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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 was 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. Even 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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Liz on 10-14-11
Engrossing yet horrifying
Exploding the myth of the 'professional' Wehrmacht, standing aloof from Nazi politics, this book investigates why Germany followed Hitler into the abyss. As in Ian Kershaw's other books on WW2, his research is meticulous, and the narrative is logical and enlivened by extracts from contemporary diaries. It is a truly horrifying story. I liked Sean Pratt's narration though I found his pronunciation occasionally idiosyncratic.
20 of 21 people found this review helpful
By Mike From Mesa on 09-15-12
Interesting information on the end of the war
The End is a study of how Germany kept their civilian and military committed to World War II to the end in spite of it being clear that the war was lost, especially after the successful Allied landings in Normandy. While I think there is nothing very surprising in this book (German fear of the Russian Army during the war is well known as is the power of the Nazi government to enforce its edicts), the book held together for me reasonably well in spite of my having read a good amount about this war. There was nothing very new, but neither did the book ever get boring.
Mr Kershaw is a known expert on Adolph Hitler and on Germany during the Nazi period and, although his views may diverge from the commonly held belief that Hitler was Nazi Germany, his knowledge about how Germany perservered until the end of the war as a single state without anyone signing a separate treaty with the Western Powers is of considerable interest. The ability of the Wehrmacht to successfully resist the British, Canadian and US Armies in France, Belgium and Western Germany was always been a puzzle to me considering that it was also fighting the Russians in the East and that the populations and economies of the countries it was fighting were much larger than that of Germany.
While not breaking any new ground (for me, at least), it did successfully piece together all of the separate threads which held Germany together and proved helpful and informative. This is, of course, not a replacement for a study of the war as a whole, but a successful adjunct to that part of a general study that covers the closing period of that war. I recommend it on that basis.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful