Inside Hitler's Bunker The Last Days of the Third Reich

Joachim Fest; Translated by Margot Dembo




Trade Paperback

208 Pages



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Inside Hitler's Bunker, by the preeminent historian Joachim Fest, is a searing portrayal of the last weeks of the Third Reich. Nothing in recent history comes close to the cataclysmic events that took place during the spring of 1945, when the fall of the Nazi regime was accompanied by destruction of unequaled magnitude. Fest shows in chilling detail that the devastation was not only the result of Allied attacks but also of Hitler's determination to leave behind nothing but a wasteland. Utterly unconcerned about the fate of Berlin's civilian population or of his soldiers, Hitler ordered that water and sewage systems, power plants, factories, roads, and railway lines throughout Germany be destroyed; he commanded his dwindling armies, consisting largely of boys and old men, to fight on long after they had run out of ammunition and defeat had become a certainty.

From the desperate battles that raged night and day in the ruins of Berlin, to the growing paranoia that marked Hitler's mental state, to his suicide and the efforts of his loyal aides to destroy his body before the advancing Russian armies reached the bunker, Fest recounts these days in spellbinding prose, while exploring a question that's never been satisfactorily answered: Was Hitler's rise the inevitable outcome of German history, or was it a unique phenomenon? Inside Hitler's Bunker combines meticulous research with compelling storytelling and sheds light on events that, for those who survived them, were indeed nothing less than the end of the world.


Praise for Inside Hitler's Bunker

"A stupendous story, and Fest, one of Germany's renowned historians of the Nazis, tells it well."—The Atlantic Monthly

"Fest is undoubtedly Germany's most distinguished historian of the Third Reich. That he is also that country's greatest living journalist only adds to the incomparable way in which he tells the story of the last fourteen days of Hitler's life. A lifetime of reflection on the Nazi period is distilled in a short, but elegantly written and incisive book."—Michael Burleigh, author of The Third Reich: A New History

"Joachim Fest's Inside Hitler's Bunker is an up-to-date version of the old Trevor-Roper classic, The Last Days of Hitler, and in its own way, as much a classic."—Norman Stone, author of Hitler: The Final Years

"A vivid reconstruction of the final weeks of Hitler's regime. In mid-April 1945, the Soviets launched an offensive against Berlin 'with twenty armies, two-and-a-half million soldiers, and more than forty thousand mortars and field guns'—an avenging force of an almost unimaginable size and scale. Hitler retreated into the Reich Chancellery, but not before warning that this 'Asian onslaught' had to be stopped; if it were not, he warned, Germany's 'old people, men, and children will be murdered, and women and girls will be forced to serve as barracks whores.' Thus inspired, the Volksturm and Wehrmacht units charged with defending the city put up a stiff fight, even as Hitler continued to imagine that with Franklin Roosevelt's death the Western Allies would realize that their enemy was Russia and join Hitler's crusade. The fall of Vienna to the Soviets put an end to that vision, and Hitler—physically and mentally ill—waited out Marshal Zhukov's arrival while gorging himself on chocolate cake. An inglorious end, that, and German historian Fest surprises with a number of unreported or overlooked details—such as a letter that Albert Speer had written to Hitler only a few weeks before, chiding him 'for equating the existence of Germany with his own life span, describing this as an egocentricity unparalleled in history.' For all that, Hitler shot his wife and then himself, leaving it to the handful of remaining stalwarts to burn their corpses. Fest confirms that widely published photographs of Hitler's corpse were a hoax, but adds the intriguing note that many of the theories concerning Hitler's supposed survival came straight from Josef Stalin: 'Once he said that Hitler had escaped to Japan in a submarine; another time he mentioned Argentina; and later he said something about Franco's Spain.' A well-considered slice of the Nazi era, and one with a happy ending."—Kirkus Reviews

"German journalist and historian Fest has penned another admirable study of Nazi Germany that focuses on the final, cataclysmic days of Hitler's Third Reich in the Führer bunker beneath Berlin . . . [Fest synthesizes] a daunting body of research obtained from disparate [accounts and] sources into an accessible narrative. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries."—Edward Metz, Combined Arms Research Library, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Joachim Fest; Translated by Margot Dembo

  • Joachim Fest was born in Berlin in 1926. His previous books include The Face of the Third Reich; Hitler, his celebrated biography of Adolf Hitler; Plotting Hitler's Death; and Speer: The Final Verdict, for which he has won numerous awards.