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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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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 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 |
If ever there was a case in which an editor abdicated his/her responsibility this is it. This is a small monograph that has been inflated to a major book. The question is certainly provocative: why did the state, the military, and the civilian population of Germany continue fighting and dying so long after the outcome of the war became obvious? Kershaw provides a comprehensive set of answers--and then repeats it and repeats it and repeats it yet again. There are passages worth reading, but many are worth skipping since they just illuminate a point already made. I must have skipped 100 pages and missed nothing. Worth reading for that initial analysis, as well as for military strategies. Hitler emerges as a strategic idiot who commanded the loyalty of core followers for their entire lives--no matter how catastrophic his errors. Also interesting: the internal jockeying for power between Bormann, Himmler, Goebbels and Speer. ( )
  neddludd | Mar 5, 2014 |
An exceptionally well-written, extensively researched account of the many reasons why Germany continued to fight in the face of an utterly hopeless military situation in the final months of World War II, and the horrific destruction and suffering the population suffered as a result of this futile resistance. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
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As disastrous defeat loomed in early 1945, Germans were sometimes heard to say they would prefer 'an end with horror, to a horror without end'.
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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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