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The End: Hitler's Germany, 1944-45 (Allen…

The End: Hitler's Germany, 1944-45 (Allen Lane History) (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Ian Kershaw

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5671517,547 (4.07)11
Title:The End: Hitler's Germany, 1944-45 (Allen Lane History)
Authors:Ian Kershaw
Info:Allen Lane (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 592 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Second World War, War history, History, 20th Century

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The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945 by Ian Kershaw (2011)


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I bought this book after hearing Ian Kershaw deliver a lecture on it here in Munich. He asks and answers the question about why the Germans continued to fight on after D-Day made the end of the war inevitable. ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 10, 2016 |
A man cuts some telephone lines he thinks connect the military bases one to another. He's seen by two members of the Hitler Jugend who report his actions. He's summarily arrested by the local police. The regional commander is summoned and a summary trial is conducted and the man executed. This scenario occurs just four hours from the town being overrun by the Allies in Germany. The question Kershaw asks and answers is why did local bureaucracies and systems continue to function so well as apocalypse was often just minutes away. Why continue to resist at a cost of inevitable total destruction. In early 1945, German soldiers were dying at a rate of 350,000 *per month.* It was a scale of killing that even dwarfed the First World War. British and American bombers were leveling cities and killing thousands of civilians, yet the populace and it's representative structure continued to resist and function.

I was confused in the beginning by what seemed to be contradictory points, i.e., that many in the general staff and lower ranks were very supportive of Hitler to the end while at the same time he cites numerous examples of terror shown to any kind of disloyalty or wavering on the part of civilians or military, especially after the Stauffenberg assassination attempt (an astonishing 20,000 German soldiers were shot as opposed to 40 British which would indicate to me a substantial level of defeatism or discord among the lower ranks). Special squads were created to enforce loyalty and the number of executions soared. At the same time he examines numerous letters and diaries showing support for Hitler among those soldiers and the civilian bureaucracy continued to function at a high level. I might argue that finding support for a position in the myriad number of papers left by the highly literate German people might be found regardless of the overall view.

Contradictions abound and just as I was one view was proposed, Kershaw presented evidence to the contrary. What’s much clearer is the entanglement of motivations of many different people for many different reasons. Partly, it was that Himmler brought his administration of terror from the East back to the Reich. Another was the personal loyalty of from those mignons at the top, Himmler, Bormann, Goebbels, et al, who derived their power from Hitler so it was natural they would remain fanatically loyal to the end. The extreme brutality of the Russian soldiers on the eastern front led to the desire to hasten westward where the Americans and British were perceived to be more amiable.

The slaughter at the end of the war is simply unimaginable and Kershaw doesn’t spare the reader. Hundreds of thousands died in the last few months of the war. Twice as much tonnage of bombs were dropped by the Allies in the first four months of 1945 than in all of 1943. Millions were left homeless and fled the approach of the Soviet Army eager to apply much of the same fearsome slaughter the Germans had inflicted on the Slavic people on their march east. Fifty percent of the German soldiers who died in the war were killed in the last ten months. A few deserted, most continued to fight. The machinery of the state continued and defeatists were murdered by Nazi death squads.

The failure of the Germans to give up when clearly all was lost may lie in the culture Hitler had created. The oft cited reason of allied demands for unconditional surrender Kershaw dispenses with, if not entirely convincingly. The German people had been so used to dictatorial and fanatic leadership that they were unable to do anything but follow orders and were suitably cowed and ripe for the leadership of anyone. Put broadly, the simplest reason may be that people simply “went along to get along.”

It’s a fascinating study. My only quibble is that I think the book might have been strengthened by a comparison with events in Japan, which, one might argue, were similar. ( )
  ecw0647 | Dec 30, 2015 |
I read Kershaw's two-volume biography of Hitler in 2001 and his Fateful Choices on 23 Oct 2007. So I was eager to read this book. It is largely based on German material and records, and sets out in rather turgid detail all that went on in Germany from July 20, 1944 till into May 1945. Military events are set out only to show what the Nazis were reacting to during that time. The dominance of Hitler was pretty total as far as running things in Germany was concerned. This does not make for pleasant reading--only when we get to the very end of the book is the account lifted to exciting and rewarding reading. The total depravity of the Nazis before that time is painful to read about. But finally, as we come to the final chapters of the book the gloom lifts and the book becomes a good reading experience. The book spends little time on the course of what happened after the surrender in May 1945. One thinks of all those brainwashed Germans and wonders if before they died how many came to regret their adherence to the evil that was Hitler and his ideology. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Jun 3, 2014 |
I find myself agreeing with neddludd's review of the 5th of March, 2014. Yes an interesting book, but bloated by repetition and taking 400 pages to say what could have been said in 150.
  Northlaw | Apr 3, 2014 |
From the cover:

"What made Germany keep fighting to the death, even when it was clear it would lose the Second World War?"

In his magnificent, awe-inspiring book 'The End', Ian Kershaw sets out to examine and try and explain, or at least come up with some possible reasons for, the above. He examines every aspect of German life in what would turn out to be the last two years of the war (and I do feel it is important to remember while reading this, that until very late on, they of course didn't know that it would end in May 1945. They knew they couldn't win (as things stood) but they didn't know when they would be deemed to have lost. So one cannot think 'why are they doing/thinking that, when there are only two months to go?', for instance). He combs the bureaucracy, the aristocracy, the Army, the Navy (what is left of) the Airforce, the ordinary people, the Nazi Party, the personality cult of Hitler, the power struggles and in-fighting of his heirs apparent and much, much more. Quite apart from anything else, this is an incredible summation of research, one surely without equal even in whole histories of the Second World War.

Exhaustive surely isn't the word for it. Definitive, most likely. I can't see how anyone could in the future possibly consider going over this ground again and finding anything more to say. This has dotted the i's, crosses the t's. Full stop.

Whilst Kershaw does draw some conclusions to try and answer the question why, what I do really like is the feeling that I was actually on the journey, the search for the reasons, alongside him. He states his purpose and lays down his methods at the start of the book really well, then the investigation of the facts begins. All through, I felt that I was beginning to understand the strands of reasoning, as Kershaw also came across them. I agree with him (I can't disagree with him, not being in the remotest sense German) and his conclusions, but I also came forward with a couple of my own. Ones that were the product of his research and his fantastic book, but which weren't actually exactly stated by him. But I get the idea that that would be fine with him. But then another thing I feel sure he is saying, is that there is no simple, single, glib answer to the question. It's all of them in many different ways on many different levels.

One point I would make here is, it would help if this wasn't the first, or only book on the Second World War you have ever read. You do need some background going into this as it does - as he states - deal with a very specific period and in a very concentrated sphere of the war. I felt too, that I need to read some more on the end of the First World War for Germany, the role of Prussia in the German psyche of the time and definitely the agreement of 1918, as the latter could explain much of the psychological background of Germany that might give additional understanding.

If I do have a quibble or a criticism, it is that some passages aren't easy to read. Not due to the subject matter, difficult though that is on occasions, but more due to the awkwardness of the sentence construction and punctuation. Maybe once more through by his editor might not have gone amiss.

Otherwise, essential - and i mean essential - reading for anyone wanting a broader understanding of the Second World War. ( )
  Speesh | Mar 29, 2014 |
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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. "--… (more)

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