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The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945 Hardcover – September 8, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Kershaw's comprehensive research, measured prose, and commonsense insight combine in a mesmerizing explanation of how and why Nazi Germany chose self-annihilation." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[A]superb examination of the final defeat of Hitler's tyranny...an excellent portrait of the regime's death throes." — Booklist (starred review)

"This is an astonishing story well told by the reigning English-speaking master of Third Reich history...A carefully considered and powerfully told saga." — Kirkus (starred review)

About the Author

Ian Kershaw is the author of Fateful Choices; Making Friends with Hitler, which won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography; and the definitive two-volume biography of Hitler, Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis. The first volume was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award and the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, and the second volume won the Wolfson Literary Award for History and the inaugural British Academy Prize.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; First Edition edition (September 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594203148
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203145
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ronald H. Clark on September 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ian Kershaw, the author of a number of excellent books on the Third Reich including a fine biography of Hitler, asks a key question in this book: when when it became obvious that Germany would lose the war, and continue to suffer devastating destruction, why did the Nazis continue to fight on in futility? The author first sketches the issue in a preface and then identifies the "dramatis personae" or key players in the drama in brief bios. Then in a substantial introduction, he outlines the issues and explanations that have been offered. While not a book of military history as such, there is certainly enough discussion of the Reich's military posture during and after key battles to satisfy those with such interests.

Many explanations have been put forward to explain this surprising development, for example that the civilian population was "bought off" by some of the fruits of the war; that an overwhelming popular consensus continued to support Hitler's government; a pervasive feeling that the Germans had no other alternative but to continue fighting; the effective use of terror to cow the population; and the military code of honor. The author focuses on some additional and probably more fundemental reasons. The "charismatic rule" of Hitler continued to mesmerize the civil population; a strategy of "playing for time" so that new miracle weapons and division among the allies could fully develop; and surprisingly, the near successful assassination attempt on Hitler unleashed tremendous popular support.
So in Kershaw's view, the answer lies in far more than the application of terror, though that was certainly a factor.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ian Kershaw needs no introduction to readers of WW-II history. His latest installment, "The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945 claims to tread new ground by investigating the cause(s) of continued German fighting to the point of complete destruction of the state; a rare occurrence, according to the author. This book explores the reasons behind ongoing resistance, despite the obvious consequences of this self-destructive course of action. To accomplish this, Kershaw focuses on the attitudes and actions of the 4 primary Nazi leaders of the closing era (Goebbels, Bormann, Speer and Himmler) and secondarily on the senior military leaderships' posture. The story is amplified by extensive information culled from primary sources on the general population and it concludes with a summary chapter on "the anatomy of self-destruction". This is a good book, well-written and it provides a convenient one-volume synthesis of the topic; yet, it is not the unique effort asserted by the author in the preface.

It is quite apparent that Hitler enjoyed certain insights into the political nature of his potential opponents and cunningly implemented them initially to great success both domestically and internationally. So, given the barrage of pandering to the "volk" consciousness (in the form of German "master race" propaganda) and the overwhelming victories of the early years, it is hardly surprising that he successfully penetrated the core beliefs of the vast majority of his countrymen, imbuing them (and him) with a mutually reinforcing sensation of a shared and manifest destiny, this as destined rulers of the European continent. As has been written many times, Hitler was Germany's destiny and that destiny was war. As noted in 1935 by the British historian H.A.L.
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I arrived in Germany in April 1945 as an infantry replacement in the American Army. The enormity of the destruction of the major cities was obvious, but the domestic infrastructure such as electricity, postal services, fire brigades, medical services, etc. were largely intact. Rubble had been cleared from streets and many people were on the move, either by trucks running on charcoal burners or by foot, people pulling wagons. or just carrying their belongings on their back. Many were foreign and were trying to get back to their country of origin and many were Germans trying to re-locate to a less damaged area. The railroads which had been heavily bombed were partially to mostly back in action. Kershaw's account of this end of the war explains why the Germans continued to pay attention to what was perceived as their duty to continue civilization as they knew it even though foreign (to them) armies were now ruling them. If they had any animosity to the American troops, it was rarely evident. This was an excellent read and I enjoyed all of it.

Robert Morton
Norfolk, VA
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In the preface to this book, Ian Kershaw asserts that "It is not a military history". Correct, in the sense that he does not provide battlefield details or delve deeply into the tactics or strategy of the massive armies involved. But any history of the last two years of the Second World War would be meaningless without a description of military developments, as these were crucial to every other aspect of life in Germany and the nations it had conquered. Kershaw fulfills this relevant task with competence.

The principal assignment he has taken on, however, is the mystery of why the Germans fought on to the last, long after it was clear to all but a fringe of hard core Nazi fanatics that the war was lost. He answers the puzzle through a combination of factors: Hitler's continuing charismatic hold on the loyalty of his top lieutenants; a tight and ruthless Nazi party command structure; the tradition of honor among military officers which emphasized fidelity to their oath of obedience; the brutal treatment (including summary execution) of soldiers considered cowards, deserters, or "laggards"; the fear instilled into civilians accused of defeatism or disloyalty; the fact that SS officers and Nazi officials believed that they had burned their bridges; the dread of barbarian Bolshevik hordes implanted by years of propaganda; and, not least, the work ethic, discipline, duty and deference to authority inherent in German culture.

Although a significant majority of Germans had become disillusioned and cynical about the Nazi leadership by the last months of the war, virtually all feared to make their true feelings known. Many top level German generals were particularly troubled. The orders they received directly from Hitler were frequently tactically stupid or irrational.
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