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Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich [Paperback]

Joachim C. Fest , Margot Bettauer Dembo


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By Fest, Joachim C [ [ Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich [ INSIDE HITLER'S BUNKER: THE LAST DAYS OF THE THIRD REICH BY Fest, Joachim C ( Author ) Apr-01-2005[ INSIDE HITLER'S BUNKER: THE LAST DAYS OF THE THIRD REICH [ INSIDE HITLER'S BUNKER: THE LAST DAYS OF THE THIRD REICH BY FEST, JOACHIM C ( AUTHOR ) APR-01-2005 ] By Fest, Joachim C ( Author )Apr-01-2005 Paperback ] ] Apr-2005[ Paperback ]

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Ending to a Dark Time 30 May 2004
By William Holmes - Published on Amazon.com
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.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Authentic Look inside the End of the Nightmare 20 May 2004
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
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. An orderly had been sent up to ask for quiet, since the Fuhrer was about to die, but no one paid any attention. The drinking and dancing only continued.
There were famous reports that Hitler had survived, reports that the tabloid press made much of during the next decades; there were plenty of conspiracy theories. The Russians found a body that looked like Hitler, and insisted that they had his corpse. It was just the sort of end he had not wanted, however, and he had taken precautions to make sure it did not occur. A ration of gasoline was obtained, and the two bodies were cremated near the exit of the bunker. What happened to the remaining dust can only be guessed at; artillery shelling and flamethrowers turned the area even more chaotic. Some of Hitler's henchmen followed him in suicide, some fled. Fest's book gives a rough description of the subsequent battle for Berlin, but this is mostly a ghastly story of awful gloom within a grotesquely unnatural cave. It is a short book, in a readable translation, accompanied by vivid and shocking pictures, unrelieved by any light anecdotes or instances of individual heroism. Fest's explanation of Hitler's motivation ("like a gang leader, he pursued a course that never went beyond the idea of killing and looting") is satisfactory, but perhaps no one can explain how with no coherent version of where he was leading Germany he could have been so staunchly supported for so long. When Fest writes that Hitler's ashes wound up tamped into bombardment-plowed ground, "among chunks of blasted concrete and heaps of garbage," it is clear that he has satisfaction that Hitler got the end he deserved.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick narrative of the Third Reich's final days... 17 April 2005
By ewomack - Published on Amazon.com
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. Even when those at the top of the Reich's command knew the battle could not be won against the largely superior Soviet force, they kept up the fight. This doubtlessly caused many needless deaths.

Fest also includes chapters for "reflection" that explore questions arising from the war narrative. Chapter two discusses Hitler's place in German history. Was he an anamoly or the result of a cultural and political progression? Fest juxtaposes Hitler with Bismarck and Frederick the Great, and points out important differences. But the book's most disturbing chapter, "The Will to Destroy", outlines Hitler's stance on destruction, and argues that one of Hitler's underlying motives all along was base destruction. Fest uses this discussion to elucidate the seemingly bizarre and inexplicable orders Hitler gave from the bunker under the Reich Chancellery up until the end. Did Hitler see himself as a failure before he shot himself? Or did he see himself as a romantic hero á la Richard Wagner's "Reinzi"?

This book will also dispell any rumors that Hitler survived the Soviet invasion of Berlin. Fest briefly details the legends that arose from the Soviets themselves around alleged Hitler corpses and Rube Goldberg-esque escape plots. The Nazis themselves, for more obvious reasons, hid Hitler's suicide from the German population of Berlin. Fest also gives probable reasons why Hitler and Eva Braun's remains were not found. He also points out areas where information remains sketchy, controversial, or nebulous.

This is not a light read. It details suffering, collapse, and the miseries that inevitably arise from a war on the scale of World War II. The only bright side is that it outlines the final hours of the European war, and the end of Nazi rule in Germany. Hopefully the world will never see destruction on that scale again. Some sixty years later (almost to the day of the beginning of the battle for Berlin on April 16, 1945) we still have plenty to learn from what hopefully will remain the last World War.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The last days of a fallen empire.... 5 Jun 2004
By irnmtn25 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Fest, who is the author of one of the most authoritative biographies on Hitler, focuses on the final few days of the Third Reich in his new book. This is a really riveting book, and once you get past the first 15 or so pages, you won't want to put it down. Fest does a great job at describing the general disorganization and confusion of those final days, and showing just have bad Berlin had been destroyed by the Russian and American assault upon it. I think Fest does raise some good questions about Hitler and his importance in history. Also, the speculation that Hitler's aims and goals for the Third Reich were not for the betterment of civilization, but for the eventual destruction and enslavement of it, is an apt assessment. Also, Dembo's translation is much better than the translators for some of Fest's other works, and I think this also had a lot to do with why the book was so good. The reson why I gave it only 4 stars as opposed to 5 is that it does seem a little sketchy at times in its treatment of the Bunker, but then again, much is speculation anyway. Another reason for the 4 stars is that Fest really gives no dramatically new information here, but he makes other excellent observations and such that you just can't stop reading. A good companion to this tome would be UNTIL THE FINAL HOUR by Traudl Junge, Hitler's last secretary in the Bunker, so that one can get a historical, as well as personal, perspective on the events surrounding the fall of the Third Reich.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment 22 Oct 2004
By John Crane - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I'm an avid WWII reader, so it was with great anticipation that I began reading this book. The mystery surrounding Hitler's last days in the bunker, is such an unknown. Any book that attempts to shed light on this period in history becomes an instant best-seller.

As the title of my review indicates, I am very disapointed in Joachim Fest's book. It is entirely too short and just doesn't begin to scratch the surface.

There are many other works out there such as the work narrated by one of Hitler's secretarys Traudl Junge, that goes much deeper than this book.

I read Fest's book in three hours and set it on the shelf feeling like I was cheated. The book is incomplete at best!
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