Named a Best History Book of 2019 by The Times (UK)
The astounding true story of how thousands of ordinary Germans, overcome by shame, guilt, and fear, killed themselves after the fall of the Third Reich and the end of World War II.
By the end of April 1945 in Germany, the Third Reich had fallen and invasion was underway. As the Red Army advanced, horrifying stories spread about the depravity of its soldiers. For many German people, there seemed to be nothing left but disgrace and despair. For tens of thousands of them, the only option was to choose death — for themselves and for their children.
“Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself” recounts this little-known mass event. Using diaries, letters, and memoirs, historian Florian Huber traces the euphoria of many ordinary Germans as Hitler restored national pride; their indifference as the Führer’s political enemies, Jews, and other minorities began to suffer; and the descent into despair as the war took its terrible toll, especially after the invasion of the Soviet Union. Above all, he investigates how suicide became a contagious epidemic as the country collapsed.
Drawing on eyewitness accounts and other primary sources, “Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself” presents a riveting portrait of a nation in crisis, and sheds light on a dramatic yet largely unknown episode of postwar Germany.
"Gripping ... Huber tells the shocking stories of ordinary German suicides with literary power and skill, making excellent use of unknown material."
—Richard Evans, The Guardian
"Vivid and disturbing...Though the topic is relentlessly grim, Huber portrays his subjects with empathy and offers key insights into the German mindset before, during, and after WWII. Readers will be convinced that reckoning with the war's legacy requires studying this underexamined tragedy."
"Huber retells the self-annihilation of May 1945 in dispassionate, vivid detail...It's hard not to hear faint echoes in our current plight."
—Andrew Anthony, The Observer
"A remarkable book -- grim and fascinating. Florian Huber tells the story well."
—Robbie Millen, The Times
"An under-represented history that is equal parts terrifying and tragic...Amid the nearly unbearable darkness, Huber injects notes of hope...Illuminating yet haunting."
—Ruta Sepetys, Financial Times
"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, aided by a fine translation from the German by Imogen Taylor."
—Laurence Rees, Telegraph
"A harrowing insight into the psyche of everyday German citizens...Huber's book is extremely well researched ... By drawing on the thoughts, movements and mental state of the diarists, he is able to provide a compelling insight into the minds of everyday Nazi citizens."
—Jacob Farr, The Scotsman
"A grimly compelling study of the psychology of fanaticism."
"All eyes will be opened by the facts on offer in "Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself"...Huber follows a cast of real, all-too-human characters as they head into darkness...His terrible evidence is priceless, and belongs on every bookshelf."—James Hawes, The Spectator
"Bleak, arresting...A sobering study of a dark period of Europe's history." —Matt Elton and Ellie Cawthorne, BBC History Magazine