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 through more than 1,000 extracts from letters, diaries, and autobiographical accounts, written by civilians and soldiers alike. Together, they present a panoramic view of four tumultuous 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 the German surrender on May 8. An extraordinary account of suffering and survival, Swansong 1945 brings to vivid life the end of World War II in Europe.
Kempowski (1929 2007), a German novelist and historian, presents a riveting history of the final days of WWII from a predominantly German perspective. Formally, the work is a collage of personal experiences extracted primarily from diaries (of which 10 volumes exist, this being the fourth and the first in English translation), and it's organized by date: four days in late April and May 1945. Hundreds of short diary excerpts relate a variety of experiences on each date, and Kempowski's careful selection and sequencing convey the horror, misery, irony, and intensity of living through the last month of war in Germany. The work is noteworthy not just for its unique first-person perspective, but also for its breadth and depth: Hitler's last moments in his bunker, Stalin's daughter celebrating victory, the rape of German women by Russian soldiers and others, and the brutal conditions in the concentration camps. A general knowledge of European geography and the history of the fall of Germany in 1945 is assumed. Kempowski evenhandedly presents the Germans as both perpetrators and victims in this essential volume on the ravages of WWII.