Cover image for Inside Hitler's bunker : the last days of the Third Reich
Inside Hitler's bunker : the last days of the Third Reich
Fest, Joachim C., 1926-2006.
Uniform Title:
Untergang. English
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiii, 190 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DD247.H5 U4813 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



There is nothing in recent history that comes close to the cataclysmic events of the spring of 1945. Never before has the defeat of a nation been accompanied by such monumental loss of life, such utter destruction. Author Joachim Fest shows that the devastation was the result of Hitler's determination to take the entire country down with him; he would make sure that his enemies would find only a wasteland, where once there was a thriving civilization. Fest describes in riveting detail the final weeks of the war, from the desperate battles that raged night and day in the ruins of Berlin, fought by boys and old men, to the growing paranoia that marked Hitler's mental state--his utter disregard for the well being of both soldiers and civilians-- to his suicide and the efforts of his loyal aides to destroy his body before the advancing Russian armies reached Berlin. Inside Hitler's Bunker combines meticulous research with spellbinding storytelling and sheds light on events that, for those who survived them, were nothing less than the end of the world.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Books on Nazism, Hitler and the Third Reich always seem to find an eager audience, though it is the rare volume, such as Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners, that actually manages to spark interest beyond that specialized circle. And so, though this volume is blessed by careful research, by an author who is an expert in his field and by a gripping, tightly focused narrative, it hardly seems destined to appeal to anyone beyond diehard enthusiasts. The book details Hitler's increasing mental and physical disintegration during the final days of WWII, when he was secreted underneath the battle-ravaged streets of Berlin with a last core of supporters. It ends with his suicide as Russian troops close in. Fest is the author of several previous books about Hitler and Nazism (The Face of the Third Reich; Speer; Hitler; etc.). His command of diaries, letters and other primary sources allows him to share such illuminating details as the following: "Hitler's...facial features had become puffy, bloated. The thick, dark pouches under his eyes became more and more noticeable...cake crumbs stuck to the corners of his mouth." Photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Choice Review

Noted German historian Fest draws on a number of other works to explain what evidently happened inside Hitler's bunker at the end of WW II. In particular, he pays due homage to H.R. Trevor-Roper's 1947 book The Last Days of Hitler. There are no footnotes, so readers are at a loss to tell the sources of many of the details, but so many other scholars have offered similar material that this shortcoming is of less significance than if the book contained radically new material. What one does miss in this work by such a well-known and respected scholar, however, is some definitive treatment of the information pertaining to Hitler's remains that has been derived by others from the alleged new evidence released by the Russians since the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union. This alleged evidence, which the Russians have offered at least since the mid 1990s, needs to be evaluated by a scholar of Fest's stature. It is too bad he does not address the matter head-on, and instead presents an updated account of the chaos that surrounded the end of the Third Reich and the death of Adolf Hitler. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. D. A. Browder Austin Peay State University

Booklist Review

With Ianershaw, Fest is the most authoritative and reputable of the numerous biographers of the Nazi dictator, and he here continues the reconstruction, initiated by British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper's The Last Days of Hitler (1946), of Hitler's suicide. Fest's may not be the last word, either, as he notes that historians have not yet accessed some Soviet interrogation records of Hitler's retinue. With such caveats, Fest narrates the sequence of the final Soviet offensive against Berlin, as reported to the bomb shelter where Hitler was holed up. Fest pauses in four chapters for interpretive reflection on the spectacle of apocalyptic destruction that was Berlin in April 1945. It had a demented theatricality, Fest argues, in which Hitler took some jubilation and even fulfillment. As his final act in history, willing the city's destruction was a characteristic if intensified outer spectacle of Hitler's inner pathologies. Fest connects his last ravings with the exaltation of hatred, conquest, and death of his preceding course. Well-rendered and judged, Fest's treatment will provoke thought about Nazidom's finale. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

