Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Hitler's Last Day: Minute by Minute

Hitler's Last Day: Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie
Published by Short Books
9th April 2015
Hardback Edition

On 30th April 1945 Germany is in chaos...

Russian troops have reached Berlin. All over the country, people are on the move - concentration camp survivors, Allied PoWs, escaping Nazis - and the civilian population is fast running out of food. The man who orchestrated this nightmare is in his bunker beneath the capital, saying his farewells.

Hitler's Last Day: Minute by Minute is pure chronological narrative, as seen through the eyes of those who were with Hitler in those last tumultuous hours; those fighting in the streets of Germany; and those pacing the corridors of power in Washington, London and Moscow. It was a day of endings and beginnings when ordinary people were placed in extraordinary situations.

Take Sisi Wilczek, fleeing the advancing Russians with her family's vast fortune in a shoebox; President Truman, weighing up whether to use the atomic bomb that his Secretary of War calls 'the most terrible weapon ever known in human history'; German officer Claus Sellier, on a last mission across the country to deliver vital documents; or Allied aircrews dropping food parcels to feed the starving Dutch population.

30th April 1945 was a day that millions had dreamed of, and millions had died for.

I have to admit, the publication of this book passed me by, and it was only a conversation with my father, who had read some of it in his newspaper, that brought it to my attention.  As a former teacher of Nazi Germany, I'm certainly interested in this subject matter, and have read many a book on the subject itself - could this offer me anything new?

The answer simply is yes.  Whilst I don't think it actually tells 'minute by minute' of the last two days of Hitler's life, it certainly does 'hour by hour'.  The book cleverly follows characters (in this case, real people) through their movements of the 29th and 30th April 1945 and it was fascinating to read of them.  Using diary extracts and letters as well as film footage this book is a fascinating account of not just what was occurring in Germany on the final two days of the war, but also in Japan, America and England.

It also incorporates the lives of some now well-known people, such as Noel Coward, Richard Dimbleby, Alan Whicker and the man who inspired Ian Fleming to write the James Bond novels Captain Sigismund Payne-Best.  There was lots of content that I did already know, but much of what I did not; particularly of Hitler and Eva Braun's last moments and that of the Goebbels family - very distressing.

I have to say, this is a great read, and if you like history and Nazi Germany in particular, this is a winner.  I'm after the JFK book next!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

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