Revisiting, after many years, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William L. Shirer. Published in 1960, this is one of the few epic works of history that truly deserves its reputation. Shirer was uniquely qualified to write this book, having been present in Germany as a correspondent for the Universal News Service, and later for CBS, during the entire period of the Nazis' rise to and consolidation of power. He knew all the major figures -- and many of the minor figures -- of the movement personally, and he was fully conversant in their doctrine. And following the war, he took advantage of the vast historical resource available in the captured archives of the German government and the Nazi Party. Shirer doesn't just know what he's talking about, he constantly proves that he knows what he's talking about by showing his work every step of the way. But this book is not simply a dry recitation of names, dates, places, and actions. Shirer's narrative flows smoothly from Adolf Hitler's family history thru the course of his life, his rise to power, and the consequences of that rise, without getting so bogged down in statistics that you lose track of what's going on. This is how history should be written, by a historian who has full grasp of his material. The most important accomplishment of this book, however, is how it fully documents exactly what Nazism was, what it stood for, what it hoped to accomplish, and how it planned to accomplish it. At a time when every babbling jackanapes on the internet throws the word "Nazi" around like birdseed, drawing false equivalencies with utter disregard for any grasp of reality, Shirer draws a tight focus on exactly what Hitler taught and on the sources of what he taught -- a strict, racially and culturally defined nationalism built on the myth of "blood and soil," derived largely from the beliefs of Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Albert Rosenberg, mixed with a strong dose of the gutter anti-semitism of prewar Vienna -- while at the same time examining how Hitler managed, long before his rise to political power, to eradicate opposition wings within the Party who might have alienated the financiers and industrialists upon whom the Nazis were dependent for their funding. Shirer is quite clear and quite definitive in demonstrating that there was nothing "Socialist" about "National Socialism" in any accepted sense of that word, and that German capitalists were not only largely responsible for paving the way for the Nazis' rise to power, but that they profited immensely from their investment. I'll take Shirer's word for that any day of the week over that of any tinfoiled Freeper or the ridiculous Mr. D'Souza. This book has been around for a long time, and it might easily get overlooked among the flood of later, lesser works on the Nazi period. But in a time when "blood and soil" nationalism is on the rise worldwide it's more relevant than ever. Shirer uses as one of the book's epigraphs the famous Santayana quote about what happens to those who forget history, but he died twenty-five years too soon to see just how apt that quote would be.