April 30, 1945, marked an end of sorts in the Third Reich. The last business day before a national holiday and then a series of transfers of power, April 30 was a day filled with contradictions and bewildering events that would forever define global history. It was on this day that while the Red Army occupied Berlin, Hitler committed suicide in his underground bunker, and, in San Francisco, the United Nations was being founded.
Alexander Kluge’s latest book, 30 April 1945, covers this single historic day and unravels its passing hours across the different theaters of the Second World War. Translated by Wieland Hoban, the book delves into the events happening around the world on one fateful day, including the life of a small German town occupied by American forces and the story of two SS officers stranded on the forsaken Kerguelen Islands in the South Indian Sea. Kluge is a master storyteller, and as he unfolds these disparate tales, one unavoidable question surfaces: What is the appropriate reaction to the total upheaval of the status quo?
Presented here with an afterword by Reinhard Jirgl, translated by Iain Galbraith, 30 April 1945 is a riveting collection of lives turned upside down by the deadliest war in history. The collective experiences Kluge paints here are jarring, poignant, and imbued with meaning. Seventy years later, we can still see our own reflections in the upheaval of a single day in 1945.
Praise for Kluge
“More than a few of Kluge’s many books are essential, brilliant achievements. None are without great interest.”—Susan Sontag