Study Guide

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By William L. Shirer

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Rags to Riches

Given the fact that The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich isn't actually a novel, it's a little unorthodox to think about it in terms of Booker's Seven Basic Plots. With that said, Adolf Hitler's life from 1889 to... oh, say, 1933, was a rags-to-riches story if we've ever heard one. There was just one teensy little twist at the end. Ultimately, Hitler went from riches right back to rags again. Plus, those "riches" were pretty twisted.

Initial Wretchedness at Home and the "Call"

As Shirer makes clear, the "initial wretchedness" that Hitler experienced as a young man didn't happen at home; instead, it happened once he moved to Vienna. There, the young would-be Fuehrer spent his late teens and early twenties living rough in Vienna's city streets: staying in hostels, eating in soup kitchens, and doing odd jobs to earn a few schillings. When the Great War suddenly broke out in July 1914, young Adolf heard the "call" and enlisted in the army.

Out into the World, Initial Success

After serving his beloved Germany in the First World War, young Hitler decided to make a go of it in politics. Over the next few years, his star seemed to be on the rise. He built the National Socialist German Workers' Party on the foundations of the German Workers' Party; he took over the whole organization and bested the haters who tried to oust him; and he began to make a name for himself as one of the young, Bavarian, right-wing fanatics to watch.

The Central Crisis

In 1923, Hitler met the first of his "central crises": the failure of his infamous Beer Hall Putsch. The thwarted coup landed the young would-be Fuehrer in prison for the next ten months of his life (nine months after the trial), and it caused the formal dissolution of the Nazi Party too. At least he got to write Mein Kampf while he was in jail.

Independence and the Final Ordeal

As Shirer tells us, Hitler was crafty enough to turn both his trial for treason and his nine-month prison sentence to his own advantage. By the time he emerged from prison, he was nearly ready to publish the first volume of Mein Kampf, and he had gained an international audience to boot. Although he still faced hurdles and setbacks from the democratic powers-that-were—who for some reason didn't want to give this raging megalomaniac too much power—Hitler was about to triumph over them all.

Final Union, Completion, and Fulfillment

Hitler's appointment as Chancellor of the German Reich in January 1933 was the beginning of the end for the Weimar Republic and for the millions of human beings who would perish during Hitler's twelve-year reign of terror.

But for Adolf Hitler himself, it was the culmination of the rags-to-riches story that he had been living since his youth—a story that he'd later spin for himself as he attempted to convince the German public, and the world, that he was nothing but a hard-working, passionate, up-by-the-bootstraps kind of guy who'd restore the lost honor of the German people.