In 1900 Germany was generally viewed as one of the world’s most progressive, dynamic and impressive nations. Ceaselessly inventive, in many ways at the cutting edge of social and welfare reform, Germany was the one country in Europe to rival the United States as a beacon for future growth and change. Its political culture was not noticeably more rooted in the past than that of rivals such as Britain or Russia. Antisemitism was no more widespread than in many other countries, representative institutions were thriving, political parties and elections an accepted part of constitutional practice.
Richard J. Evans’s major new book unfolds perhaps the single most important story of the twentieth century: how in less than a lifetime this stable and modern country led Europe into moral, physical and cultural ruin and despair. It is a terrible story not least because, as Evans makes abundantly clear, there were so many other ways in which Germany’s history could have been played out. The seeds of the Third Reich’s rise to power may have been sown in Bismarck’s Germany, but it required a devastating sequence of events before they were reaped in the Nazi seizure of control with which Evans ends his sweeping and dramatic narrative.
The Coming of the Third Reich will force us to reassess our view of the rise of the Nazis in Germany. With tremendous authority, skill and compassion, Evans re-creates a country torn apart by overwhelming economic, political and social blows: the First World War, Versailles, hyperinflation and the Great Depression. One by one these disasters ruined or pushed aside almost everything admirable about Germany, leaving the way clear for a truly horrifying ideology to take command. The consequences of this assault would change the world in ways that we will always have to live with.
Book: Penguin/Allen Lane, London, October 2003.
Paperback, August 2004 | 129 x 198mm | 656