UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133b > Books for Review Essays
teacher laempel from Max and Moritz Teacher Laempel from Wilhelm Busch's Max and Moritz (1865)

German History, 1900-1945:
Books for Review Essays

compiled for UCSB Hist 133b

by Professor Harold Marcuse (homepage)
contact: marcuse@history.ucsb.edu
page begun Jan. 21, 2008; last update: 8/27/10

1920s & 1930s
Memoirs & Biography

Sample Essays

133b Course Homepage

Important Note (back to top)

  • Although I give links to the amazon pages for most books below, YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON AMAZON ALONE TO OBTAIN YOUR BOOK. Be sure to check whether our library has it as well, so that you can start reading before your own copy arrives.
  • I DO recommend that you purchase the books (I really hate it when people mark up library books--and there are severe penalties for that), but in the past there have been problems with books students ordered taking more than 2 weeks to arrive. So you should have a back-up plan!

To Add for 2010 (back to top)

  • Wally's top-10, at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/3rdReichStudies/message/3574
    • 1. Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth by Gitta Sereny, for reasons already detailed above. Sereny got to know Speer and his wife personally, but never for an instant let it cloud her judgement or effect her scholarship. This book is a triumph.

      2. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives by Alan Bullock. This is a dual biography of the two dictators, but I am of the opinion that Bullocks take on Hitler is superior to that of all others who have attempted to explain and make sense of his life. Of all the books dealing with this subject that I do not actually own, it is the one I would most like to see on my shelves one day. What is odd about it is that Bullock's first book about Hitler, the full biography Hitler, A Study In Tyranny, is just terrible (of course, THAT one I have!). Written in 1957, Tyranny details the theory that Hitler was a 'non-entity' with few talents. Parallel Lives was written in 1991, and it is quite obvious that Bullock had spent the intervening years in thoughtful study, the fruits of which are contained in this very readable and insightful book. As a bonus, you also get to know Stalin in-depth. Just a great read.

      3. The Third Reich: A New History by Michael Burleigh. This is an excellent general history of the Third Reich and is the book I would recommend as the first book one should read on the subject. It puts the events of the period in an easily understandable chronological perspective and makes easy learning of this material for a new reader to the subject. I wish it had been around in the late 60's when I read my first book on this subject.

      4. The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle by Anthony Read. This excellent book relates the history of Hitler's Reich through the stories of his top cronies, Hess, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Speer, Bormann, Ribbentrop, as well as the lesser lights. It reads like a novel, and is so well written that even though you already know how it turns out, you still can't put it down. A wonderfully crafted book.

      5. Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of his Evil by Ron Rosenbaum. This fascinating book details all of the various theories about how Hitler became Hitler through interviews with their main proponents. Bullock, Trevor-Roper, Claude Lanzmann, Lois Michaels, Daniel Godlhagen, David Irving, and many others defend their various theories, and Rosenbaum succeeds in not actually Explaining Hitler, but in explaining why folks explain Hitler as they do. It is a fascinating study, and the perfect read for anyone who already has a good overall knowledge of the subject.

      6. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. This is the first book I ever read on this subject, and even though it is a bit outdated by subsequent scholarship (particularly Burleigh's book), it is still well worth reading. Shirer met most of the players, and his insights and opinions on them and the events of the period are invaluable. I would recommend that this book be read along with Shirer's memoir, Berlin Diary, in order to appreciate the full depth of the author’s unique perspective and very perceptive opinions.

      7. Der Fuehrer: Hitler's Rise to Power by Konrad Heiden. This was the first top shelf Hitler biography ever written, and was published in 1943. All subsequent biographies begin with Heiden. He was a Munich journalist during Hitler's rise, and was forced to flee Germany once he gained power. His analysis of Hitler's speechifying is first rate, though some of the sources he utilized have since been determined to be spurious. He was well-known to Hitler, who actually would delay starting a speech until Heiden was in the audience so that he could read the reporters remarks in the next days newspaper. The only real drawback to Der Fuehrer is that it was written before Hitler's death, and is thus not the whole story. But is is a very good read indeed.

      8. The Meaning of Hitler and Defying Hitler: A Memoir by Sebastian Haffner. Meaning is a small volume which critically examines Hitler's policies, and is a fine example of succinct analysis. Defying Hitler is a memoir detailing Haffner's years in the Hitler Youth and his eventual emigration from Germany. It is notable for its introspective examination of the lure of Nazism, and is invaluable for anyone attempting to understand how otherwise sensible people could be seduced by Hitler. Great stuff.

      9. The Nuremberg Trial by Ann Tusa and John Tusa. While there are a number of really good books about the Trial, this is the best. A very good read that succeeds in making a complex event understandable to the average reader and is valuable to the scholar as well.

      10. Spandau, the Secret Diaries by Albert Speer. By far Speer's best book, and the best resource on Spandau ever written, it is both poignant and humorous. The best prison diary I have ever read.

