The Second World War might have officially ended in May 1945, but in reality it rumbled on for another 10 years....
The end of the Second World War in Europe is one of the 20th century's most iconic moments. It is fondly remembered as a time when cheering crowds filled the streets, danced, drank and made love until the small hours. These images of victory and celebration are so strong in our minds that the period of anarchy and civil war that followed has been forgotten.
Across Europe, landscapes had been ravaged, entire cities razed and more than thirty million people had been killed in the war. The institutions that we now take for granted-such as the police, the media, transport, local and national government-were either entirely absent or hopelessly compromised. Crime rates were soaring, economies collapsing, and the European population was hovering on the brink of starvation.
In Savage Continent, Keith Lowe describes a continent still racked by violence, where large sections of the population had yet to accept that the war was over. Individuals, communities and sometimes whole nations sought vengeance for the wrongs that had been done to them during the war. Germans and collaborators everywhere were rounded up, tormented and summarily executed. Concentration camps were reopened and filled with new victims who were tortured and starved. Violent anti-Semitism was reborn, sparking murders and new pogroms across Europe. Massacres were an integral part of the chaos and in some places-particularly Greece, Yugoslavia and Poland, as well as parts of Italy and France - they led to brutal civil wars. In some of the greatest acts of ethnic cleansing the world has ever seen, tens of millions were expelled from their ancestral homelands, often with the implicit blessing of the Allied authorities.
Savage Continent is the story of post WWII Europe, in all its ugly detail, from the end of the war right up until the establishment of an uneasy stability across Europe toward the end of the 1940s. Based principally on primary sources from a dozen countries, Savage Continent is a frightening and thrilling chronicle of a world gone mad, the standard history of post WWII Europe for years to come.
©2012 Keith Lowe (P)2012 Tantor
"Authoritative but never dry, stripping away soothing myths of national unity and victimhood, this is a painful but necessary historical task superbly done." (Kirkus)
I couldn't get far enough with this narrator to even tell if this book was any good. Each time a German, Russian, or American was quoted, the narrator attempted to imitate their accent. Aside from being distracting, I'm pretty sure the narrator has never heard said nationalities. Or perhaps he watched an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle once. Whatever the case, his attempts at accents were so weird it was almost impossible to listen to what was being read
An objective review of the events and statistics of the end and aftermath of WWII. Although I'd expected more insights into Britain's role. Excellent narrator, more of a dramatist!
Very well researched, balanced, insightful, clearly told. Describes the anarchy throughout Europe in the years after the war and before there was a Marshall plan. Explores the many facets of chaos and destruction that occurred after the official end of hostilities, and explains the complexities of the situation without bogging down. Illuminates a very dark period that has been all but forgot but which has implications for today.
a Tech Exec who loves the stories about what could be and what should have been. Mixed with histories told from an outside perspective.
I have read many books about WWII and this book was very direct in reminding us how personal every "global conflict" is. no war is only between countries or ideologies, it is between people, and affects people. This book was very moving for me as my God-Mother is from Dresden and has many times made comments that this helps bring perspective to. Thank you K Lowe.
This is an important book that describes in painful detail the economic and cultural devastation as well as the political turmoil that beset most of Europe after the Second World War. Redrawing of boundaries, revenge, ethnic cleansing…all contributed to atrocities committed on and sometimes by civilians (some whom had been victims of the war).....The author stresses the importance of unearthing the facts, which are often at odds the "hero" or "victim" mythologies of the war and its aftermath nurtured by different sides to incite hatred or to foster national pride...
Unfortunately, John Lee, the narrator of this book, like some fellow narrators of nonfiction books, inexplicably feels a need to put on accents for all of the direct quotes of "foreigners" (which includes Americans). Since there are quotes from so many different nationalities, we are constantly subjected to what sounds like cartoonish characters from a Robin Williams routine...I persevered to the end because I was fascinated with the content, but Mr. Lee didn't make it easy…. especially since, when he had to read quotes in an actual foreign language like French or Italian, he couldn’t even pronounce the words correctly!
Disturbing, moving and revealing
There are no characters in the traditional sense, but players on the world stage: everyone from Stalin to Italian peasants, from unimaginably evil to heroic, from victims to perpetrators and all those caught in between.
John Lee's performance has the flavor of a 1940's radio announcer, jarring at first but finally perfectly suited to the subject matter of this depressing but wonderful book.
It is difficult to remain unmoved by the plight (or the horrific actions) of the various groups, in part because we in the US have such strong blood ties to Europe. One reviewer lamented the endless inventory of horrors, but there is really no other way to bring home these events without personalizing them with specific examples.
Lowe's book goes a long way to undoing the myth of post-war unity, and also to giving the reader an understanding of the structure of modern Europe and of its vast range of ethnic minorities and their often painful interrelationships.
Most people forget that wars don't just have an end when the fighting stops. Just like the Antebellum south the consequences are far reaching. Although i have gone through the equally good "Post War" it has not opened my i eyes to the actual depth of suffering and chaos from the years of 1945 to after the death of Stalin like this book. It is trully a miracle that Europe has recovered after the World War's. Although the current tension in the Ukraine and the ongoing tension in the Balkans does show the shallowness of the peace. The amount of death and suffering is shocking.
Also the fact that Nazi Concentration / Death camps really just changed hands and were back at work killing Germans and Ukrainians and other suspect nationaltes etc, is crucial to understand the shades of grey within human morality and how hatred build hatred and vengance builds vengance. The concept of the "Last Great War" painted by some historians is out right insulting to the population of Europe.
This book has also give great insight to my own family history since one of my grandparent 4 years in POW camps (Luckly american) and Displace Person camps untll returning home in 1949. As i child i knew this happened but not what it meant. Also the climate they had to live with a Volks-Deutch / Croatian family for 20 years seems frankly unbearable. So no ever talked about it.
However this book is in-depth so its not an easy listen for some casual historian might want to start with "Post War" which covers a larger period but in less detail or "The Iron Curtain" the performance is dry but i like the narrator's work its just not possible to spice this one up.
I also recommend listening to "Bloodlands" before to build the context of German, Ukraninan, Polish and Russian race relations (eg multi dimensional genocide) that did not stop for a long time after the war.
This will give you the full context to understand the situation in the Ukraine today.
Lowe ties together the reality that World War II is what we have called the struggle that really involved a lot more than that in Europe and continued well after VE day. Very good book and a good starter for post WWII European studies. Be prepared to have some paradigms of history tested.
A great deal of this history is available only in the languages of the countries involved, German, Polish, Serbo-Croatian etc., virtually nothing available in English. Mr. Lowe has done some great research. Why hasn't anybody else?
Forced repatriation of Germans from Eastern Europe
Although Mr. Lee did his homework, pronouncing the complexities of Polish most deftly, I got tired of his mimicking the various foreign accents. Probably needed to do it for most listeners, but I didn't need his rendition of Stalin et al.
So you think you know what happened in Europe after the Nazi's were defeated
If you're not a numbers person, you'll tire of his endless statistics. But if you'll bear with it, this is an invaluable piece of post-war history
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