Study Guide

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich Writing Style

By William L. Shirer

Writing Style

Academic, but for a General Audience

Although Shirer takes his journalistic integrity and his role as an amateur historian very seriously in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, the book has none of the academic jargon or highly technical terms that we might expect if it was written primarily for other historians to read.

After all, not only is Shirer trying to answer crucial political and philosophical questions about the rise and fall of the Third Reich, he's also trying to tell us a story (and sell books, too). To that end, he works to make his writing as accessible as possible, and even includes a number of literary elements and rhetorical devices that help to hold his readers' interest as they move through the 1000+ pages of the book.

  • This was their—and the world's—first experience of the blitzkrieg: the sudden surprise attack; the fighter planes and bombers roaring overhead, reconnoitering, attacking, spreading flame and terror; the Stukas screaming as they dove; the tanks, whole divisions of them, breaking through and thrusting forward thirty or forty miles in a day; self-propelled, rapid-firing heavy guns rolling forty miles an hour down even the rutty Polish roads; the incredible speed of even the infantry, of the whole vast army of a million and a half men on motorized wheels […]. (4.18.3)
  • A crude Darwinism? A sadistic fantasy? An irresponsible egoism?A megalomania? It was all of these in part. But it was something more. For the mind and the passion of Hitler—all the aberrations that possessed his feverish brain—had roots that lay deep in German experience and thought. Nazism and the Third Reich, in fact, were but a logical continuation of German history. (1.4.55)

That's a little more drama and engaging narrative than you'd find in your U.S. History textbook.