World War I (back to top)

  • category
    • Benjamin Ziemann. War Experiences in Rural Germany: 1914-1923. Translated
      by Alex Skinner. The Legacy of the Great War Series. (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2007). 320 pp.(H-German review, 3/09)
    • Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany
      (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
      Standard work on the myth of the war enthusiasm.
    • Martha Hanna, Your Death Would Be Mine: Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006).
      Hanna's fascinating study analyzes the wartime experiences and correspondence of a French peasant turned artilleryman, Paul Pireaud, who served at Verdun and corresponded regularly with his wife back home over the course of the war.
    • Jay Winter and Antoine Prost, The Great War in History: Debates and
      Controversies, 1914 to the Present
      (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
      2005). {anthology only suited for advanced students]

1920s & 1930s (back to top)

  • Ideology
    • Neil Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate (PublicAffairs, 2002). (amazon)
  • Germany in the 1930s
    • Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (Harper Perennial, 2007). (searchable at amazon)
    • Peter Jelavich,Berlin Alexanderplatz. Radio, Film and the Death of Weimar Culture, Berkeley: University of California Press 2006 Sehepunkte review
    • Michael H Kater, Hitler Youth (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2004). DD253.5 .K28 2004 (amazon)
    • David Clay Large, Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936 (Norton, 2007). (amazon)
  • Eugenics/Medicine
    • Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (Basic Books, 2000). (amazon)
    • Götz Aly, Peter Chroust, and Christian Pross, Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994). (amazon)
    • Horst Biesold, Crying Hands: Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany (Gallaudet University Press, 2004). (amazon)
    • Benno Muller-Hill, Murderous Science: Elimination by Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and Others in Germany, 1933-1945 (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1997). (amazon)

1940s (back to top)

Concentration & Extermination Camps

  • Laurence Rees, Auschwitz: A New History (PublicAffairs, 2005). (amazon)

Resistance & Rescue (Warsaw Ghetto)

  • Emmanuel Ringelblum and Jacob Sloan, Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto (IBooks, Inc., 2006). (amazon)
  • Israel Gutman, Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Mariner Books, 1998). (amazon)


  • Laurel Holliday, Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries (Washington Square Press, 1996). (amazon)
  • Deborah Dwork, Children with a Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe (Yale University Press, 1993). (amazon)

US & the Holocaust

  • Reinhold Billstein et al., Working For The Enemy: Ford, General Motors, and Forced Labor In Germany During The Second World War (Berghahn Books, 2004). (amazon). Note: this is an anthology, but acceptable.
  • Laurel Leff, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper (Cambridge University Press, 2006). (amazon)
  • Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum, The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? (University Press of Kansas, 2003). (amazon)
    note: this is an anthology, thus more difficult, but still acceptable (also as group project-2)


  • Henry Ashby Turner, General Motors and the Nazis: The Struggle for Control of Opel, Europe's Biggest Carmaker (Yale University Press, 2005). (amazon)
  • Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation (Crown, 2001). (amazon). This was a very controversial book. The author has a website.

World War II

  • Keith Low, Inferno. The Devastation of Hamburg 1943, London: Viking
    2007, Sehepunkte review

Memoirs and Biography (back to top)

  • Traudl Junge, Until the Final Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary (Arcade Publishing, 2005). (amazon) There is a film about this: Blind Spot. Also, Downfall is based on it.
  • Angela Lambert, The Lost Life of Eva Braun (St. Martin's Press, 2007). (amazon)
  • Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting, The Women Who Knew Hitler: The Private Life of Adolf Hitler (Carroll & Graf, 2004). (amazon)
  • Guido Knopp, Hitler's Women (Sutton Publishing, 2006). (amazon) six leading women
  • Jurgen Trimborn, Leni Riefenstahl: A Life (Faber & Faber, 2007). (amazon)
  • Colette Waddell, Through the Eyes of a Survivor (TopCat Press, 2007). (amazon) about Nina Morecki, who settled in Santa Barbara and has worked with Prof. Marcuse, by a former student in this same course
  • Tony Atcherley and Mark Carey, Hitler's Gay Traitor: The Story of Ernst Röhm, Chief of Staff of the SA (Trafford Publishing, 2007). (amazon)
  • Anthony Read, The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004). 984 pages (searchable on amazon) appropriate for a group project (3 students)
  • Gerald L Posner, Mengele: The Complete Story (Cooper Square Press, 2000). (amazon)
  • Mark Kurzem, The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood (Viking Adult, 2007). (amazon) Nazi soldiers unknowingly "adopt" a Jewish boy

Post-1945 (back to top)

  • Jan Tomasz Gross, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz: An Essay in Historical Interpretation (New York: Random House, 2006). DS146.P6 G76 2006 (amazon)
  • Genocide in Rwanda. There are a number of books that would be acceptable. I would expect that you be able to compare the causes of that genocide with the causes of the Holocaust as we investigate them in this course.
  • Atina Grossmann, Jews, Germans, and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany (Princeton University Press, 2007). (amazon)

Page created Jan. 21, 2008; updated see header
back to top, to Hist 133d homepage, to Prof. Marcuse's homepage