books and\or films about the rise of Nazism and fascism
January 23, 2005 4:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books and\or films about the rise of Nazism and fascism. [+]

Films by Fassbinder and Wertmüller have been recommended, but I'd like to see some nonfiction as well.
posted by sanko to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen;

Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich, By William L. Shirer
posted by mlis at 4:39 PM on January 23, 2005

I'd rent "Architecture of Doom," which is about Hitler, the Nazis, and art and aesthetics; and I'd read The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, which is a pretty amazing book about Europe in the early 20th century and the rise of the Nazis.
posted by josh at 5:12 PM on January 23, 2005

You should see Triumph of the Will, directed by Leni Riefenstahl. Its difficult to watch for several reasons (mostly because it is a very well-made propaganda film), but it gives a lot of context, and a good impression of the style of propaganda used. This film is well placed for your question, I think, because it was made in 1935 and showcases some of the first Nuremburg rallies.

For American Propaganda, check out, Why We Fight, part of a series done by Capra.

For another film, perhaps Night and Fog by Alain Resnais. Not about the rise of Nazism, but it certailny asks some good questions and highlights the absurdity and insanity of the situation. Its a brutal documentary, and to quote Jonathan Rosenbaum, it makes Schindler's List look like a Disney movie.
posted by tweak at 5:18 PM on January 23, 2005

Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich, By William L. Shirer

I just want to second this book. Excellent f*cking read.
posted by AlexReynolds at 5:21 PM on January 23, 2005

Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is, according to my "Representations of the Holocaust" Prof, a biased book, full of contradictions. Having read it, I tend to agree.

I have NOT read "Ordinary Men", by Christopher R. Browning, but I'm told it's very good.

There is quite a good documentary called "The Nazis- Chaos and Consent".
posted by stray at 5:32 PM on January 23, 2005

Ian Kershaw's books on Hitler, particularly Hubris and Nemesis are excellent reads.
posted by showmethecalvino at 5:40 PM on January 23, 2005

Prince Harry, is that you?

Kidding. Anything by Hannah Arendt. All of it.
posted by xammerboy at 5:50 PM on January 23, 2005

Shirer is excellent. I also highly recommend I Will Bear Witness, the diary of Victor Klemperer (a Jew living in Dresden). Nothing I've read gives a better picture of what it felt like to experience the coming of Nazism and the inexorable tightening of its grip. Plus there's the added bonus of the fire-bombing of Dresden -- that section reads like a thriller.
posted by languagehat at 5:59 PM on January 23, 2005

I'm really not trying to be a smartass, but: Starship Troopers.
posted by blueshammer at 6:15 PM on January 23, 2005

I'll second the Kershaw recommendations - I read The Hitler Myth and thought it was great. Martin Broszat's Hitler and the Collapse of Weimar Germany is also good.
posted by introcosm at 6:24 PM on January 23, 2005

Richard J. Evans's Coming of the Third Reich (New York: Penguin, 2004) is a little dry and academic, but a good read nevertheless. If nothing else, it has an excellent review of the literature and decent notes.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:57 PM on January 23, 2005

I took several modern europe classes in grad school. The books I read about this and found useful were:

The Crisis of German Ideology
Hitler's World View
Hitler's Army
The Hitler Myth
Ordinary Men

Disagree strongly with the recommendations for Hitler's Willing Executioners. Stray is correct. Read Ordinary Men instead.
posted by absalom at 7:40 PM on January 23, 2005

Evans' book (along with Michael Burleigh's The Third Reich: A New History) have the advantage of reflecting the most recent scholarship, but Shirer's book mentioned above is the classic in the field. For a study of Hitler in particular, go with the Kershaw books mentioned above.

Don't bother with Goldhagen's book (Hitler's Willing Executioners) if what you're looking for is an overview history of the Third Reich and not the Holocaust in particular. Actually, I have deep reservations with Goldhagen in general, but if you do want to read it, do so alongside Browning and a few others. If you are looking for an overview history of the Holocaust, or a more comprehensive list of recommendations for books on particular aspects of Nazi Germany, let me know. (I research this stuff for a living.)
posted by arco at 7:44 PM on January 23, 2005

'it happened here' and the documentary 'der krieg in farbe' (aka 'der zweite weltkrieg in farbe') were excellent and disturbing films. also, 'das dritte reich in farbe'.

agreed, riefenstahl is good and scary stuff.
posted by dorian at 8:02 PM on January 23, 2005

There's always Cabaret (Liza Minelli musical), which deals with Germany during the rise of Nazism. Eric Johnson's Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans is supposed to be a good antidote to Goldhagen's book.
posted by goatdog at 8:14 PM on January 23, 2005

Count me in for another skeptically raised eyebrow re: Goldhagen. I really can't recommend it, but if you're interested I'd suggest reading it only after you've read several of the other major works referred to here and can approach it more critically.

