Book review, History, Hugh Trevor Roper, Second World War, The Last Days of Adolf Hitler

The Last Days of Adolf Hitler by Hugh Trevor Roper

Probably the last thing the world needs is another book about the Nazis, but I bought this (second hand) at the same time as the Bullock biography, read it, and it seems daft not to review it for risk of repetition. It does overlap with the later chapters of the Bullock book to some extent, and indeed is cited in it, but is quite distinct in other respects.

This book was originally commissioned as an investigation into (you guessed it) the last days of Adolf, specifically to address the rumours that he had escaped Berlin and was lurking somewhere in South America. The absence of a body, and the Russian refusal to clarify some of the confusion around his last days, fuelled this speculation. Trevor Roper puts this all neatly to bed, and while conspiracy theories linger to this day, unsurprisingly, they have never had the potency one might expect given Hitler’s status as the ultimate bogey-man.

To pad things out a little, the book opens with a summary of Hitler’s court, describing the principal characters and the bizarre wider cast of astrologers, masseurs, vegetarian chefs and the like. This is reasonably standard stuff, but where this book really takes off is in the almost minute by minute account of the last days of the Third Reich. I couldn’t avoid speculating how the British Government might have ended had things gone badly in 1941. Hitler’s choices once again seem hard to fathom. if he wanted to fight to the bitter end, why not leave Berlin, join some of the surviving German forces, which remained considerable, and fight on? Instead he holed up in a city destined to be taken by the Russians, and then killed himself rather than being captured.

As a reference work this is second to none. As a read it is well-written and relatively short. If you want to know about Hitler’s last days there are probably more up to date accounts available, as well as plenty of documentaries and the like, but nevertheless I am quite happy to have added this to my collection.