A monumental work of history that captures the last days of the Third Reich as never before. Swansong 1945 chronicles the end of Nazi Germany and World War II in Europe through hundreds of letters, diaries, and autobiographical accounts covering four days that fateful spring: Hitler's birthday on April 20, American and Soviet troops meeting at the Elbe on April 25, Hitler's suicide on April 30, and finally the German surrender on May 8. Side by side, we encounter vivid, first-person accounts of civilians fleeing Berlin, ordinary German soldiers determined to fight to the bitter end, American POWs dreaming of home, concentration camp survivors' first descriptions of their horrific experiences, as well as the intimate thoughts of figures such as Eisenhower, Churchill, Stalin, Joseph Goebbels, and Hitler himself. These firsthand accounts, painstakingly collected and organized by renowned German author Walter Kempowski, provide the raw material of history and present a panoramic view of those tumultuous days. The more than 1,000 extracts include a British soldier writing to his parents to tell them there are no baths, but plenty of eggs and chocolate; an American soldier describing "the tremendous burst of lilacs" as he approaches the Elbe; Mussolini wishing Hitler a happy birthday; Eva Braun bragging to a girlfriend about what a "crack shot" she's become; and much more. An extraordinary account of suffering and survival, Swansong 1945 brings to life the end of Nazi Germany and the war in Europe.
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Good except for one bad narrator
This is a good book but not an easy-listening Ken Burns-style documentary (as I'd partly hoped). Requires concentration, since there are so many different voices in the text, along with sometimes unfamiliar German place names. Male narrator is fine but the female one is awful. She has a sort of phony finishing-school accent and sounds as though she's speaking every word through the clenched teeth of a false smile. Also she overacts horribly. As it happens, there are more male diarists in the book than female ones, so you have to listen to her less than half the time. But even that's too much.
Important, Tragic, Poignant...
This collection gives you every side of the story of the last days of WWII in the ETO. Many varying nationalities, circumstances, and viewpoints are represented, with their observations captured for all time. Simply stated, a very important read for both the casual and more serious historian. That being said, if I had it to do over again, I would have read this book on my Kindle instead of in the Audible format. The vast number of characters and the rapid pace of shifting from one to another can make it hard to stay focused on each of their important messages. I will reread to pay proper respect to their important stories. Highly recommend this compilation.
- Amazon Customer