WW2History.com News

|   21 October 2016

My new book

I’m really pleased to say that my new book – a history of the Holocaust that I have been working on for years – will be published on 26 January in the UK by Viking/Penguin.

I’ve been meeting people who were involved with the Nazis – either as supporters or perpetrators – for 25 years or so now. And this book is my attempt after all this time thinking about the crime to answer the two big questions – how and why did it happen?

I’ve also been able to use testimony that hasn’t been published before, in particular some astonishing material from my last film project ‘Touched by Auschwitz’.

I hope, when people can read it in January, they think it is a worthwhile piece of work.

WW2History.com News

|   9 March 2015


The Holocaust Educational Trust have just put online a podcast I recorded with their head of education, Alex Maws.

It’s about my views on the nature of perpetrators and you can listen to it here: HET Podcast

WW2History.com News

|   1 November 2014

Touched by Auschwitz

The BBC recently announced that my new film ‘Touched by Auschwitz’ will be broadcast in January 2015 as part of a season commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz 70 years ago.

I’ll write more about the film – a 90 minute feature length documentary – once I know an exact transmission date. All I’ll say now is that it’s been the most astonishing privilege to travel around the world and film with so many survivors of Auschwitz and their families.

Ever since I made the six part series ‘Auschwitz: the Nazis and the ‘Final Solution” ten years ago I’ve wanted to make a film about what happened to survivors after their liberation. My previous work has been almost exclusively about the wartime years, but I was always aware that there existed the most incredible story to tell about the challenges that survivors faced on their release from the camps.

It’s a story of individuals that also encompasses world changing events – like the formation of the state of Israel. It’s also a history that’s full of surprises. The children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, for instance, have the most fascinating things to say.

But it’s the survivors themselves who take center stage. And what they say about how Auschwitz has affected them will stay with me for the rest of my life.

WW2History.com News

|   9 April 2013

Pre-publication press

Pre-publication press from the USA for ‘Hitler’s Charisma’ (Pantheon Books)

“Rees moves easily from the broad themes of German politics and economics to the individual voices of those who supported and opposed Hitler. Incorporating most of the latest scholarship on Hitler, Rees provides valuable insights here into a topic that is not new.” –Library Journal

“Rees’s spotlight on charisma forces us to think hard about what it means to persuade, to argue, to reason—or simply to assert one’s will.” –The Chronicle of Higher Education

“So how did Hitler convince his generals to invade Russia and his subjects to ignore the genocide around them? This readable, fascinating book, a worthy addition to the vast literature surrounding Hitler, has plausible answers.” –Kirkus

WW2History.com News

|   30 October 2012

Transmission date for Hitler series

Lots of people have been asking me when my new TV series will transmit. And I at last I have news. ‘The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler’ will start transmitting  on BBC2 at 9.00 pm on Monday 12 November. Episode 2 transmits on 19 November and Episode 3 on 26 November. Meantime the book I wrote, on which the series is based, is already on sale. You can get it here.

I recently gave the Tans memorial lecture at Maastricht University on the subject of the charismatic leadership of Hitler, and you can watch the lecture here


WW2History.com News

|   12 September 2012

Following Hitler

My new book, The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler, is now available in bookshops and online – though the BBC TV series I’ve made based on the book won’t transmit until later in the autumn, with the exact date soon be confirmed.

And I mark the occasion with a couple of thoughts about this famous picture of serried ranks of Germans standing like robots at the Nuremberg rally. It’s an image that is convenient for many today – it seems to show the followers of Hitler as automatons. But the truth is that the system of government Hitler created was more chaotic than ordered. Far from showing the Germans as robots, he demonstrated the immense initiative and invention that existed in them. So much so that Hitler’s charismatic leadership released feelings of enormous excitement and opportunity in large numbers of Germans.  Unfortunately for the world, those qualities were often directed at murder and destruction rather than artistic creation or humane invention.

But the substantive point remains. Hitler offered those who followed him release from the moral restraint of conventional civilization. He freed the beast that lurks within…

WW2History.com News

|   29 April 2012

WW2History is free!

We are all incredibly pleased to announce that WW2History.com is now free to the world!

I thank all of the thousands of subscribers who have supported the site for the last two years and look forward to welcoming many more people to WW2History.com.

WW2History.com News

|   30 March 2012

WW2History will soon be free!

Soon the lock is coming off…

From the start of May – the second anniversary of the launch of the site – WW2History.com will become a free resource that anyone can access.

This means that we will no longer be taking any subscriptions from today, before the site itself goes free on Tuesday 1 May.

This is a big step forward for the site and I decided to take it only after a lot of thought. I’ve been very pleased with the success of WW2History.com as a subscription site – with several thousand subscriptions taken out. On this basis the site would, within the next few years, have paid back the cost of making it and be delivering a future of profit.

So why should I turn my back on that financially attractive future? Well, because these are times of austerity in the educational world, and having discussed the situation with school and university teachers I came to the conclusion that the site could never reach many of those who wanted it most if we carried on as we are.

That’s why I came to the decision I did. I’ll always be incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported the site during this subscription period.

WW2History.com News

|   9 June 2011

Auschwitz – a complicated history

There was more than one Auschwitz camp.

This month’s competition question for WW2History.com subscribers is proving very interesting. Not because lots of people have got the answer correct so far but because of the reverse – no one who has entered the competition has got the correct answer yet.

This is the question:

The camp at Auschwitz/Birkenau was not originally intended to hold large numbers of Jews. Who did the Nazis first think would be sent there once it was completed?

And I’m not giving too much away when I say that the answer is not ‘Polish political prisoners’ which many people seem to think it is. Polish political prisoners were indeed the first people incarcerated at Auschwitz – but at Auschwitz main camp in 1940 not at Auschwitz/Birkenau, which was not in existence in 1940. The main camp was on the banks of the Sola river near the town of Auschwitz (as the Germans called the Polish town of Oswiecim) but the Nazis only decided to build this new camp, about a mile and a half away from the old one, the following year in 1941. (more…)

WW2History.com News

|   2 April 2011

The Open University

At the Barbican

I was fortunate enough to receive an Honorary Doctorate from the Open University at a degree ceremony in London today, where hundreds of OU graduates also received their degrees.  This is what I said in my speech to say Thank You.

It is a particular honour for me to receive this award from the Open University – an institution I have long admired. In fact, I first heard about the OU when I was at school and one of my science teachers was trying to gain an OU degree whilst also carrying on with his full time teaching job.

I remember thinking then that in order to get an OU degree you didn’t just have to have the intellectual ability of a student who was working full time for a degree at a traditional university, but you also needed to possess many other personal qualities as well, including an extraordinary level of commitment and determination.

I also suspect that most of you couldn’t have managed to achieve your degree without the love and support of someone else. Perhaps that someone else is with you today. Never forget the debt you owe them. I know I could never have achieved anything over the last twenty five years without the love and support of my family.

So I hugely admire everyone here who has managed to gain a degree from the Open University. And the single quality each of you possesses that I most admire is best summed up in words of advice that were written some years ago by the Dalai Lama. This was his advice for life: ‘Never Give Up. No matter what is going on around you. Never Give Up.’

Many times you must have thought of giving up – but you never did. I congratulate you. Thank you again.