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Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself Reviews

Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself by Florian Huber

Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself

The Downfall of Ordinary Germans, 1945

Florian Huber

3.65 out of 5

6 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction
Imprint: Allen Lane
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 4 Jul 2019
ISBN: 9780241399248

The German bestseller on the final days of Nazi Germany One of the last untold stories of the Third Reich is that of the extraordinary wave of suicides, carried out not just by much of the Nazi leadership, but by thousands of ordinary Germans, in the war's closing period.

  • The Daily TelegraphBook of the Year
5 stars out of 5
29 Jun 2019

"Huber tells this terrible history with compassion and care"

It’s horrific, but it’s not a new story. More than 20 years ago I visited Demmin and filmed an interview with an eyewitness to the suicides for Nazis: A Warning from History, a TV series I made for the BBC which was also shown in Germany. Nonetheless, Huber tells this terrible history with compassion and care. He writes with an ease that makes the book flow smoothly despite the bleak nature of the subject matter, aided by a fine translation from the German by Imogen Taylor. You would have to be heartless not to be moved as you read this litany of rape and suicide.


4 stars out of 5
16 Aug 2019

"A sobering study of the suicides that swept a defeated Reich"

Illuminating yet haunting, Huber’s study offers an uncommon portrait of Hitler’s barbaric reach to manipulate and massacre, reminding us of the well-known and tragic conclusion — amid the days of the Third Reich, human suffering emerged the victor.

3 stars out of 5
Andrew Anthony
29 Jul 2019

"Huber retells the self-annihilation of May 1945 in dispassionate, vivid detail"

Huber retells the self-annihilation of May 1945 in dispassionate, vivid detail, but after a while the sheer repetition of “ordinary Germans” ending their lives begins to dull the senses. At around about halfway through the book, he shifts the narrative back to the early days of optimism, when Hitler first came to power. It’s a rather jarring turn in direction that revisits some well-trodden ground, although Huber seeks to find new paths by using the recollections of some of the diarists he introduces earlier in the book. But little new light is shed on what we already know.

Nonetheless, reading the testaments of people who’d come through a period of great uncertainty in the late 1920s and early 1930s, with the liberal order seemingly spent, it’s hard not to hear faint echoes in our current plight. As they do now, people then craved simple, emotional answers to complex economic and political problems.

2 stars out of 5
Max Hastings
7 Jul 2019

"The shocking story of the hundreds of thousands of Germans who took their own lives after their defeat."

The author’s relatively brief bibliography suggests that he may have read less than many other European writers about 1945 Germany, because books on the war command so poor a sale in his country. Many foreigners have written more graphically and interestingly than he does, about those ghastly times.

3 stars out of 5
20 Jun 2019

"Huber tells the shocking stories of ordinary German suicides with literary power and skill"

Huber tells the shocking stories of ordinary German suicides with literary power and skill, making excellent use of unknown material in the admirable, privately run German Diary Archive at Emmendingen, in south-western Germany. But after the first 130 pages or so, the book comes badly unstuck. Instead of setting these stories more deeply in their context, and exploring the less immediate factors that lay behind Germans’ decision whether or not to kill themselves, such as religion, gender, age, generation, political beliefs and so on – factors that determined the widely varying incidence of suicide between different groups of people – he launches into more than 100 pages of a banal, unvarying narrative of the Nazi years. 

  • The TimesBook of the Year
4 stars out of 5
Robbie Millen
15 Jun 2019

"a remarkable book — grim and fascinating"

Huber makes the point that the suicide epidemic of 1945 was “suppressed, like other distressing details of those times, by an unspoken pact governing what could and could not be said in the decades following the war”. That has changed as Germans carry on rediscovering their past. Two novels by Walter Kempowski, the German writer who died in 2007, have in recent years been translated into English. The excellent All For Nothing and Homeland evoke the terror and chaos that swallowed Germans in the east as the Third Reich collapsed. Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself makes a fascinating companion piece.