In Exorcising Hitler, Frederick Taylor tells the story of Germany's year zero and what came after. Not since the end of the Roman Empire, almost 1500 years earlier, is there a parallel, in Europe at least, to the fall of the German nation in 1945.
As Taylor describes the final Allied campaign, the hunting down of the Nazi resistance, the vast displacement of peoples in central and eastern Europe, the attitudes of the conquerors, the competition between Soviet Russia and the West, the hunger and near starvation of a once proud people, the initially naive attempt at expunging Nazism from all aspects of German life and the later more pragmatic approach, we begin to understand that despite almost total destruction, a combination of conservatism, enterprise and pragmatism in relation to former Nazis enabled the economic miracle of the 1950s. And we see how it was only when the '60s generation (the children of the Nazi era) began to question their parents with increasing violence that Germany began to awake from its sleep cure.
©2011 Frederick Taylor (P)2011 Audible Ltd
"Essential reading for anyone who is interested in the Nazis and wants to know what happened next." (Richard Evans, New Statesman)
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
What are the rights and responsibilities of conquering nations toward a defeated enemy? Are there rules which apply, or does anything go? Do those who supported the former regime by complicity carry a responsibility similar to that of the leaders? Should they be held to account and be punished, and if so, how? How might a victor's actions bear upon the future of vanquished people?
These are some of the vexed questions the Allies faced at the end of World War II.
The problem began with surrender itself: "With the end of the war, Germany was deemed to have ceased to exist." And yet, with or without a state, its people did continue to exist, with a multitude of problems, crises, and divergent opinions. While some considered defeat a "liberation," remnants of guerilla opposition from the Volkssturm and Werwolf organizations held out to the bitter end. With multiple allies invading the former Third Reich, each of whom had their own approaches and agendas, how could sense be made of the situation?
Frederick Taylor attempts, sometimes successfully, sometime less so, to give us a clearer picture of the entangled circumstances of postwar Germany. I found parts of it extremely painful to read, and in my opinion, the book raises as many questions as it answers. It is provocative, compelling, and a great springboard for discussion for those interested in the history of warfare, law, and politics.
It is, as expected, an Allied perspective so anyone looking for a more intensive look at the German people's experience will need additional sources. Overall it is a useful and instructive look at a time which has not been given the attention it deserves, and for that it is worth careful consideration.
Matt Bates was a good choice of narrator as his reading is well-paced, clearly enunciated, and his pronunciation of German more than competent.
"A forgotten period"
So much is written about the rise of Nazism leading to the Second World War that the post-war impact of this is generally overlooked - particularly with the emergence of the Cold War, which distracts attention further east. This is a detailed account with plenty of original sources to support its ideas. The rival agendas of the war-time Allies when de-Nazifying Germany are well contrasted, as are the various visions of post-war Germany that emerged within American political and military circles. There is perhaps slightly too much on 1944-5 and slightly too little on the re-integration of Germany that would lead ultimately to the Common Market, which leaves one feeling that an extra chapter or so would have rounded the book off more satisfactorily. However, for teachers and students of modern Europe this book provides useful additional material to add to the study of the emergence of the Cold War and in particular to the accounts of the Berlin blockade.
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