Just finished Hugh Trevor-Roper’s classic account of two weeks in Berlin in the spring of 1945, The Last Days of Hitler. A few observations:
1. The extent to which the Nazi leadership class had devolved into an intriguing royal court by 1944 can’t be overstated.
2. Hitler, and to a surprising extent the people around him, had lost their bearings in the reality of the global political situation. With the benefit of hindsight (even from the near distance of 1947, when Trevor-Roper published the first edition), the degree of delusion required to imagine, in early 1945, any outcome other than the systematic destruction of all remnants of the Nazi regime by the united allies now seems hard to credit. But not just Hitler but also other saner members of the inner court had such delusions up until the final week, and some of the inner circle held onto them briefly even after Hitler himself was dead.
3. It’s so much easier and richer to read a book like this now that I can grab a device that’s at hand and look up things like “Bavarian uprising 1945” as they come up. I always loved reading history when I was younger, but I found it hard work and had to let a lot slip by as I went, because doing side research was too much work. With Google, Wikipedia, smartphones, and pervasive connectivity, it’s so much richer an experience.
4. Now I want to read a comprehensive start-to-finish history of the war years! Fortunately I’m pretty sure I have a couple on the shelf.
Also published on Medium.