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  • Their Darkest Hour

  • People Tested to the Extreme in WWII
  • By: Laurence Rees
  • Narrated by: John Hopkins
  • Length: 8 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Military
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (75 ratings)

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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Award-winning writer and filmmaker Laurence Rees has spent nearly 20 years meeting people who were tested to the extreme during World War II. He has come face to face with rapists, mass murderers, even cannibals, but he has also met courageous individuals who are an inspiration to us all. His quest has taken him from the Baltic States to Japan, from Poland to America and from Germany to China.

Here he presents 35 of his most electrifying encounters. Meet Estera Frenkiel, a young Jewish woman given the chance to save 10 fellow Jews from deportation and death; Peter Lee, a British officer brutally treated by his Japanese captors; Zinaida Pytkina, a female member of the Soviet Union's infamous SMERSH organisation, who took pleasure in killing a German prisoner; Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier so fanatical that he refused to surrender until 29 years after the end of the war; and Petras Zelionka, a Lithuanian who shot Jewish men, women and children for the Nazis. 

The devastating first-hand testimony in Their Darkest Hour is both a lasting contribution to our understanding of the war and a powerful insight into the behaviour of human beings in crisis.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Laurence Rees (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Their Darkest Hour

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Excellent 10/10

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Made me shed a tear in certain spots, but certainly did not disappoint. I would recommend this book, not just to historians but to all, as it is part of a very important time throughout history. John Hopkins did a fantastic job narrating, especially at doing the prunciation of the interviewees. Hope there is more to come from him in the future.

4 people found this helpful

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A hard read

The story is appropriately read. The tone is right for the subject matter. The stories are varied but all carry their own particular horror. And some are almost unlistenable.

I listened over several days and mixed in other books.

There are some stories I will follow up, in particular the British treatment of Russian and Yugoslav prisoners.

It was good to hear the voices of women and children telling their stories.

If I am left with one thought it is “judge ye not, let thee be judged”.

2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating

A fantastic look into human beings failings and depth of character. Very thought provoking and at sometimes very upsetting. Felt I was left with a greater understanding of how people can allow themselves to become beasts and hopeless victims at the blink of an eye.

2 people found this helpful

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Bit of an historical re-tread

Bit self important and shows a very special skill in taking some of the most terrifying and fantastic moments of the twentieth century and rendering them somehow dreary. Great idea, but you buy the bag to find it rather empty

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horrific story

so interesting I'll be looking for other titles from this author. I as hooked throughout the book.

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Outstanding insight into dark side of us all

Brilliantly narrated, fascinating content which is powerful and thought provoking with insightful content that lingers in the mind. The content is bleak but the trade off is insight that is truly valuable with lessons past on from those who were truly’ tested’. For me those who criticise the book for a shallowness of perspective miss the brilliance of the narrative and the lessons on offer. I was impressed with the composition of the stories which demand multiple readings and I feel to have genuinely grown in wisdom by listening to the lives of those who lived through truly dark experiences. Brilliant and as relevant a book as any in our current times.

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A fascinating book

This book had me gripped. It’s harrowing at times but hearing the war through those that were there is very important for anyone wanting to understand the period.

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Captivating

John Hopkins gives a fine reading of this book, managing to present the material as interviews. Rees has written a book that touches the darker side of human nature, and it’s very good.
I was hoping that the enclosed PDF files were pictures, but it’s not.
I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Darkest Hour of humanity, and in “regular “ people, who, due to circumstances discovered the darkest side of themselves.

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Recommended as worth reading, but with reservations

Rees is an articulate chronicler and has gone to great lengths to collect these interviews and deliver them to his reader in an easily accessible form.

I think, however that if he had treated his subject material to a little less commentary and perhaps let the stories of his interviews speak nakedly for themselves, this would have been a stronger book.

I find that these interviews did not need the author’s constant commentary spoon-fed to us.