This is a groundbreaking English-language examination of the final period of Nazi rule in Germany's eastern provinces at the end of the Second World War. It outlines the wartime role of this region and assesses the impact of Nazi 'popular mobilisation' initiatives during the closing months of the conflict. Major projects such as the preparation of the Ostwall defences and the raising of the Volkssturm (Home Guard) are examined in depth. The book concludes by weighing up the importance of propaganda and coercion to the Nazi regime as it attempted to prolong its existence in the face of crushing military defeats. "The Darkest Hour" incorporates a unique synthesis of archival and printed source material from the English-speaking world, Germany, Poland and Russia. The eastern German Nazi leadership, their crimes and their corruption, are covered collectively to a greater extent in this book than in any English-language account hitherto. As the Third Reich was on the brink of defeat, its leader and lackeys wielded life or death powers and were loathed by the civilian population as much as the advancing Soviets were feared. This extensive account of this important historical period and circumstance is essential reading for all scholars and students of the Third Reich and European military history.
"A gripping and masterful account of the catastrophe that overwhelmed Germany's eastern provinces during the final months of Hitler's' thousand year' Reich. Based on impressive scholarship, it's a grim and harrowing read that evokes pity, horror, and awe at the sheer scale and force of the atrocities and hardships inflicted on millions of hapless civilians by the Nazi Party and Soviet forces alike, and at the whirlwind of war that swept away centuries of German settlement and forever changed the map of central Europe. For anyone wishing to understand the forces that shaped postwar Europe this is compulsory reading." --David Stafford, University of Edinburgh, author, Endgame, 1945
"A very impressive piece of academic research. Dr. Noble relates in near clinical detail a story of greed, barbarism and incompetence which should be essential reading for anyone with an interest in modern Germany and its eastern neighbours." --Dr. Keith Hamilton, senior editor, Documents on British Policy Overseas
"Noble examines relations between the German public east of the Oder river in the regions of East Prussia, eastern Pomerania, east Brandenburg, and Silesia and local Nazi officials, as well as the short-term fates of those who fled and/or were expelled from these regions as Nazi Germany fell. Of particular concern in the study are the efforts of Nazi officials to combat public defeatism in the face of the advancing Red Army. Nobel describes how Nazi propagandists assessed the public mood and how they simultaneously exploited fears of Soviet invasion in order to mobilize the public while assuring them that their homes would not be threatened or, at least, they would be recaptured and relief would be delivered. He also documents the increasing readiness of the Nazis to resort to coercion against the German public as propaganda was rendered more and more impotent by military reality." --Reference & Research Book News
"Fear and the exploitation of fear animate Alastair Noble's impressive new study. Concentrating on the pervasive German dread of Soviet occupation and the variety of ways in which Nazi authorities and propagandists attempted to manipulate public anxiety to prolong the hopeless defense of the Reich, Noble lays bare the havoc and the cruelty of the war's last months in eastern Germany. His geographical focus is primarily East Prussia, eastern Pomerania, East Brandenburg, and Silesia, i.e. those eastern provinces of the Reich that had an overwhelming German majority and that lay within Germany's prewar borders. His research is meticulous, based on an imposing mass of archival sources, most notably a trove from the Ost-Dokumentation collection in Bayreuth and an extensive range of 'mood, ' 'behaviour, ' and activity reports compiled by and for the Sicherheitsdienst, the Propaganda Ministry, and the Reich Ministry of Justice. The author has seemingly left no file unopened, no document unread." --Central European History
"Covering the Soviet invasion of eastern Germany proper from January 1945, Noble details the disorderly refugee rout and the mass death of women and children by the roadsides, together with the killing and savagery which Red Army soldiers unleashed, whether at the behest of their commanders or through their own brutalized state. It is testimony to the power of his writing that these particular passages are often genuinely difficult to read. At the same time, Noble admirably succeeds where some historians have failed by avoiding both the Scylla of being seen to place Soviet atrocities in eastern Germany on an equal footing with Nazi crimes, and the Charybdis of being seen to legitimize such Soviet atrocities as brutal but understandable vengeance for the outrages perpetrated by the Germans in the Soviet Union. That much of the eastern German population's suffering was made needlessly unavoidable by the crass, self-serving actions of Nazi apparatchiks is a running theme throughout the book. Nevertheless, it is not only the Party, but the Wehrmacht also, which comes in for harsh criticism. For instance, Noble demonstrates as fallacious the claim that the Wehrmacht continued fighting in the east purely so as to hold open corridors to the west for floods of refugees; on the contrary, army units and their commanders frequently took action that was severely detrimental to those refugees, and wild plunder by German troops was widespread. This excellent book, scholarly and compellingly written, is thoroughly deserving of a wide readership." --European History Quarterly
Introduction; Come the Gauleiters, 1933-1939; An Oasis of Tranquillity? The German East, 1939-1944; Enjoy the War, the Peace Will be Dire; A Deep Anxiety over the Fate of East Prussia; A Unique, Improvised Exertion: Ostwallbau 1944; Confronting Catastrophe: The October Invasion of East Prussia and the Launch of the Volkssturm; A Stay of Execution; The Deluge; Our Brave Fortresses in the East; Conclusion.