"Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself": The Mass Suicide of Ordinary Germans in 1945

by Florian Huber


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Named a Best History Book of 2019 by The Times (UK)

The astounding true story of how thousands of ordinary Germans, overcome by shame, guilt, and fear, killed themselves after the fall of the Third Reich and the end of World War II.

By the end of April 1945 in Germany, the Third Reich had fallen and invasion was underway. As the Red Army advanced, horrifying stories spread about the depravity of its soldiers. For many German people, there seemed to be nothing left but disgrace and despair. For tens of thousands of them, the only option was to choose death — for themselves and for their children.

"Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself" recounts this little-known mass event. Using diaries, letters, and memoirs, historian Florian Huber traces the euphoria of many ordinary Germans as Hitler restored national pride; their indifference as the Führer's political enemies, Jews, and other minorities began to suffer; and the descent into despair as the war took its terrible toll, especially after the invasion of the Soviet Union. Above all, he investigates how suicide became a contagious epidemic as the country collapsed.

Drawing on eyewitness accounts and other primary sources, "Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself" presents a riveting portrait of a nation in crisis, and sheds light on a dramatic yet largely unknown episode of postwar Germany.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316534307
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 03/10/2020
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 254,338
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Dr. Florian Huber was born in 1967 and wrote his PhD on British policy regarding the postwar occupation of Germany. He is the author of several works of history and has also produced award-winning documentaries on contemporary subjects, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the mysterious end of the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and the 1936 Olympic Games.

Table of Contents

Part I Four Days in Demmin

River Without Bridges 3

War Without Limits 18

The Eyes of the Enemy 28

Tower of Darkness 46

The Ghosts of Demmin 65

Part II Demmin is Everywhere

A Voice from the Bombed-out Temple 75

A Wave Rolling over the Reich 80

The Teacher and His Wife 89

Hell Machine 94

Death in the West 100

The Waxworks of Leipzig 107

City Without Hope 118

The Dark Figure 127

Part III Tumultuous Emotions

The Wound That Was Germany 135

Hungry and Fanatical 145

Torches in Winter, Violets in March 153

Part of Something Greater 168

An Inner Rift 177

The Happy Years 182

In Love with the Führer 190

The Smell of Fear 198

Victors 205

A Sense of Foreboding 211

The Shadow of Others 222

Frozen Soul 227

Part IV The Pull of Silence

Curtaining off Reality 241

An Inability to Feel 248

Victims 254

Ghosts of the Forgotten 260

Notes 269

Sources and Bibliography 289

Illustrations 293

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