Prolific German journalist and historian Joachim Fest, author of Hitler and Inside Hitler's Bunker, has died aged 79. A lucid writer who broke into Nazi-period research after ghost-writing Albert Speer's two books following Speer's released from Spandau, he went on to write a definitive biography of Hitler (1974) that has survived the findings of professional German and British historians.
Fest's father was a school teacher sacked for being a firm anti-Nazi, who caused his family serious privation by rejecting all connections with Hitler's regime and by refusing to have his children join the Hitler Youth and the Bund Deutsche Madel. In the last year of the war his son Joachim joined the Wehrmacht in order to avoid conscription into the SS and quickly surrendered to American troops.
After the war, Fest worked as a journalist in radio, television, newspapers and magazines. For 20 years he wrote for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Spiegel magazine and Norddeutscher Rundfunk television.
Fest's Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich, was the basis for the 2004 film Downfall; it was based largely on the eyewitness accounts of Hitler's secretary and a famous Nazi pilot, Hanna Reich. Fest also wrote The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership; and Speer: The Final Verdict.
Fest was extremely critical of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Guenter Grass, who admitted in August that he had served in the Waffen-SS. Fest's memoirs, Not Me, will appear in German this week.