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Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945

(Adolf Hitler #2)

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  282 ratings  ·  45 reviews
A major new biography—an extraordinary, penetrating study of the man who has become the personification of evil.

For all the literature about Adolf Hitler there have been just four seminal biographies; this is the fifth, a landmark work that sheds important new light on Hitler himself. Drawing on previously unseen papers and a wealth of recent scholarly research, Volker Ull
...more
Hardcover, 912 pages
Published September 1st 2020 by Knopf (first published October 4th 2018)
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Average rating 4.61  · 
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Michael Finocchiaro
An absolute masterpiece follow-on to the first volume, Hitler: Downfall is an unflinching account of WWII in all its gore, brutality, and horror. It is also the biography of the 20th century’s most notorious dictator. Without fanning the flames of the current political shift towards the far right, I will just say that the last chapter about Hitler’s legacy should be required reading in high schools across America and Western Europe. Adopting a fact-based assessment of the why behind the abject d ...more
Matt
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A masterful finish to the previous volume. The making of the modern world passed through the crucible of the Second World War and Volker Ullrich, through two volumes, details the machinations that led to Hitler’s rise and World War II (the progeny of its prosecutor). Essential reading to anyone interested in the conflict that is, in my opinion, the most consequential collision of force and terror between human beings in history.
Stephen
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although essential reading after the first book and obviously the two need to be read together, I didn't find this one quite as fascinating. There was just too much going on so that it was as much a book about the Second World War (and I have already read many books on that) as about Hitler himself. While it was interesting to read about Hitler's physical and mental decline, I didn't learn as much about the man himself as I did in the first book. Still a solid 4 stars though and the two books to ...more
Thomas
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945 is the conclusion to Volker Ullrich’s two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler. In this volume, Ullrich examines the significant military events that reversed the fortunes of the Third Reich during World War II, as well as the physical and mental decline of its Führer, Adolf Hitler. Volker Ullrich utilizes numerous archival documents to chronicle these events in meticulous detail. Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945 is a captivating and enthralling read.

“We must keep our eyes on
...more
David Wasley
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These massive 2 volumes represent an astonishing achievement. It is no surprise to read that it took the author 8 years to complete and took a definite psychological toll. For me, this is historical research and writing at its finest. Easily, a 5-star reading experience.
David C Ward
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite as good as the first volume because the war takes over the narrative. The rise of AH is more biographically compelling. The best sections are the summary analytical chapters on topics ranging from life in AH’s circle to the stage managing of the final days as well as the summing up of the whole career. A achievement by Ullrich and having finished it he can now, as he writes in his forward, move on to more pleasant topics.
Drew
Oct 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a long, hard read, but one worth the trouble. While the star rating on Goodreads offers choices of three stars, "I liked it", or four stars, "I really liked it", those epithets don't really fit with the experience of reading about Hitler's unparalleled career of criminality, murder and destruction.
I've been in Germany for over 20 years and I decided to read this two-volume biography to better understand the place where I live and where my children are growing up.
It's a sobering read,
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Susan Paxton
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii, history
For a book I've eagerly awaited since the first volume, I was a bit let down. Volume One is probably the best Hitler biography yet; Ullrich teased out a lot of new information and utilized it ably. This book feels...rushed. Little really new, and it also is spottily translated, although the same translator worked on the first volume. The index is an atrocity; I understand that indexes are done last and in a hurry (I've done indexing; I know), but this one is utterly useless (look at the indexing ...more
Wilf Wilson
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
It took me three months.

Unavoidably, much of the subject matter is grim, sickening, and depressing. But it also appears to be thoroughly well-written and researched, and I found it undoubtedly enlightening. The second world war ended 75 years ago, but there surely continues to be much that we can learn from the times of Hitler's rise and fall.

This is a recent work, which I appreciated while I was reading it. I always felt that the historian-author was writing as dispassionately as possible, from
...more
Lisa Konet
This was well written and researched. Probably the best biography I have read about Hitler's demise without reading Volume 1 Hitler's Ascent. Obviously, theses two volumes are to be read in conjunction of each other. I felt this was a decent account of his peak and decline. IT IS NOT AN EASY TO STOMACH READ. All the devastation, torturing and lives lost die to his beliefs is incomprehensible but it happened. This book will definitely make you emotional.

