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From the preeminent Hitler biographer, a fascinating and original exploration of how the Third Reich was willing and able to fight to the bitter end of World War II.
Countless books have been written about why Nazi Germany lost World War II, yet remarkably little attention has been paid to the equally vital question of how and why it was able to hold out as long as it did. The Third Reich did not surrender until Germany had been left in ruins and almost completely occupied. Even in the near-apocalyptic final months, when the war was plainly lost, the Nazis refused to sue for peace. Historically, this is extremely rare.
Drawing on original testimony from ordinary Germans and arch-Nazis alike, award-winning historian Ian Kershaw explores this fascinating question in a gripping and focused narrative that begins with the failed bomb plot in July 1944 and ends with the German capitulation in May 1945. Hitler, desperate to avoid a repeat of the "disgraceful" German surrender in 1918, was of course critical to the Third Reich's fanatical determination, but his power was sustained only because those below him were unable, or unwilling, to challenge it. Even as the military situation grew increasingly hopeless, Wehrmacht generals fought on, their orders largely obeyed, and the regime continued its ruthless persecution of Jews, prisoners, and foreign workers. Beneath the hail of allied bombing, German society maintained some semblance of normalcy in the very last months of the war. The Berlin Philharmonic even performed on April 12, 1945, less than three weeks before Hitler's suicide.
As Kershaw shows, the structure of Hitler's "charismatic rule" created a powerful negative bond between him and the Nazi leadership- they had no future without him, and so their fates were inextricably tied. Terror also helped the Third Reich maintain its grip on power as the regime began to wage war not only on its ideologically defined enemies but also on the German people themselves. Yet even as each month brought fresh horrors for civilians, popular support for the regime remained linked to a patriotic support of Germany and a terrible fear of the enemy closing in.
Based on prodigious new research, Kershaw's The End is a harrowing yet enthralling portrait of the Third Reich in its last desperate gasps.
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.
List of Illustrations ix
List of Maps xiii
Dramatis Personae xxv
Introduction: Going Down in Flames 3
1 Shock to the System 17
2 Collapse in the West 54
3 Foretaste of Horror 92
4 Hopes Raised - and Dashed 129
5 Calamity in the East 167
6 Terror Comes Home 207
7 Crumbling Foundations 247
8 Implosion 293
9 Liquidation 348
Conclusion: Anatomy of Self-Destruction 386
List of Archival Sources Cited 509
List of Works Cited 511
Posted September 10, 2011
based on which I plan to acquire this book as soon as my next B&N gift card shows up from my B&N MasterCard usage, any day now.
I find the previous review of two stars based on not being able to get the book in Nook format bizarre as it has nothing whatsoever to do with the book, and it's not unlike disliking a particular beer because it only comes in bottles instead of in cans as well.
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Posted December 26, 2011
This book has a lot of excellent material well arranged. The writing, however, leaves much to be desired. A good editor would remove at least two-thirds of the commas and make a much more readable book out of it.
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Posted March 1, 2013
Posted February 16, 2013
Posted June 24, 2012
Ian Kershaw's The End, once again shows his deep insight and mastery of the bloody and destructive era of German and European history, when Hitler's Nazi Germany tried to restore the honour of a proud nation, but instead led it towards suicide and historical damnation. Were the German people willing participants in a 12-year rule that stained the nation with genocide, the holocaust, unimaginable barbarity, occultism and fatalism? Were they fooled or forced; or where they nonchalant; and above all, was their participation out of a conviction that it was a do or die war Germany dared not lose?
Ian Kershaw dissects these questions in ways few writers can and provides insights that no other writer has ever done. I found a lot of his views in Disciples of Fortune, a book that gave another side of WWII; and a lot of the conclusions are the same. German nationalism was whipped into frenzy by the Nazis. For Europe's second largest nationality to have more than a quarter of its population beyond its borders, spelled of confrontation in the waiting. Germans felt humiliated, and the extent of their commitment to make up for that humiliation has been explained best by this book.
Posted November 28, 2011
A great deal of interesting information about the last months of the Nazi regime , but it doesn't answer the question of why the Germans fought on when the end was obvious.
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Posted March 4, 2012
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Posted July 22, 2012
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Posted November 9, 2011
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