> Skip to content
  • Published: 9 December 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241467268
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $65.00

Eight Days in May

How Germany's War Ended

A gripping history of Germany's 'zero hour', the eight days between Hitler's death and the war's end

1 May 1945. The world did not know it yet, but the final week of the Third Reich's existence had begun. Hitler was dead, but the war had still not ended. Everything had both ground to a halt and yet remained agonizingly uncertain.

Volker Ullrich's remarkable book takes the reader into a world torn between hope and terror, violence and peace. Ullrich describes how each day unfolds, with Germany now under a new Führer, Admiral Dönitz, based improbably in the small Baltic town of Flensburg. With Hitler dead, Berlin in ruins and the war undoubtedly lost, the process by which the fighting would end remained horrifyingly unclear. Many major Nazis were still on the loose, wild rumours continued to circulate about a last stand in the Alps and the Western allies falling out with the Soviet Union.

All over Europe, millions of soldiers, prisoners, slave labourers and countless exhausted, grief-stricken and often homeless families watched and waited for the war's end. Eight Days in May is the story of people, in Erich Kästner's striking phrase, stuck in 'the gap between no longer and not yet'.

Translated by Jefferson Chase.

  • Published: 9 December 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241467268
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $65.00

About the author

Volker Ullrich

Volker Ullrich is a historian and journalist whose previous books include biographies of Bismarck and Napoleon, as well as a major study of Imperial Germany, The Nervous Superpower 1871—1918. From 1990 to 2009, Ullrich was the editor of the ‘Political Book’ review section of the influential weekly newspaper, Die Zeit. On publication in Germany in 2013, Hitler: Ascent 1889—1939 became a top ten bestseller.

Also by Volker Ullrich

See all

Praise for Eight Days in May

The last days of the Third Reich have often been told, but seldom with the verve, perception and elegance of Volker Ulrich's rich narrative. For Western nations that have never faced comprehensive and destructive defeat, this is an instructive lesson in how societies cope with the devastating reality of a surrender that they grimly await.

Richard Overy

A fast-paced, brilliant recounting of the turbulent last days of the Third Reich. With all the energy and chaos of a Jackson Pollock canvas, Eight Days in May evokes the complete and utter chaos of a collapsing society.

Helmut Walser Smith, author of Germany: A Nation in its Time

The last chapter of the Nazi regime, just before its fall, is perhaps the most interesting. And Volker Ulrich manages to cover the days after Hitler's suicide with brilliant prose, and excellent original research.

Norman Ohler, author of Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich

Ullrich's compact, gripping narration brings to life the death throes of the Nazi regime as individual acts of delusion, desperation and resignation. This vivid mosaic of German reactions to defeat is a suspenseful account and original depiction of the ambivalence and disbelief of those who had been spellbound by Hitler.

Wendy Lower, author of The Ravine

Superb ... excellent and admirably succinct.

David Aaronovitch, The Times

Strongly written and deeply researched ... a vital and often vibrant account of eight days when people all across Europe were suspended in confusion and chaos.


Ullrich delivers a punchy account that is a proper page-turner ... there is still plenty to say about immediate postwar Germany.

Giles MacDonogh, Financial Times

Related titles