Highly recommended if you are into reading
...more
Paul Day
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ullrich's second volume is as superbly researched and written as his first volume. It is equally a Hitler biography and a WWII history.

These two volumes provided me with a better understanding of how Hitler thought, how he perceived the world and what his natural instincts were. Obviously he was intrinsically evil, but he was not insane, drug addicted nor unintelligent. The second volume points out how the instincts and talents that led to his rapid ascent also contributed to his demise.
...more
Alan
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In and of its self this volume is not as easy or readable as Ulrich's first volume on Hitler's life but in the end the two volumes together are indispensable not only for those who are interested in WWII but, also for those who want to understand how Hitler came into power (Volume I) and how and what that power wreaked on German society and the world ultimately (Volume II).

Volume II is most difficult to get through for reasons that should be obvious: the Jewish question and its ultimate solutio
...more
Bill Silverman
Oct 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"A loser stewing in his hatred for the entire world," as one observer noted in January 1943. And as Volker Ullrich concludes later in the second volume of this fascinating biography, "If his life and career teaches us anything, it how how quickly democracy can be prised from its hinges when political institutions fail and civilising forces in society are too weak to combat the lure of authoritarianism; how thin the mantle separating civilization and barbarism actually is; and what human beings a ...more
Martin
“Resist it as we might, but we must always return to think about Adolph Hitler,” wrote Friedrich Kellner in 1942. Kellner, a Social Democrat whose diary provided posterity many trenchant observations about life under Nazism, was proven correct by our enduring fascination with the man.

We probably do not want to spend hours of our lives reading and thinking about Adolph Hitler. We may simply find it unavoidable. At a time when Americans are grappling with the potential demise of democracy, when li
...more
John Vandike
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is certainly no dearth of single and multivolume treatments of Adolph Hitler out there. Ian Kershaw's two volumes in 1998 and 2000; Fest in 2015, Simms and Longerich both in 2019 with single volume popular biographies. And it goes without saying the literature from the latter half of the twentieth century swamps that of this one and there is almost no end to scholarly works in the 75 years since the end of the Second World War. So, how does Ullrich stand up to the the other recent works on ...more
Steven
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent second volume. Highly recommend. Goes over territory that we're all at least a little familiar with, but does so intelligently and to a level of detail I had not encountered before. Very well-written, quite readable. His chapters on the Eastern Front were eye-opening.

And for my fellow Americans out there, here are two cautionary passages:
1. (in 1945) "While [Hitler] had by no means turned into an entirely different person, several of his character traits had become even more pronou
...more
Peter Mabee
Another is a series of great books reconsidering the common understanding in the West of WWII based on analysis of archives that opened after the end of the cold war. Essentially, our traditional Western perspective on the war obscures the vastly more important story of the Eastern Front, and this study of wartime Hitler pulls on two particularly interesting threads.

