Thursday, 30 August 2012

Book Review: The Nightmare Years

Genre: History
Author: William L. Shirer
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

There was a time, not so long ago, when being a journalist was considered reputable and journalists were diligent in being impartial and reporting just the facts. William L. Shirer was one of the greats along with Edward R. Murrow and many others.

Journalists are not historians, it is said, and Shirer's classic work, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is often panned by historians themselves it was, for a very long time, the only in depth treatise of that turbulent period of history and there is little to fault it.

The Nightmare Years is Shirer's account of his years as a journalist in pre World War II Europe and the horrors he saw and reported in those early years of the Third Reich. It is also an account of his life at that time, often a personal memoir.

While developing my web site of the Einsatzgruppen I read thousands and thousands of pages of history books until the written word of the horrors of the holocaust literally made me weep. I eventually had to stop work on the site and have barely touched it in a long, long time. Such was the depth of the horror that touched my soul. I am a bit of a history nut and I love reading history but have not been able to do so since developing that site. Volumes purchased sit here unread.

Yet I have been able, once again, to read Shirer's account of the early years and perhaps it will allow me a gentle road back into reading a genre that I enjoy.

World War II history is not for everyone, I know, yet Shirer's account is an interesting one and one that is still worth reading, his 'voice' still worth hearing.

Amazon says,
"Shirer, who has witnessed much history in the making, rehashes too much of it in this graceless, humorless third and final installment of memoirs. More interesting is the personal material. His career as a radio commentator ended when CBS fired him in 1947, and he reveals the dark role played by Edward R. Murrow. His account of the affair begins, "I've waited a long time to do this." Shirer describes the struggle to support his family during the McCarthy years, then his dramatic success as a bestselling author with the 1960 publication of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich . But his memoir also becomes an occasion to get back at publishers and reviewers who were not enthusiastic over his books; at length he recalls frustrating conferences with Alfred Knopf and others, reprints negative reviews and quibbles over them. He also takes the opportunity to defend his work against the disdain of historians who, he maintains, cannot accept his popularity."
(Originally posted to Multiply December 18, 2008)

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