Volker Ullrich: Chronicle of the last week of the Third Reich after Hitler’s death

Siegfried Unseld was one of the first to know. As a marine radio operator, the then twenty-year-old Suhrkamp publisher was one of the radio squads that transmitted messages from the naval commander-in-chief, Grand Admiral Dönitz, in the last few weeks of the war. Unseld’s radio station at Dönitz’s improvised headquarters in Plön in Holstein was the first to receive a telegram on the afternoon of April 30, in which Dönitz learned that he would succeed Adolf Hitler (instead of Hermann Göring, who had fallen out of favor).

With this personnel decision, made by Hitler in his “political will” shortly before his suicide, the very last chapter of the Third Reich began, a strange, confused, sometimes tragic-comical, and at the same time horrific time until the unconditional surrender of the German Reich, which took place on May 8 came into effect at midnight.

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