First, the degree to which the awful fate of European Jews was connected to the entire war on the Eastern Front - the war in the E
...more
James Spencer
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read several biographies of Hitler because I find the man and the insanity of Germany during his time fascinating. In my opinion, Ullrich's two volume work is the best. He (and his translator, the original having been written in German) have produced a highly readable narrative of the Nazi years but more importantly, Ullrich's analysis seems spot on. He rejects any mitigating factors for Hitler's behavior, in particular the notion that the failure to find a written order signed by Hitler or ...more
Brandon Westlake
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
There is a lot of military history here, which in an extensive biography of Hitler, is justified. His life was dominated by the war and destruction he wrought on Europe. If this is not your thing (it is not mine) much of this book is a slog. This is not to take away from Ullrich's work. In fact, his focus on this makes the biography more credible and focused on his subject. I personally just had time being drawn into the nuances of war planning and military operations. Volume 1 read much smoothe ...more
Alan
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read several books on Hitler and World War II, including Ian Kershaw's volume I and II, Joachim Fest, William Shirer, Robert Payne, John Toland, and Alan Bullock. I found Downfall to be a different insight on Hitler's thinking. I have to admit that I skipped one chapter, I don't like reading about the Holocaust and the unimaginable cruelty committed by the SS units that followed Hitler's troops through towns and villages. The author doesn't seem to put much faith in some of the statement ...more
Stuart Miller
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-cpl-copy
Those who devoured Volume I will definitely want to read Volume II as Ullrich concludes this compelling biography of Hitler. Ullrich makes the case that Hitler knew the war was lost after his blitzkrieg against Russia failed in 1941-1942 but disastrously was unable to change his military or political tactics and deal with the realities of the situation. The tension created by Hitler's continual message of victory to his public versus his secret belief that Germany could not win essentially destr ...more
Justin
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The culmination of an outstanding degree of historical scholarship, yet because of this volume's focus (WW2 & the Holocaust), it is covering some ground that has already been exhaustively researched in other more comprehensive works on those topics. Still essential, and of a piece with the superlative first volume. ...more
Jason Page
Oct 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book for anyone interested in WW II, World history, or Hitler himself. Final chapter is worth reading as a stand alone essay on Hitler’s historical perspective. Ullrich also tries to answer the essential question of just how did a man like this come to power as well as comparing and contrasting Hitler against Napoleon and Stalin.

Valeriy
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though it is not as 'fun' to read as the Vol.I, I liked this Vol.II very much and highly recommend it. I was never bored, even though I knew the material more or less from other biographies and studies. I did not read Ian Kershaw's bio yet, planning to do soon. In my opinion, it is not enough to read only one biography of Hitler, however good it is. ...more
Gene
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning work

This exhaustive work is eminently readable. Beyond that it is a warning about the fragility of democracy - fragility of democracy in present day United States. There were numerous passages that shockingly only required a substitution of names to render the words worthy of a contemporary news article.
Joshua
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Never thought I’d end up reading ~1500 pages about Hitler this holiday but here we are. As the title indicates, the first volume told the story of his rise to power, and this volume has the story of how he started overplaying his hand and eventually everything came crashing down. Well written and enjoyable - it’s made me want to pick up some of the other Big Bios of people like Robert Moses, LBJ, Churchill.
Steve
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The second volume of Volker Ullrich's epic biography of Adolf Hitler. This was a long, but well worth it and very interesting. This book tells of Adolf Hitler's path of destruction of Europe and his own destruction as well in the final years of the war. ...more
Shawn
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really at least as much a history of the war in Europe as a biography of Hitler for those years. Still excellent, but I felt that it was less well-organized than the first volume, and a bit repetitive.
Christopher Wood
Another Hitler book. After reading William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich I decided to skip the first volume of this set . So far I like this one as it focuses more on Hitler the commander in chief and his military successes and failures, ...more
Steve
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-2
The second volume in Ullrich's definitive biography of Adolph Hitler does not disappoint -- providing an exceptional treatment of both Hitler's life and Germany during the second world war. With more in-depth analysis, observations, and conclusions, this volume eclipses even the first. ...more
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Volker Ullrich was born in Celle. He studied history, literature, philosophy and education at the University of Hamburg. From 1966 to 1969 he was assistant to the Hamburg’s Egmont Zechlin Chair. He graduated in 1975 after a dissertation on the Hamburg labour movement of the early 20th Century, after which he worked as a Hamburg school teacher. He was, for a time, a lecturer in politics at the Lüne ...more

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“In the first months of 1944, Hitler occupied himself with the expansion of the Atlantic Wall to include a dense network of fortifications along the northwestern French coast. They were intended to prevent the Allies from establishing bridgeheads and advancing into the interior of the country. The dictator himself drew sketches for various types of bunkers, and with typical immodesty, he characterised himself as the “greatest fortification builder of all time.”6” 0 likes
“In May 1943, meat rations had to be reduced again—a measure that caused considerable dismay because it gave the lie to Göring’s premature promise of the preceding October.88 In November 1943, when potatoes became scarce, Goebbels feared that Germany would have to use turnips as a “substitute food source,” which would surely awaken “an unpleasant memory” in the populace.89” 0 likes
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