by Nicholas Best
New York: St. Martin's / Thomas Dunne Books, 2012. Pp. xiv, 370.
Illus., notes, biblio, index. $27.99. ISBN: 0312614926
British historian and critic Best, whose interests are wide ranging (Celts, Africa, Trafalgar, kings, tennis, presidents, etc.) gives us an engaging, very readable, and surprisingly good look at events in the European war from April 28th through May 2nd, just a few days before the German surrender.
Best has carefully pieced together literally hundreds of personal anecdotes from or about scores of people caught up in these events. He gives us some background on each person, but primarily focuses on their experiences over these few days, passing easily back and forth from the great and powerful to the ordinary men, women, and even children. So we get a multi-layered view of events. Some of these people were well-known and influential, such Winston Churchill, Leni Reifenstahl, George Patton, Pierre Laval, Bernard Montgomery, Vidkun Quisling, Queen Wilhelmina, Heinrich Himmler. Others became famous later, such as Henry Kissinger, Simon Wiesenthal, Audrey Hepburn, or Josef Ratzinger (Benedict XVI). And some were just ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times, Resistance workers, partisans, Hitler’s secretaries, common soldiers, and many civilians. Weaving them together with considerable skill, Best uses the stories of these people to provide a comprehensive picture of the collapse of the Third Reich and the beginnings of the post-war era.
Five Days that Shocked the World
a very useful read for anyone interested in the Twentieth Century or the experience of war.