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Top 10 Books: Germany 1918 - 1939


The study of interwar Germany is primarily one of the Nazis and their rise to power; however, here we begin to enter the realms of very recent history and the Second World War, which is beyond the scope of this site. As such, this set of top picks focuses more on Germany itself - especially the Weimar Republic - and less on the themes of developing world conflict.

1. From Weimar to Hitler by E.J. Feuchtwanger

In this text Feuchtwanger casts aside the stereotypical image of the Weimar Republic as a doomed and fatally flawed democracy; instead, he posits new arguments which are both compelling and balanced. Broad in scope and refreshing in its conclusions, the analysis makes full use of all the available material, and in doing so Feuchtwanger has produced a valuable new work.
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2. The Third Reich: a New History by Michael Burleigh

Highly regarded by reviewers, mammoth in size and remarkably cheap in price, Burleigh's history is not only new, it's revealing, compulsive and largely superb; its also award winning. Placing the Third Reich in many levels of context, before exploring and explaining the politics, society and culture - as well as any other aspects - the book is not without flaws, but they are minor. Read it.
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3. Years of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich by David Evans and Jane Jenkins

Written specifically for the mid-higher level student, this book is part of the excellent 'Years of...' series. Inside, German history is divided clearly and succinctly into a range of sections, while the clear text is accompanied by boxed glossaries, tables, key questions and mini-biographies; areas of continuing debate are also marked. Too simplistic for the expert reader, but otherwise excellent.

4. Weimar Germany by Paul Bookbinder

This book makes a definite effort to examine the Weimar Republic as an individual social and cultural entity, and not simply the bit of German history before the Nazis. A range of topics is discussed, and Bookbinder conveys a good sense of the period; the book is also a fair size and competitive price.
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5. Weimar and the Rise of Hitler by A.J. Nicholls

Nicholls' book certainly has staying power - this if the fourth edition. (In history, a new edition means some sort of textual change or addition, not simply a reprint, and this version is supposed to have seen substantial alteration.) The focus is firmly on the collapse of Weimar and the growing status of Hitler, with material on all the main debates.
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6. Hitler and Nazi Germany by Frank McDonough

Given the massive number of books on Hitler and Nazi Germany, you may be wondering where to start; if so, try this one. McDonough's text is aimed at mid to high level students, providing a cheap and concise summary of the modern historical thinking while covering a range of themes, including the Nazi role in society, politics and the economy, as well as genocide.
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7. Germany: the Third Reich 1933 - 45 by Geoff Layton

Written specifically as an introductory text for the mid level student, the publishers have now released a second edition, featuring much new, and improved, material. The text explains ideas and events simply, considering not only the conditions and actions of Nazi Germany, but also the long-term consequences of this period.

8. The Weimar Republic by John Hiden

Another volume offering an overview of Weimar Germany and an introduction to the key historical debates, this book is both affordable and concise. The basic text may be two decades old, but this second edition has been revised, and augmented by documents and a glossary.
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9. The Weimar Republic Sourcebook edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay

This substantial volume includes a large range of documents concerning the Weimar era. I'm not sure of the book's value to students - it will depend on your course - or the casual reader, but for anyone with a serious interest in Weimar Germany this will be an excellent resource.
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10. Nazism 1919-1945 Vol 2: State, Economy and Society 1933-1939

I've not been able to see this book - the second of a three volume document collection relating to various aspects of Nazism - but they are supposed to be easily understandable, and of considerable interest to students and anyone else interested in the subject matter. Volumes 1 (The Rise to Power 1919-1934) and 3 (Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination) are also available.
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