Florian Huber's book, a bestseller in Germany, confronts the terrible wave of suicides, carried out not just by much of the Nazi leadership, but by thousands of ordinary Germans, in the war's closing period. Other countries have suffered defeat, but not responded in the same way. What drove whole families, who in many cases had already withstood years of deprivation, aerial bombing and deaths in battle, to do this?
The focus of Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself is not on those who were the most culpable for the evils of Nazi Germany. Rather, it looks at the many ordinary Germans who took their lives, or contemplated doing so, during the last days of the Third Reich. It’s a remarkable book — grim and fascinating. Florian Huber, a German documentary-maker, tells the story well. He quotes liberally from diaries, memoirs and other eyewitness accounts to describe the great death urge that overtook Germany.
The woeful pursuit of finality is the focus of Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself. The title foreshadows an under-represented history that is equal parts terrifying and tragic, and delivers on both counts ... The exact number of suicides is incalculable, but through gruesome examples, Huber conveys the enormity of the dreadful phenomenon ... Imogen Taylor delivers a vivid translation of the carefully researched work, bringing to life examples both sincere and senseless ... Amid the nearly unbearable darkness, Huber injects notes of hope ... Illuminating yet haunting, Huber’s study offers an uncommon portrait of Hitler’s barbaric reach to manipulate and massacre, reminding us of the well-known and tragic conclusion — amid the days of the Third Reich, human suffering emerged the victor.
If you’re German, it can be hard to discuss the war ... And that’s why Florian Huber’s book about mass suicides in the last year of the war is so intriguing. Because here is a German dealing directly with German trauma ... It’s horrific, but it’s not a new story ... Nonetheless, Huber tells this terrible history with compassion and care. He writes with an ease that makes the book flow smoothly despite the bleak nature of the subject matter, aided by a fine translation from the German by Imogen Taylor. You would have to be heartless not to be moved as you read this litany of rape and suicide ... In these terrible circumstances, it is perhaps surprising that more people were not driven to suicide. Why this didn’t happen is not an issue that Huber properly addresses. Instead, he believes the suicides were an 'epidemic'. But is this the correct way to describe the scale of what occurred? One problem is that no one knows exactly how many Germans took their own lives. Huber, rather confusingly, quotes two different estimates for the toll in Demmin ... Ultimately, the book offers us confirmation of truths we already knew. War is hell and ordinary people suffer.