70th anniversary of Hitler's death

07 April 2015

By Pan Macmillan


1. The Last Days of Hitler by Hugh Trevor-Roper

After the war came to an end, the circumstances surrounding Adolf Hitler’s death or disappearance remained mysterious. An official statement had been broadcast by Admiral Doenitz, Hitler’s personally appointed successor, maintaining that the Führer had died with this troops in Berlin. Despite this, rumours that Hitler had escaped began to circulate, with the architect of the final solution being variously said to be hiding out in a Spanish monastery, living on a ranch in South America or even holed up with bandits in the mountains of Albania.

By September 1945, Hitler had been missing for four months and the Allies were anxious to establish the precise details of Hitler’s death and appointed a British intelligence officer to discover the truth. Before the war, Hugh Trevor-Roper had been a brilliant classicist at Oxford University. During the conflict, his analytical mind had found a fresh outlet cracking codes at Bletchley Park and interpreting raw intelligence data, now it was put to work ascertaining ‘the personal fate of Hitler’, as he put it.

His meticulous investigation proved beyond reasonable doubt that Hitler had killed himself in his bunker. Invited to turn his findings into a book, he produced one of the most vital and compelling works of history ever written. First published in 1947, The Last Days of Hitler has remained in print ever since, and it provides a gripping picture of the lunatic disintegration of the Third Reich.

2. Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Day of the Third Reich by Joachim Fest

Joachim Fest was six when Hitler came to power and an 18-year-old prisoner of war when the Führer committed suicide. Born in Berlin to a well-educated Catholic middle class family who utterly rejected Hitler and National Socialism from the moment they first appeared, Fest, a journalist and newspaper editor and publisher, would pen one of the first major biographies of Adolf Hitler in Germany.

Written in the wake of the fall of the Berlin wall and with access to some eyewitness accounts that were unavailable to Trevor-Roper, Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Day of the Third Reich vividly recreates what was happening in the bunker, as well as in the German capital as hopes faded and the city went down in a maelstrom of destruction.

 by Traudl Junge edited by Melissa Muller and translated by Anthea Bell

Written in 1947 but not published until shortly before her death in 2002, Until the Final Hour offers an intimate, domestic portrait of life in Hitler’s inner circle from Traudl Junge, who acted as his secretary from 1942 and was in the bunker when he committed suicide.

4. The End: Hitler’s Germany, 1944-45 by Ian Kershaw

In The End, the historian Ian Kershaw recounts the story of the German war from the aftermath of the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944 until end of May 1945, when the Führer was deemed missing or dead, and his successors were arrested and their government dissolved.

A catalogue of the appalling human suffering to befall those caught up in the war’s final chapter, it considers just why so many Germans remained loyal to Hitler and kept fighting right up until the bitter end.

5. Running Dog by Don DeLillo 

At turns mordent and madcap, Don DeLillo’s brilliantly inventive and savagely funny1978 novel Running Dog concerns the discovery of a fragment of pornographic film purportedly shot in a bunker in the climactic days of Berlin’s fall – with Hitler as its star.




1. Der letzte Akt (The Last Ten Days, 1955)

Director: G. W. Pabst

Filmed in Austria just a decade after the war, and directed by G. W. Pabst, one of Germany’s most inventive moviemakers before Hitler’s rise to power, and with a script by Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front, The Last Ten Days was one of the earliest native attempts to dramatise Hitler’s response to the crumbling of his insane ambitions. The film was later remade in English as Hitler: The Last Ten Days in 1973 with Alec Guinness in the lead role. (Only the latter appears to be currently available on DVD.)

2. Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary

Directors: Andre Heller and Othmar Schmiderer

This austerely shot 90-minute Austrian documentary was drawn from over 13 hours of interviews with Traudl Junge, one of Hitler’s secretaries. In it, she relates the often mundane realities of serving right at the heart of the Third Reich, though seemingly oblivious to the extent of the evil it was perpetrating.


3. Downfall

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

If often now more familiar for the wave of internet parodies, Downfall provides a captivating cinematic exploration of the concluding days of Hitler’s life. Set almost entirely inside the Berlin bunker, and based on the memoir by Hitler’s secretary, Traudl Junge and Joachim Fest’s study of Hitler’s demise, the film boasts an astonishing performance by Bruno Ganz, as the Führer coming to terms with his impending defeat.