Volker Ullrich (2020)

The period between Hitler’s suicide and the final surrender of Germany occupies the eight days of the title. The ways in which different people responded during that time shaped a lot of the post-war landscape, and also caused astonishing suffering that could have been avoided by prompter action.

There was a lot of magical thinking on display, which Ullrich absolutely nails. The idea that Germany under the Dönitz government could fight on in the East while surrendering in the West clearly seemed like a realistic strategy, even though it had been doomed by the agreements reached at Yalta and Tehran. But it was a choice that elongated the Red Army’s rampage through Prussia and solidified the contours of post-war Europe. Ullrich never shies-away from the crimes of the Nazis or the Allies.

There are some interesting explorations of the early careers of individuals who later came to influence, for example the future leaders of both East and West Germany managing to survive Hitler’s death – and Marlene Dietrich’s war following the US Army all through the European theatre.

5/5. Finished Tuesday 2 May, 2023.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)