A ground-breaking account of the rise and fall of the Third Reich
Laurence Rees is the writer and producer of the major BBC television documentary series World War II: Behind Closed Doors, War of the Century, Horror in the East and Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution'. He won the British Book Award for History Book of the Year in 2006 for his international bestseller Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution'. Rees' career as a writer and filmmaker, focusing on the Nazis and World War II, stretched back nearly 20 years. His body of work has won him several awards, including a BAFTA and a Grierson Award. Rees was educated at Solihull School and Oxford University and is the former Creative Director of BBC TV History programmes.
Rees, head of the BBC's history programming division, has drawn on newly available archival material and about 50 interviews he conducted with "eyewitnesses" to present a chilling crash course on the Nazis' chaotic rule. According to the author, despite the Germans' much-vaunted reputation for efficiency, Hitler's regime was largely an improvisation, with his underlings ever striving to do the Führer's bidding. Rees traces how measures affecting countless lives, e.g., establishing ghettos for Jews, were often decided haphazardly, with Hitler instructing subordinates, who were frequently bitter rivals, to "sit down together and when you've made up [your minds about a policy], come and see me." Though most Gestapo files were destroyed before war's end, one revealing discovery from intact archives in the town of Würzburg indicates that the secret police‘far from randomly unleashing terror‘spent much of its time responding to denunciations by ordinary citizens against their neighbors. An interesting focus of this book is on perpetrators of Nazi crimes. Fritz Arlt, a ranking German official in occupied Poland, when asked whether he knew what went on in the concentration camps to which his orders consigned thousands of Poles, conceded only, "They were places where people were concentrated." The inhuman face of the Nazi enterprise is exposed here as a significantly grass-roots construction. Throughout, graphic photos highlight Nazi crimes. (May)
One of the greatest documentary series of all time * Daily Mail
Essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand how a highly cultured, western society fell into an abyss of barbarity * History magazine *