German journalist and historian Fest (Hitler: A Biography) has penned another admirable study of Nazi Germany that focuses on the final, cataclysmic days of Hitler's Third Reich in the F?hrer bunker beneath Berlin. Four factual chapters chronicle events as reconstructed by reliable eyewitness reports and interviews. They are complemented by four reflective chapters that look at the "deeper meaning" behind those events. Reprising a theme from his Hitler biography, Fest describes his subject essentially as a supreme nihilist. The destruction in the final weeks of the war, engendered by Hitler's obstinate refusal to end the fighting long after defeat was certain, gave him, according to Fest, a "greater sense of satisfaction" than any of his early victories. The tragic devastation was further compounded and abetted by the "inculcated obsequiousness" of Hitler's entourage and leading generals, who did little or nothing to stop him. While there are no surprising revelations, Fest does synthesize a daunting body of research obtained from disparate, if sometimes dated, sources into an accessible narrative. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Edward Metz, Combined Arms Research Lib., Ft. Leavenworth, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Excerpt from Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich by Joachim Fest, translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo. Copyright (c) 2002 by Alexander Fest Verlag. Translation copyright (c) 2004 by Margot Bettauer Dembo. Published in April, 2004 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. One The Battle Begins At 3 a.m. several flares rose into the night sky, flooding the bridgehead near Küstrin with brilliant red light. After a moment of oppressive silence a thunderous roar shook the Oder lowlands Far beyond Frankfurt. As though set off by an unseen presence, sirens began to howl, telephones jangled, and books fell off shelves in places as far away as Berlin. It was April 16, 1945, the day the Soviets launched their offensive against Berlin with twenty armies, two and a half million soldiers, and more than forty thousand mortars and field guns, as well as hundreds of multibarreled Katyusha rockets--almost five hundred rocket barrels per mile. Immense pillars of fire leaped up around the villages of Letschin, Seelow, Friedersdorf, and Dolgelin, forming a wall of lightning flashes, spurting clods of earth, and flying rubble. Whole forests went up in flames, and survivors later recalled the hot windstorms that swept through the countryside, turning everything into fire, dust, and ashes. After half an hour the hellish noise suddenly stopped and for a few seconds a strange stillness set in, broken only by the crackling of fire and the howling of the wind. Then the beam of a Soviet searchlight blazed straight up into the sky--the signal for 143 spotlights to be switched on. These were spaced about two hundred yards apart and were aimed horizontally across the battlefield. Their blinding beams revealed a deeply furrowed landscape, and broke up only a few miles away when they hit the Seelow Heights, that day's target for Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, commander-in-chief of the First White Russian Front. His order initiating the battle: "The enemy must be crushed on the shortest route to Berlin. You must capture the capital of fascist Germany and raise the banner of victory over the city!" The dramatic light show, referred to in Soviet planning circles as Zhukov's "miracle weapon," proved to be a failure and cost the Russians heavy casualties. Despite objections, Zhukov had stuck with his plan to "blind" the enemy forces, who, he believed, would already be confused and discouraged as a result of the continuing artillery fire, making them unfit to fight. Thus, in their first onslaught, the Soviets would be able to overrun the ridge, which was nearly ninety feet high and interspersed with hollows and slopes. But the dense curtain of smoke and battle haze that the heavy barrage had laid over the plain only swallowed up the beams of the searchlights, and the attackers found themselves wandering about helplessly in the murky twilight. Moreover, it turned out that the Soviet high command had completely misjudged the difficulty of the terrain, which was crisscrossed by canals, watery marshes, and drainage ditches, and was, during April, subject to springtime flooding. Troop carriers, trucks, and heavy equipment of all sorts got mired in the boggy ground, slipped deep into the mud, and had to be abandoned. But, worst of all, just before the start of the battle, the commander of the German Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici, who was familiar with the Russian commander's tactics, had pulled back his farthest forward defensive units, and for the most part the Soviet fire missed its target. Consequently, when the attacking Soviet infantry units--led and accompanied by massive contingents of tanks--came storming out of the billowing smoke with piercing yells and fluttering flags, the far weaker defenders, who were mostly assembled from the remnants of repeatedly decimated units, merely waited till they were close enough and then shot almost randomly into the teeming shadows. At the same time hundreds of German antiaircraft guns, their barrels lowered, opened fire as soon as the outlines of the advancing tanks materialized in the diffuse light. By daybreak the onslaught had been repulsed, with the attackers sustaining heavy losses. Zhukov's first mistake was followed by a second. Disappointed, desperate, and pressured by an angry Stalin, he decided to make a change in the previously agreed-upon strategy. He ordered his two tank armies, which had taken up positions behind the front, to go into action. Originally they were to wait until a sizable breach had been made in the German defensive line, but now they advanced to the battlefield, increasing the confusion that already reigned in the rear of the fighting troops. The tanks forced their way down clogged roads past disoriented units, preventing a redeployment of the artillery, and cutting off the access roads for reinforcements and supplies. And since the tanks went into action without a coordinated strategy, they produced utter chaos that soon led to the complete crippling of the Soviet operation. On the evening of April 16, one of Zhukov's army commanders, General Vasili I. Chuikov, noted that the Soviet units had not carried out their assignments and had not advanced "a single step" in some places. The plan to capture Berlin on Day Five of the offensive had failed. Excerpted from Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich by Joachim C. Fest All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. vii
1 The Battle Beginsp. 3
2 Hitler in German History: Consistency or Catastrophe?p. 33
3 "The War Is Lost!"p. 44
4 Finisp. 70
5 Banquet of Deathp. 83
6 The Will to Destroyp. 123
7 Capitulationp. 135
8 The End of a Worldp. 165
Bibliographyp. 175
Indexp. 183