From the Publisher
"Kershaw's comprehensive research, measured prose, and commonsense insight combine in a mesmerizing explanation of how and why Nazi Germany chose self-annihilation." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"[A]superb examination of the final defeat of Hitler's tyranny...an excellent portrait of the regime's death throes." — Booklist (starred review)
"This is an astonishing story well told by the reigning English-speaking master of Third Reich history...A carefully considered and powerfully told saga." — Kirkus (starred review)
James J. Sheehan
No one is better qualified to tell this grim story than Kershaw, the author of several essential studies of Nazi Germany, including a definitive two-volume biography of Hitler. A master of both the vast scholarly literature on Nazism and the extraordinary range of its published and unpublished record, Kershaw combines vivid accounts of particular human experiences with wise reflections on big interpretive and moral issues…Kershaw succeeds in clearing away a great many misconceptions, he deploys an impressive amount of evidence about the variety and complexity of public opinion and he brilliantly describes the ghastly fate of many ordinary Germans. No one has written a better account of the human dimensions of Nazi Germany's end.
The New York Times Book Review
Kershaw, author of the definitive biography of Hitler, is unsurpassed as an analyst of the Third Reich's inner dynamics. His latest work addresses a question as significant as it is overlooked. The Third Reich fought to a self-destructive finish--something rare in war's history. Kershaw's narrative approach establishes the nuances of "an integrated history of disintegration." It begins with the aftermath of the July 20, 1944, attempt on Hitler's life: the final internal turning point for the Nazi regime. It continues through German reactions to the Wehrmacht's summer collapse in the west and the Red Army's autumn penetrations into Germany, through the ephemeral optimism generated by the Ardennes counter-attack, to the final overrunning of the Reich and the regime's desperate response of unprecedented domestic terror. Kershaw makes short work of the argument that German resistance was sustained because of Allied demands for unconditional surrender. Nor did the people back the regime from conviction. The majority of Germans had no alternative. Raw terror, an officer corps willing to fight for the homeland, and Hitler's demonic personality were the Reich's sustaining pillars—and its instruments of self-destruction. Kershaw's comprehensive research, measured prose, and commonsense insight combine in a mesmerizing explanation of how and why Nazi Germany chose self-annihilation. (Sept. 12)
-Booklist (starred review)
"[A]superb examination of the final defeat of Hitler's tyranny...an excellent portrait of the regime's death throes."
Kershaw, famous for his Hitler biography, has spent his professional career exploring the complex world of Hitler, Nazism, and World War II, and becoming one of our foremost experts on the intertwined subjects. He now turns his considerable skills to an examination of the last year of the Third Reich as it struggled to survive the dual challenge of defeating the Soviets coming from the East and the Allies advancing from the West. That Germany was able to fight effectively and vigorously after the near assassination of Hitler in July 1944 is testimony to the efficiencies of the Nazi state under the charismatic leadership of the fanatical Hitler as well as the grim determination of Hitler's underlings to maintain the struggle long after any hope of winning had passed. Kershaw explains in impressive detail the factors that enabled the Germans to keep fighting but assigns the most weight to Hitler's single-minded refusal to give in and the willingness of those who surrounded him to continue the war at all cost. Hitler and his henchmen knew that defeat would be their certain death or, at best, lengthy incarceration. VERDICT This is an essential work by a distinguished historian; valuable for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/11.]—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
The Third Reich was dead, but it wouldn't lie down.
By January 1945, with the failure of the Ardennes offensive, it was clear to the German leadership that the war was lost. The customary and rational course of action would have been to sue for peace on whatever terms could be obtained.Instead, Germany elected to fight on to the point of national obliteration. Hitler was determined to resist to the end and take the country down with him, but award-winning historian Kershaw(Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution,2008, etc.) seeks to explain why the rest of the nation followed him into the abyss, and how it was possible to hold the armed forces and the German economy together until the fall of Berlin. This is an astonishing story well told by the reigning English-speaking master of Third Reich history. On one level, it is a gripping narrative of desperate actions taken to shore up the battle lines with replacements of men and materiel from ever-shrinking resources; the militarization of the populace to defend, however ineffectively, "fortress cities"; improvised adjustments to transport to compensate for smashed rail lines and overrun factories; and wanton murders and pointless forced marches of evacuated prisoners. But Kershaw also deftly explores the policies and attitudes that kept Germans struggling on with the war effort after all hope was gone, and prevented organized opposition to continuing the war from coalescing in the military or elsewhere. At its core, this is a story of people great and small in the grip of an enormous catastrophe brought down upon them by their charismatic (though by then widely despised) leader; unable to do anything about it individually or collectively, they just kept doing their jobs, however hopeless or absurd they appeared. Whether motivated by duty, terror, inertia, wishful thinking or denial, soldiers fought and civilians worked, generals went on attempting to comply with impossible orders and bureaucrats issued directives of stunning irrelevance because they could see no practical or honorable alternative.
A carefully considered and powerfully told saga of a national suicide.