Notes on William L. Shire & “The Rise and Fall…”


Ongoing supplemental notes to “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” This is what I find particularly interesting, for future reference.

On Hitler:

- Had some illegitimate aspects of his lineage (his father gained the “Hitler” title late in life.  Was clearly complex developing for Hitler…)

- Not a brilliant student, but life showed he was clearly brilliant (evil genius, of course; not benevolent genius)
– Aspired and failed to be a painter. Was rejected from art school. Sold paintings on the street, living as a “tramp” in Vienna.

- At age 13, his father dies of lung hemorrhage. Hitler breaks down and cries (An interesting question: what makes Hitler cry?).

- Was aware of his extreme oratorical skill at a young age. Gave 2-4 hour long speeches that captivated audiences. Could recite dictation off the top of his head and stay on message (that’s a form of genius).

- He personally chose the Swastika flag and symbol for the party. He understood the power of the symbol before others did.

- The Beer Hall Putsch is a story for the ages. P 68

- The trial following the Putsch, Hitler gives a four hour opening speech that captivates audiences.

- Each year, Hitler would return to the beer hall on November 8th to address the higher ups of the party.

- His love (niece Geli Raubal) dies… murdered, suicide? Hitler cries at her grave for a day, weeps for weeks

- Hitler becomes a vegetarian.

- Hitler deducts all his taxes as a writer. Shire jokes about the practice being common amongst all writers.

- Hitler pioneers using planes for election campaigning.


On Nazi Germany:

- The Army was its own institution. Betrays the Weimar Republic, funds the Nazi party, gives rise to it.

- Post WWI German Constitution had its flaws, perhaps most importantly the proportional representation system that empowered fractional parties and an inability to grab a majority; however the document was one of the most liberal of the 20th Century.

- The Judiciary and the Supreme Court were instrumental in the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis.

- Nazis only received majority support once they were able to control the funding and authority over power/airwaves/financing of the state. Once that happened, they quickly took hold of the German public.

- Interesting how the corporate state backed the Nazis out of respect of their reactionary stance against the Communists and Socialists. Corporate leaders also saw in Hitler an opportunity to rearm the country — thus the steel industry, the weapons manufactures, etc etc had incentive in the rise of the party.

- Nazis sought to outright destroy Christianity and replace it with Nazism and support of the Hitler. The Bible was made illegal and replaced by Mein Kamf.



- A thug (butcher by trade) is made secretary of Defense to quel uprisings. An observer states: “Someone must be the bloodhound.”

- Hitler at the Beer Hall Putsch: “No one leaves this room alive without my permission.”

- William L. Shire on Germany of 1928: “Nowhere else did the arts or the intellectual life seem so lively.” P 118.

- “The party needed large sums to finance election campaigns…” P 143.

- Two military men, Goering and Schleicher, the latter betrays the former for self-glorification. Goering writes Schleicher a letter, it reads: “Scorn and rage boil within me, because I have been deceived in you, my old friend, disciple, adopted son.”

- “The S.S. Fuehrer saw more clearly than the Minister that the purpose of the concentration camps was not only to punish enemies of the regime but by their very existence to terrorize the people and deter them from even contemplating any resistance to Nazi rule.” P 217


Orwell’s “Why Writers Write” List

Full essay here (below is redacted).

Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

(1) Sheer egoism.

Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen…

(2) Aesthetic enthusiasm.

Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

(3) Historical impulse.

Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(4) Political purpose.

— Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.