Also, count me in for another recommendation for viewing Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (and check out Olympia too, if you can) -- chilling but absolutely essential.

Claudia Koontz's Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family, and Nazi Politics is a fascinating look at the rise of Nazism from the perspective of the domestic sphere.

Also, Donny Gluckstein's Nazis, Capitalism and the Working Class is an interesting Marxist view of the centrality of Nazi appeals to struggle against Bolshevism (and its link to a presumed Jewish conspiracy) and the ways in which resistance against (and collaboration with) Hitler's rise to power can be seen to shake out along class lines. It's probably not among first books you need to read on facsism, but might be useful down the road. (He also takes serious issue with Goldhagen's analysis, by the way.)
posted by scody at 8:27 PM on January 23, 2005

right now there's a PBS series running on Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State
posted by amberglow at 8:47 PM on January 23, 2005

On Borrowed Time by Leonard Mosley is an excellent run-up to 1937 and the sell-out of Czechoslovakia by Deladia & Chamberland - I recommend it.
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:56 PM on January 23, 2005

Mein Kampf. I read the first couple of chapters, and was struck by a very unpleasant sensation: I found myself agreeing with the man as he described the political maneuverings he witnessed between the socialists, unions and monarchists in Weimar Germany. He carefully constructs a picture of why democracies, their citizens baffled by corrupt leaders, fail...and then he blames it all on the Jews. After his earlier, lucid explanations, it's as startling as if he'd blamed aliens from space. It's all the more chilling when you know the rest of the story. I think it's important to a good understanding of their psychology. I mean, they thought of themselves as the good guys.
posted by atchafalaya at 9:30 PM on January 23, 2005

The Ogre and The Tin Drum are two sometimes underappreciated films directed by the frequently overlooked Volker Schlöndorff.

I particularly recommend watching The Tin Drum with the excellent Schlöndorff commentary. It's fascinating, how the promise and fantasy of power allowed so many to go so wrong.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:04 PM on January 23, 2005

As for fiction, Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus tries to explain what happened to Germany in the twentieth century.
posted by Hildago at 12:16 AM on January 24, 2005

Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories provided the basis for Cabaret; the stories were written in Germany during the 1930s and carefully dissect the failure of German society. I really liked his 1945 short novel Prater Violet, which offers an elliptical, satirical look at the complacency in England, specifically in the film industry, during the Nazi rise to power. It's a quick, grimly funny read.
posted by mediareport at 12:59 AM on January 24, 2005

If you can find a copy, Edgar Reitz' Heimat follows the effects of the time on small-town people, far from the big city. (Actually follows the same characters from 1919 all the way through to 1982.)
posted by gimonca at 6:18 AM on January 24, 2005

What about Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer?? This guy was Hitler's architect and spent many many hours with Hitler. I find it odd that this book is rarely mentioned anymore. It's basically a first person account. Speer wrote it while waiting to be sentenced at Nuremberg.
posted by spicynuts at 6:50 AM on January 24, 2005

Speer wrote it while waiting to be sentenced at Nuremberg.

Keep that in mind while reading it. Some historians believe he was far more involved in the machinations of the Reich than he admitted in his memoirs, and that his account was a bit self-serving. Nevertheless, it is an important first-person view of the upper echelons of Nazi party leadership. I'd still suggest you start with an overview history of the Third Reich before approaching this book.
posted by arco at 7:24 AM on January 24, 2005

I found Speer's book to be more readable than Shirer's. Read both. :)
posted by cass at 9:31 AM on January 24, 2005

I could tell you what books not to read, including one (Ideology of Death) which starts witha gross distortion, totally unrelated to the Holocaust, which is there solely to push the author's belief in the theory, popular for some time, that the Holocaust happened because the Germans always have been and always will be totally evil people. This is not only a bad reaction (let's incite racial hatred against any group that's ever incited racial hatred!) it's also a huge cop-out.

So, yeah, be careful, because there's a lot of crap out there.

As for people who do GOOD commentary: Hannah Arendt, definitely. Eichmann in Jerusalem is an intriguing book. I'm sure there are others.
posted by dagnyscott at 11:32 AM on January 24, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the recommendations. Looks like I'll be spending some time in the library...
posted by sanko at 4:32 PM on January 24, 2005

William Allen's Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town 1922-1945, breaks things down to the smallest components and shows how the isolation and targeting of Jews could happen in one town, and thus how it could happen through all of Germany. A good, fact-filled read.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:23 PM on January 25, 2005

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