Whenever Hollywood churns out another remake of a classic film, my feelings are the same: why did they bother? The original is almost always better and the half-hearted attempts to reimagine characters or add a few more action scenes inevitably leave me grumbling to myself about how unimaginative the world has become.
As with films, so too with books. When I first picked up Volker Ullrich’s Eight Days in May, my first impression was that it resembles a film. It describes events in Germany day by day in a countdown to the end of the war, a technique that gives it the same quality as one of those tense Hollywood thrillers in which a clock ticks in the background. It’s very well written, and immediately gripping. My second impression, however, was that I had read all this before. I could easily name a dozen books or more that cover very similar ground. One of them, Nicholas Best’s Five Days That Shocked the World, published in 2012, even has the same film-like format.
Ullrich’s book begins on 1 May 1945. Hitler has just committed suicide and Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz has taken the reins of power. The war is reaching its brutal climax, with some staggering violence taking place as Soviet soldiers storm through Berlin. We see the first attempts to