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Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich Hardcover – April 1, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Books on Nazism, Hitler and the Third Reich always seem to find an eager audience, though it is the rare volume, such as Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners, that actually manages to spark interest beyond that specialized circle. And so, though this volume is blessed by careful research, by an author who is an expert in his field and by a gripping, tightly focused narrative, it hardly seems destined to appeal to anyone beyond diehard enthusiasts. The book details Hitler’s increasing mental and physical disintegration during the final days of WWII, when he was secreted underneath the battle-ravaged streets of Berlin with a last core of supporters. It ends with his suicide as Russian troops close in. Fest is the author of several previous books about Hitler and Nazism (The Face of the Third Reich; Speer; Hitler; etc.). His command of diaries, letters and other primary sources allows him to share such illuminating details as the following: "Hitler’s...facial features had become puffy, bloated. The thick, dark pouches under his eyes became more and more noticeable...cake crumbs stuck to the corners of his mouth." Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

With Ian Kershaw, Fest is the most authoritative and reputable of the numerous biographers of the Nazi dictator, and he here continues the reconstruction, initiated by British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper's The Last Days of Hitler (1946), of Hitler's suicide. Fest's may not be the last word, either, as he notes that historians have not yet accessed some Soviet interrogation records of Hitler's retinue. With such caveats, Fest narrates the sequence of the final Soviet offensive against Berlin, as reported to the bomb shelter where Hitler was holed up. Fest pauses in four chapters for interpretive reflection on the spectacle of apocalyptic destruction that was Berlin in April 1945. It had a demented theatricality, Fest argues, in which Hitler took some jubilation and even fulfillment. As his final act in history, willing the city's destruction was a characteristic if intensified outer spectacle of Hitler's inner pathologies. Fest connects his last ravings with the exaltation of hatred, conquest, and death of his preceding course. Well-rendered and judged, Fest's treatment will provoke thought about Nazidom's finale. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374135770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374135775
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Holmes VINE VOICE on May 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Joachim Fest is a distinguished German journalist and the author of an acclaimed biography of Hitler. In "Inside Hitler's Bunker," he focuses on the last days of the Third Reich, beginning his narrative on April 16, 1945 as the Soviets open their final offensive against Berlin. The book explores the surreal and miserable world of the "Fuhrer Bunker" under the Reich Chancellery, the fanatical resistance and eventual collapse of the German armies defending Berlin, Hitler's delusional attempts to command armies that had been wiped out, and the astonishing willingness of soldiers and civilians to obey his orders until the very end.
This is a highly readable and very powerful book, and the translator (Margot Bettauer Dembo) deserves high marks for the result. I read the book avidly, and as soon as I was done my wife picked it up and did the same.
"Inside Hitler's Bunker" may be somewhat disappointing for those who have read a great deal about the Battle of Berlin or Hitler's last days (the book does not appear to break a great deal of new ground), but it will prove to be a gripping narrative for those who are new to the horrors of Berlin in 1945. Part of the continuing fascination of this dark time is the challenge of trying to understand the incomprehensible: how could a madman like Hitler stay in control of Germany in the last weeks of April 1945, and why did so many Germans follow him as he dragged them into the final catastrophe?
The answer to those questions may lie in the 12 years of indoctrination that preceded those fateful days in 1945. For a brief and readable perspective on this period (which has been thoroughly explored in numerous more massive tomes), you may want to try "Inside Hitler's Germany: Life Under the Third Reich" by Matthew Hughes and Chris Mann.
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Format: Paperback
A recent paperback release of this little book (less than 200 pages) ties it to the movie "Downfall" ("Der Untergang") by a disc of text on the cover that reads: "Now the major motion picture The Downfall From Newmarket Films". Though the book and the movie cover the same general subject and share the same German title, the tie-in is slightly misleading. The 2004 film includes more of the perspective of one of Hitler's secretaries, Traudl Junge, while the 2002 book (translated into English in 2004) takes a more macro view of the goings on in Berlin, and Traudl Junge barely receives mention by name. Nonetheless, both provide great insights and introductions to the last days of the Third Reich (roughly April 16 - when the Soviet offensive against Berlin began - to May 8, 1945 - when what remained of the Third Reich in Berlin surrendered). Exploration of one will likely inspire exploration of the other.

This book explores the true horror that unfolded during the battle for Berlin in early 1945. As Fest himself puts it in the foreward: "No catastrophe in recent history is comparable to the collapse of Germany in 1945." Newcomers to the subject will learn much about the Third Reich, the end of World War II, and Hitler's twisted ideology of destruction. Those well versed in World War II might not gain more than a good quick read.

Fest delineates the catastrophe in clear terms. The civilian population suffered tremendously under the "no surrender", "Clausewitz", and "scorched earth" policies of Hitler. Berlin was systematically dismantled while the Reich called for the unconditional support of the people of Berlin. Young children and the elderly were spontaneously shipped to the front lines.
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Format: Hardcover
We have our own evils to contemplate in the twenty-first century, but the demon Hitler will forever occupy those who study the evils of the twentieth. It may be that we need reassurance that he is really and permanently dead, because the story of his end has been told many times. There was room, however, for a comprehensive summary of Hitler's last days, and we now have one, told by a German who is a historian of the Third Reich and a reporter. Joachim Fest, in _Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich_ (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), has pulled together evidence and drawn a dramatic picture of those final days, and the immediate aftermath. It won't be the last volume to examine this extraordinary subject, but it should be the current reference for anyone interested in it.
Hitler had known that the war was lost; he said as much four years before the Russians started to close upon Berlin. After the Ardennes offensive failed, Hitler had returned to Berlin, where the air raids drove him for refuge into the bunker he had prepared for himself and his cronies. It was more than thirty feet below the ground, about twenty reinforced rooms with few furnishings, even in Hitler's private rooms. Each room had a naked lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. The water system was untrustworthy, ventilation was bad, and diesel exhaust often pervaded the inside. It was grim, and even Goebbels avoided the rooms as much as possible because they caused a "desolate mood." The night before his death, Hitler married Eva Braun. Retiring to his room with her, he used a pistol and cyanide to bring their ends about. In the bunker's canteen, the inmates sought relief from all the weeks of tension and danced to boisterous music over the loudspeakers.
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