Hitler is probably the last of the great adventurer-conquerors in the tradition of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon, and the Third Reich the last of the empires which set out on the path taken earlier by France, Rome and Macedonia. The curtain was rung down on that phase of history, at least, by the sudden invention of the hydrogen bomb, of the ballistic missile and of rockets that can be aimed to hit the moon.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a café, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“To all the millions of discontented Hitler in a whirlwind campaign offered what seemed to them, in their misery, some measure of hope. He would make Germany strong again, refuse to pay reparations, repudiate the Versailles Treaty, stamp out corruption, bring the money barons to heel (especially if they were Jews) and see to it that every German had a job and bread.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“It is difficult to understand the behavior of most German Protestants in the first Nazi years unless one is aware of two things: their history and the influence of Martin Luther.* The great founder of Protestantism was both a passionate anti-Semite and a ferocious believer in absolute obedience to political authority. He wanted Germany rid of the Jews and when they were sent away he advised that they be deprived of “all their cash and jewels and silver and gold” and, furthermore, “that their synagogues or schools be set on fire, that their houses be broken up and destroyed… and they be put under a roof or stable, like the gypsies… in misery and captivity as they incessantly lament and complain to God about us”—advice that was literally followed four centuries later by Hitler, Goering and Himmler.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other, said farewells and waited for a sign from another S.S. man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand. During the fifteen minutes that I stood near the pit I heard no complaint or plea for mercy… An old woman with snow-white hair was holding a one-year-old child in her arms and singing to it and tickling it. The child was cooing with delight. The parents were looking on with tears in their eyes. The father was holding the hand of a boy about 10 years old and speaking to him softly; the boy was fighting his tears. The father pointed to the sky, stroked his head and seemed to explain something to him. At that moment the S.S. man at the pit shouted something to his comrade. The latter counted off about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth mound… I well remember a girl, slim and with black hair, who, as she passed close to me, pointed to herself and said: “twenty-three years old.” I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave. People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was already two-thirds full. I estimated that it contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an S.S. man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette. The people, completely naked, went down some steps and clambered over the heads of the people lying there to the place to which the S.S. man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or wounded people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay beneath them. Blood was running from their necks. The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot. And so it went, batch after batch. The next morning the German engineer returned to the site. I saw about thirty naked people lying near the pit. Some of them were still alive… Later the Jews still alive were ordered to throw the corpses into the pit. Then they themselves had to lie down in this to be shot in the neck… I swear before God that this is the absolute truth.47”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone. The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“Although millions more had jobs, the share of all German workers in the national income fell from 56.9 per cent in the depression year of 1932 to 53.6 per cent in the boom year of 1938.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“In retrospect, it is easy to see that Hitler's successful gamble in the Rhineland brought him a victory more staggering and more fatal in its immense consequences than could be comprehended at the time. At home it fortified his popularity and his power, raising them to heights which no German ruler of the past had ever enjoyed. It assured his ascendancy over his generals, who had hesitated and weakened at a moment of crisis when he had held firm. It taught them that in foreign politics and even in military affairs his judgment was superior to theirs. They had feared that the French would fight; he knew better. And finally, and above all, the Rhineland occupation, small as it was as a military operation, opened the way, as only Hitler (and Churchill, alone, in England) seemed to realize, to vast new opportunities in a Europe which was not only shaken but whose strategic situation was irrevocably changed by the parading of three German battalions across the Rhine bridges.

Conversely, it is equally easy to see, in retrospect, that France's failure to repel the Wehrmacht battalions and Britain's failure to back her in what would have been nothing more than a police action was a disaster for the West from which sprang all the later ones of even greater magnitude. In March 1936 the two Western democracies were given their last chance to halt, without the risk of a serious war, the rise of a militarized, aggressive, totalitarian Germany and, in fact - as we have seen Hitler admitting - bring the Nazi dictator and his regime tumbling down. They let the chance slip by.

For France, it was the beginning of the end. Her allies in the East, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Yugoslavia, suddenly were faced with the fact that France would not fight against German aggression to preserve the security system which the French government itself had taken the lead in so laboriously building up. But more than that. These Eastern allies began to realize that even if France were not so supine, she would soon not be able to lend them much assistance because of Germany's feverish construction of a West Wall behind the Franco-German border. The erection of this fortress line, they saw, would quickly change the strategic map of Europe, to their detriment. They could scarcely expect a France which did not dare, with her one hundred divisions, to repel three German battalions, to bleed her young manhood against impregnable German fortifications which the Wehrmacht attacked in the East. But even if the unexpected took place, it would be futile. Henceforth the French could tie down in the West only a small part of the growing German Army. The rest would be free for operations against Germany's Eastern neighbors.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on an uninhabited planet.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“One of them was Fritz Thyssen, one of the earliest and biggest contributors to the party. Fleeing the "Nazi regime has ruined German industry." And to all he met abroad he proclaimed, "What a fool ( Dummkopf ) I was!”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“The trial, despite the subserviency of the court to the Nazi authorities, cast a great deal of suspicion on Goering and the Nazis, but it came too late to have any practical effect. For Hitler had lost no time in exploiting the Reichstag fire to the limit.   On the day following the fire, February 28, he prevailed on President Hindenburg to sign a decree “for the Protection of the People and the State” suspending the seven sections of the constitution which guaranteed individual and civil liberties. Described as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state,” the decree laid down that:      Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searchers, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.   In addition, the decree authorized the Reich government to take over complete power in the federal states when necessary and imposed the death sentence for a number of crimes, including “serious disturbances of the peace” by armed persons.8   Thus with one stroke Hitler was able not only to legally gag his opponents and arrest them at his will but, by making the trumped-up Communist threat “official,” as it were, to throw millions of the middle class and the peasantry into a frenzy of fear that unless they voted for National Socialism at the elections a week hence, the Bolsheviks might take over.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“Nietzsche put the idea this way: “Man shall be trained for war and woman for the procreation of the warrior. All else is folly.” He went further. In Thus Spake Zarathustra he exclaims: “Thou goest to woman? Do not forget thy whip!”—which”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“This of course was heresy to Hitler, who accused Otto Strasser of professing the cardinal sins of “democracy and liberalism.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“Hitler had lost no time in exploiting the Reichstag fire to the limit. On the day following the fire, February 28, he prevailed on President Hindenburg to sign a decree “for the Protection of the People and the State” suspending the seven sections of the constitution which guaranteed individual and civil liberties. Described as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state,” the decree laid down that: Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searchers, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung. Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman—and in the most telling aphorisms?”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“Society has never regarded virtue as anything else than as a means to strength, power and order. The State [is] unmorality organized… the will to war, to conquest and revenge… Society is not entitled to exist for its own sake but only as a substructure and scaffolding, by means of which a select race of beings may elevate themselves to their higher duties… There is no such thing as the right to live, the right to work, or the right to be happy: in this respect man is no different from the meanest worm.”* And he exalted the superman as the beast of prey,”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“Had the eighty-four-year-old wandering miller not made his unexpected reappearance to recognize the paternity of his thirty-nine-year-old-son nearly thirty years after the death of the mother, Adolf Hitler would have been born Adolf Schicklgruber. There may not be much or anything in the name, but I have heard Germans speculate whether Hitler could have become the master of Germany had he been known to the world as Schicklgruber.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“In Berlin, Stauffenberg and his confederates had at last perfected their plans. They were lumped under the code name “Valkyrie”—an appropriate term, since the Valkyrie were the maidens in Norse-German mythology, beautiful but terrifying, who were supposed to have hovered over the ancient battlefields choosing those who would be slain. In this case, Adolf Hitler was to be slain. Ironically enough, Admiral Canaris, before his fall, had sold the Fuehrer the idea of Valkyrie, dressing it up as a plan for the Home Army to take over the security of Berlin and the other large cities in case of a revolt of the millions of foreign laborers toiling in these centers. Such a revolt was highly unlikely—indeed, impossible—since the foreign workers were unarmed and unorganized, but to the suspicious Fuehrer danger lurked everywhere these days, and, with almost all the able-bodied soldiers absent from the homeland either at the front or keeping down the populace in the far-flung occupied areas, he readily fell in with the idea that the Home Army ought to have plans for protecting the internal security of the Reich against the hordes of sullen slave laborers.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“A totalitarian dictatorship, by its very nature, works in great secrecy and knows how to preserve that secrecy from the prying eyes of outsiders.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“One of the appalling aberrations of the German officer corps from this point on rose out of this conflict of “honor”—a word which, as this author can testify by personal experience, was often on their lips and of which they had such a curious concept. Later and often, by honoring their oath they dishonored themselves as human beings and trod in the mud the moral code of their corps. When”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“To all the millions of discontented Hitler in a whirlwind campaign offered what seemed to them, in their misery, some measure of hope. He would make Germany strong again, refuse to pay reparations, repudiate the Versailles Treaty, stamp out corruption, bring the money barons to heel (especially if they were Jews) and see to it that every German had a job and bread. To hopeless, hungry men seeking not only relief but new faith and new gods, the appeal was not without effect. Though”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“The republican regime, as well as the Marxists and the Jews, was “the enemy.” And in his peroration he had shouted, “To this struggle of ours there are only two possible issues: either the enemy passes over our bodies or we pass over theirs!”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“particularly on the bourgeoisie, which is”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“Of all the war crimes which he claimed he had to commit on the orders of Hitler “the worst of all,” General Keitel said on the stand at Nuremberg, stemmed from the Nacht und Nebel Erlass—“Night and Fog Decree.” This grotesque order, reserved for the unfortunate inhabitants of the conquered territories in the West, was issued by Hitler himself on December 7, 1941. Its purpose, as the weird title indicates, was to seize persons “endangering German security” who were not to be immediately executed and make them vanish without a trace into the night and fog of the unknown in Germany. No information was to be given their families as to their fate even when, as invariably occurred, it was merely a question of the place of burial in the Reich. On December 12, 1941, Keitel issued a directive explaining the Fuehrer’s orders. “In principle,” he said, “the punishment for offenses committed against the German state is the death penalty.” But if these offenses are punished with imprisonment, even with hard labor for life, this will be looked upon as a sign of weakness. Efficient intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminal and the population do not know his fate.42 The following February Keitel enlarged on the Night and Fog Decree. In cases where the death penalty was not meted out within eight days of a person’s arrest, the prisoners are to be transported to Germany secretly… these measures will have a deterrent effect because (a) the prisoners will vanish without leaving a trace, (b) no information may be given as to their whereabouts or their fate.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“The Third Reich which was born on January 30, 1933, Hitler boasted, would endure for a thousand years,”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“He was now convinced that Hitler had brought the movement to a dead end. The more radical followers were going over to the Communists.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


“Thus in Prussia the Hohenzollern King was the head of the Church. In no country with the exception of Czarist Russia did the clergy become by tradition so completely servile to the political authority of the State.”
― William L. Shirer, quote from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany


About the author

William L. Shirer
Born place: in Chicago, Illinois, The United States
Born date February 23, 1904
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