Swansong 1945 | Granta

  • Published: 07/05/2015
  • ISBN: 9781847086419
  • 129x20mm
  • 384 pages

Swansong 1945

Walter Kempowski

Translated by Shaun Whiteside

Swansong 1945 chronicles four significant days in the last three weeks of WWII: 20 April, Hitler’s last birthday; 25 April, when American and Soviet troops first met at the Elbe; 30 April, the day Hitler committed suicide; and 8 May, the day of the German surrender. Side by side in these pages, we encounter the voices of civilians fleeing on foot to the west, British and American POWs dreaming of home, concentration camp survivors, loyal soldiers from both sides of the conflict and national leaders including Churchill, Hitler and Mussolini. A monumental account of survival, suffering, hope and despair, Swansong 1945 brings vividly to life a conflict whose repercussions are felt today.

The best history writing doesn't simplify a reader's understanding of the past, it complicates it. It adds layers, draws out contradictions and sharpens them, digs down into complexity, presenting a narrative that is rich and not simple at all. Swansong 1945 does all these things supremely well. Each extract is a revelation

Daniel Hahn, Independent on Sunday

A gripping accumulation of documents brought together by a leading postwar German writer

Jewish Chronicle

A bewitching, dramatic, utterly extraordinary range of voices and eye-witness testimony as Europe entered its year-zero moment. Total history can come in many different forms: this is one of them

David Kynaston, author, Austerity Britain

The Author

Walter Kempowski (1929-2007) was one of Germany’s most important post-war writers, known for his acclaimed collection of first-hand accounts of WWII, including Swansong 1945 (Granta, 2014). His critically applauded final novel, All for Nothing (Granta, 2015) was a bestseller in both Germany and the UK.

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The Translator

Shaun Whiteside is a translator from the German, French, Italian and Dutch. Most recently his translation of Aftermath by Harald Jähner was shortlisted for the 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize and the 2022 British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding.

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From the Same Author

Walter Kempowski on Granta.com

Fiction | Granta Books


Walter Kempowski

‘I was suckled by Mother Earth, he would reflect on occasion, and he would stretch, feeling new strength in his veins.’