The Real Synthesis

A "new history" of the Third Reich fails to understand the true nature of the regime.

Issue: Winter 2000-2001

Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000), 938 pp., $40.

This is a very large book, nearly one thousand pages, and not without some merits. But it is not really about the Third Reich, and it is not a New History.

There is the history of the Third Reich. There is the history of National Socialism. There is the history of Adolf Hitler. There is the history of the Second World War. They overlap, but they are not the same. Michael Burleigh's book is entitled The Third Reich, but, in an undisciplined way, its focus is directed to and its chapters deal with all four themes, moving from one to another and back again. However, this is not the main problem with the book. Its problem, besides its content, is its perspective. Burleigh is right in detailing the brutalities and many of the horrors of the Third Reich. Here and there he adds telling details generally unknown or even unmentioned by others. But he writes that, because of its stupidities, brutalities, fanaticism and prejudices, the Third Reich was destined to be destroyed. Unfortunately it was not.

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