With Eisenhower’s armies closing in on Hitler’s Reich in the spring of 1945, Allied intelligence experts warned of a last-ditch stand by the Nazis in an Alpine redoubt and of a nationwide ‘Werewolf’ resistance movement that would cause mayhem after Germany’s surrender. It seemed highly plausible, but was simply wrong. The redoubt proved a mirage, and while the assassination in March 1945 by Nazi zealots of the Allied-imposed mayor of Aachen briefly seemed to confirm the Allies’ worst fears, it proved a one-off affair. Once Hitler was dead, German resistance melted away as rapidly as the spring snow.
As Richard Bessel is at pains to stress in this lengthy book, the vast majority of Germans in 1945 were all too ready to turn their backs on the Nazis. In doing so, they were also eager to deny or forget how fervently many had once supported them.