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Swansong 1945

A Collective Diary of the Last Days of the Third Reich

Walter Kempowski (Author), Shaun Whiteside (Translator)

Overview | Formats

A monumental work of history that captures the last days of the Third Reich as never before.

Swansong 1945 chronicles the end of Nazi Germany and World War II in Europe through hundreds of letters, diaries, and autobiographical accounts covering four days that fateful spring: Hitler’s birthday on April 20, American and Soviet troops meeting at the Elbe on April 25, Hitler’s suicide on April 30, and finally the German surrender on May 8. Side by side, we encounter vivid, first-person accounts of civilians fleeing Berlin, ordinary German soldiers determined to fight to the bitter end, American POWs dreaming of home, concentration-camp survivors’ first descriptions of their horrific experiences, as well as the intimate thoughts of figures such as Eisenhower, Churchill, Stalin, Joseph Goebbels, and Hitler himself.

These firsthand accounts, painstakingly collected and organized by renowned German author Walter Kempowski, provide the raw material of history and present a panoramic view of those tumultuous days. The more than 1,000 extracts include a British soldier writing to his parents to tell them there are no baths but plenty of eggs and chocolate, an American soldier describing “the tremendous burst of lilacs” as he approaches the Elbe, Mussolini wishing Hitler a happy birthday, Eva Braun bragging to a girlfriend about what a “crack shot” she’s become, and much more.

An extraordinary account of suffering and survival, Swansong 1945 brings to life the end of Nazi Germany and the war in Europe.

Book Details

  • Hardcover, Rough Front - Edge: Deckle, Feather, Uncut
  • April 2015
  • ISBN 978-0-393-24815-9
  • 6.6 × 9.6 in / 512 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth and the European Union.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverSwansong 1945: A Collective Diary of the Last Days of the Third Reich


Endorsements & Reviews

“An emotionally immediate and multi-faceted perspective of the last days of the Third Reich… No mere anthology but an artful collage… Difficult to put down.” — Gerald Steinacher, Wall Street Journal

“A disturbing but compulsively readable slice of history.” — Christian Science Monitor

“From the absurd to the sublime, and everywhere heartbreaking: a collage of voices from the tail end of the world's conflagration.… Raw [and] tremendously moving… Riveting.” — Kirkus (starred review)

“This is a book that can be read comfortably only page by page. Otherwise it will break your heart.” — Bill Marvel, Dallas Morning News

“Riveting… Kempowski's careful selection and sequencing convey the horror, misery, irony, and intensity of living through the last month of war in Germany. The work is noteworthy not just for its unique first-person perspective, but also for its breadth and depth… Essential.” — Publishers Weekly

“A treasure… [Swansong 1945] offer[s] powerful glimpses into otherwise lost history… The collection is a kaleidoscope of voices, revealing struggle of all kinds.” — Sarah Grant, Booklist (starred review)

“The power of [Swansong 1945] comes from the great variety and volume of the personal accounts, many of them eloquent and moving… This important book takes us beyond geography, statistics and battles and reveals the cost of war in very human terms.” — Roger Bishop, BookPage

“A remarkable collage of experiences and impressions of the catastrophic last days of the Second World War, which provides a unique panorama of the war and a very powerful impression of its impact on and the responses of those involved.” — Jeremy Noakes, author of Nazism 1919-1945

“A unique and haunting insight into what it was like to live through the violent twilight of the Third Reich. Indispensable and, above all, unforgettable.” — Frederick Taylor, author of Dresden

“A bewitching, dramatic, utterly extraordinary range of voices and eyewitness testimony as Europe entered its year-zero moment.” — David Kynaston, author of Austerity Britain

“A rare combination of aesthetic and historic truths… What gives Kempowski’s work its reach and humanity is his keen eye for both the sensory experience of war at its most destructive and individuals’ compulsion to go on making sense of it as it engulfed them.” — Nicholas Stargardt, author of Witnesses of War

“Amidst the fascinating multitude of voices assembled here the one that speaks most powerfully is that of Kempowski himself. This is a remarkable document of one person’s lifelong struggle to make sense of national collapse.” — Neil Gregor, author of Haunted City

“Kempowski is a master of form and proportion… The end of the war has never before been depicted like this.” — Volker Hage, author of Hamburg 1943