"[G]ripping, immaculately researched . . . In Mr. Ullrich’s account, the murderous behavior of the Reich’s last-ditch loyalists was not a reaction born of rage or of stubbornness in the face of defeat—common enough in war—but of something that had long ago tipped over into the pathological." —Andrew Stuttaford, Wall Street Journal
The best-selling author of Hitler: Ascent and Hitler: Downfall reconstructs the chaotic, otherworldly last days of Nazi Germany.
In a bunker deep below Berlin’s Old Reich Chancellery, Adolf Hitler and his new bride, Eva Braun, took their own lives just after 3:00 p.m. on April 30, 1945—Hitler by gunshot to the temple, Braun by ingesting cyanide. But the Führer’s suicide did not instantly end either Nazism or the Second World War in Europe. Far from it: the eight days that followed were among the most traumatic in modern history, witnessing not only the final paroxysms of bloodshed and the frantic surrender of the Wehrmacht, but the total disintegration of the once-mighty Third Reich.
In Eight Days in May, the award-winning historian and Hitler biographer Volker Ullrich draws on an astonishing variety of sources, including diaries and letters of ordinary Germans, to narrate a society’s descent into Hobbesian chaos. In the town of Demmin in the north, residents succumbed to madness and committed mass suicide. In Berlin, Soviet soldiers raped German civilians on a near-unprecedented scale. In Nazi-occupied Prague, Czech insurgents led an uprising in the hope that General George S. Patton would come to their aid but were brutally put down by German units in the city. Throughout the remains of Third Reich, huge numbers of people were on the move, creating a surrealistic tableau: death marches of concentration-camp inmates crossed paths with retreating Wehrmacht soldiers and groups of refugees; columns of POWs encountered those of liberated slave laborers and bombed-out people returning home.