Last Days of the Reich: Collapse of Nazi Germany, May 1945 - James LucasLondon & Sydney: Arms & Armour Press, 1986, Hardback in Dust Wrapper.
Condition: Very Good — in Very Good Dust Wrapper. Top edge of the text block slightly tanned otherwise a very well presented copy.
Illustrated by way of: Black & White Photographs; Maps;
From the cover: “The war is over but the killing continues…
May 1945: the Allies close in on Germany. The resistance of her once-mighty armies finally collapses in the ruins of the ‘Thousand-Year Reich’. Beneath the rubble of a Berlin shaken to death by the pounding of Soviet artillery, the bunker is quiet and peaceful; afternoon tea is served as Hitler and his staff move flags on maps that bear no relation to real events.
Some units do not exist; others are mere shadows of their original strengths, scattered groups of hunted men, not conquerors now, but staring into the face of defeat. And with that defeat will come retribution for a million crimes committed throughout a continent. It is a time of signatures and suicides.
In the West, the Americans, British and French face an uncoordinated defence of old men and boys with makeshift weapons. In the south, partisans have finally eaten through the crust of the German resistance. In the east, the Red terror advances remorselessly, leaving in its wake devastation and outrage, as Stalin makes his final lunge for the key strategic cities of central Europe: Breslau, Prague, Vienna — and, above all, Berlin.
This masterly account is the story of those last, terrible days of the Second World War. On the eastern front, the fighting had taken on a dreadful, bitter aspect early on; three years of intensive, epic conflict in which each side had seemingly tried to outdo the other in atrocity and terror had not prepared the ground for peace and reconciliation. In Germany, propaganda predictions of the horrors and brutalities of the Red Army were to prove all too true. The brutality of the Nazis would be fully paralleled by those of the conqueror.
For the governors of Rider’s empire, their families, wives and children, escape from the approaching apocalypse meant running the gaundet of now-confident partisans on the roads to safety. But fear of reprisals was not confined to the vanquished; exiles from Russia, anti-Communists, deserters, even ex-prisoners of war, knew well what hard fate awaited diem in the cold heart of Russia. And now was a time to settle old scores — between people, nations and races. For Croats and Slovenes, for Cossacks and White Russians, this would mean deportation followed by imprisonment, or execution at the hands of their racial and political enemies. For the Magyars and the Volksdeutsche, racial Germans whose homes lay beyond the boundary of Germany proper, the future held little more than a lifetime spent in a camp for displaced persons and refugees.
Across the vast frontlines of the advancing armies, resistance and surrender made striking contrasts. Within a few miles there would be a world of difference in the reception of the Allied troops: in some villages and towns, the locals burst into applause and showered kisses upon their liberators; while a few miles away in another hamlet, bitter SS Wehrwolves mined roads and sniped at truck drivers. In Vienna, ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations celebrated the coming of the Soviet Army, the old Nazi flags having been dyed red for the occasion. In Klagenfurt, British soldiers drank tea and made sandwiches in the main squares, looking for all the world like tourists rather than conquerors; while the men of the Queen’s Regiment who liberated Venice were appalled at the indifference of the inhabitants.
On each front, the commanders were faced with the awesome task of making their surrender to the victors on the best terms possible. When and how were they to surrender? And to whom? Always, there was a preference for the affable Americans, and dread of the Russians. And such fear had been fed with false prophesies: inevitably, the capitalist West must clash with the communist East; the West would combine with the Reich against the Asian hordes. The delusion, fostered by propaganda, took hold so firmly that rearguard units of the Wehrmacht fought determinedly to hold the ‘eastern wall’ against the Russians while the Americans advanced through southern Germany and Austria to join them. The Chief of Staff of the Sixth Army even sent to ask General Patton to supply US troops to bring forward medical suppfies to German forces on the Eastern Front.
This compelling account fully captures the tension, turmoil and tragedy of those last, terrible days of war, vividly bringing to life the human sensations and proceeding with a pace that makes it compulsive reading. The enthralling narrative, by James Lucas, author of War in the Desert and Kommando, is accompanied by over 100 photographs and maps, combining to make this a uniquely panoramic portrait of Europe in the wreckage of war.”