May 16, 2014

Happy Friday. Nice day here. We went bike riding last evening and saw people sitting out on their decks enjoying the weather.

I’ve been reading The End, by Ian Kershaw, author of a two-volume biography of Hitler, who describes in this book the last 10 months of the Nazi regime from July 1944 to May 1945, ending in Hitler’s suicide and the collapse of the party with US and British troops and Soviet troops converging on the center of Germany. We know how that worked out.

The book starts with some background, then relates the attempt to assassinate Hitler with a bomb at a staff meeting on July 20, 1944. Hitler, leaning over the heavy oak table under which the bomb had been left in a briefcase, survived the blast even though others in the room were blasted out the windows. He suffered loss of hearing in one ear and was never well after that until his death the following year. The perps were shot and the shock of the event led the Nazi Party to clamp down on all dissent even more fiercely.

As the war tilted in favor of the Allies, Albert Speer made heroic efforts to maintain armaments production for the Wehrmacht (the army), but the Luftwaffe (air force) was overpowered by Allied air power and could not defend Germany against massive bombing raids that destroyed industrial capacity and transport and demoralized the population. Meanwhile, the Red Army was advancing rapidly from the East, 2.5 million strong. Still, anyone who criticized the party or the Leader (der Fuherer) was apt to be shot or hanged with a sign around their neck saying this is what happens to traitors and defeatists.

As a result, due to a combination of fanaticism by the Nazis and fear among the populace, Germany fought on long after it was clear they were losing the war, resulting in massive unnecessary destruction and loss of life. The book details the exasperation of the German generals, who with few exceptions believed Hitler was a lousy strategist whose war plans often resulted in disaster. Hitler famously fired a series of generals who displeased him by suggesting other ways to position the troops to wage the war.

Anyway, very interesting book. For some reason Kershaw overuses the word “mentalities” in the first 20 pages, but after that the writing gets progressively better and makes for compulsive reading. In paperback, though my hardback copy was remaindered even cheaper. For the military history buff.

Kershaw The End

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