After Hitler: The Last Days of World War Two in Europe by Michael Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A nice summer read that adds to the historical record surrounding WWII. In much of the history written we seem to stop with the death of Hitler by suicide in the bunker, and a pivot to the war in the Pacific. The reality is that the war in Europe went on for another week plus after Hitler’s death, with the so called Donitz government in Germany looking to exploit potential divisions in the Allied camp to keep some semblance of Nazi rule alive in Germany.
As much as I have read on WWII I discovered my own ignorance of Donitz, who I had incorrectly perceived as more military than Nazi. Jones exposes that fallacy, with Donitz shown to be a loyal disciple of Hitler, even after Hitler’s death. Jones delves slightly into the pre-Hitler death period, which dealt with Hitler and Goebbels hopes of salvation through a schism between Soviet Russia, and Great Britain and the U.S. Even in his debilitated condition Hitler had some rudimentary political instincts that could perceive the obvious, but his massive crimes against humanity foreclosed any hope of a political deal that could sever the western allies from the Soviet Union. This book deals with some of the military actions taken by the allies, the political situation as the Red Army closed in on Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the Donitz attempt to ensure German surrender of military units to the western allies rather than to the Red Army.
The book shows General Dwight Eisenhower as a true man of honor in terms of his adherence to agreements reached amongst the allies, making difficult decisions to halt in place along pre-agreed lines of demarcation, even when such decisions were opposed by those who wanted to chip away at territory that would be grabbed by the Red Army. Eisenhower realized the fragile nature of the alliance, and took the necessary steps to assuage his suspicious Russian allies.
The outline of the cold war in Europe, and the genesis of the term “Iron Curtain” is covered, and brings some good historical perspective. The last ten days of the war in Europe laid the groundwork for a long “cold war” between west and east, as incompatible visions of what should occur post war hardened into a situation that brought us close to war on several occasions. Jones covers a very important period of history that has been under-reported, and brings some of the continuing horrors of WWII, post Hitler, to light.