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WALTER KEMPOWSKI (1929-2007) was one of Germany's most important post-war writers. His first success as an author was with his acclaimed series of novels German Chronicles. In the 1980s he began work on Echo Soundings [Das Echolot], gathering together first hand accounts, diaries, letters and memoirs of the second world war, which he collated and curated into ten volumes published over 20 years, and which is considered a modern classic. Swansong 1945, published in Germany in 2005, is the final volume of that work.
Swansong 1945 brings together hundreds of letters, diary extracts and autobiographical accounts to chronicle four days in 1945: 20th April, Hitler's last birthday, 25th April, when American and Soviet troops first met at the Elbe, 30th April, the day Hitler committed suicide, and 8th May, the day of the German surrender. Side by side in these pages, we encounter civilians fleeing on foot to the west, British and American POWs dreaming of home, concentration camp survivors, loyal soldiers from both sides of the conflict as well as national leaders including Churchill. These first-hand accounts, which Walter Kempowski painstakingly collected, organised and shaped for publication over twenty years, provide the raw material of history unmediated by a historian's narrative. The voices of individuals speak for themselves, and through their many experiences, perspectives and situations, the condition of Europe during the zero hour of war is viscerally recreated. A modern classic, this vital work brings to life a time whose repercussions are still felt today.
It is 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall came down. Jonathan Fabrizius, a journalist living in West Germany, is asked to travel to the contested lands of former East Prussia - where the Nazi legacy lives on in buildings and fortifications - to write about the route for a car rally. It's a plum job, but his interest is piqued by a personal connection. Here, among the refugees fleeing the advancing Russians in 1945, he was born. Homeland is a nuanced work from one of the great modern European storytellers, in which an everyday German comes face to face with his painful family history, and devastating questions about ordinary Germans' complicity in the war.
In January 1945, the German army is retreating from the Russian advance. Germans are fleeing the occupied territories in their thousands, in cars and carts and on foot. But in a rural East Prussian manor house, the wealthy von Globig family seals itself off from the world. Protected from the deprivation and chaos around them, they make no preparations to leave until a decision to harbour a stranger for the night begins their undoing. Finally joining the great trek west, the remaining members of the family face at last the catastrophic consequences of the war. Profoundly evocative of the period, sympathetic yet painfully honest about the motivations of its characters, All for Nothing is a devastating portrait of the complicities and denials of the German people as the Third Reich comes to an end.
Swansong 1945 chronicles four significant days in the last three weeks of WWII: 20 April, Hitler's last birthday; 25 April, when American and Soviet troops first met at the Elbe; 30 April, the day Hitler committed suicide; and 8 May, the day of the German surrender. Side by side in these pages, we encounter the voices of civilians fleeing on foot to the west, British and American POWs dreaming of home, concentration camp survivors, loyal soldiers from both sides of the conflict and national leaders including Churchill, Hitler and Mussolini. A monumental account of survival, suffering, hope and despair, Swansong 1945 brings vividly to life a conflict whose repercussions are felt today.