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After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation Paperback – February 24, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
This absorbing study of the Allied occupation of Germany and Austria from 1945 to 1949 shows that the end of WWII by no means ended the suffering. A vengeful Red Army visited on German women an ordeal of mass rape, while looting the Soviet occupation zone of almost everything of value, from watches to factories. Millions of ethnic Germans were driven from Poland and Czechoslovakia, stripped of their possessions and subjected to atrocities on the way. The Western Allies behaved better, but sidestepped the Geneva Conventions, using German POWs as slave laborers and letting thousands of them die in captivity, while keeping their zones on starvation rations. Nor were the Germans, with their own death camps finally coming to the world's appalled attention, in a good position to complain. Journalist and historian MacDonogh (The Last Kaiser: A Life of Wilhelm II) gives a gripping, if choppy account of the occupation while portraying Truman, Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam as squabbling over the spoils as feral children scrabbled through the ruins. The result is a sobering view of how vengeance stained Allied victory. Photos. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Mass deportations, murder, and brutalization of helpless noncombatantsthese are the crimes one readily associates with Hitler's minions as they ravaged their way across Europe. But Macdonogh, a journalist with particular expertise in German history, convincingly illustrates that this was the fate of millions of German-speaking civilians in the period from the fall of Vienna to the Soviets to the Berlin airlift. The massive number of rapes conducted by Soviet soldiers in their zone of occupation has already been well documented. Less publicized but equally disturbing, as Macdonogh's use of eyewitness testimonies confirm, was the treatment of ethnic Germans in their enclaves in various Eastern and Central European nations. There, murder and the driving out of millions of people were routine, and the French, British, and Americans did nothing to stop them. Given the horrors visited upon Europe by the Nazis, one might be tempted to consider these atrocities as just retribution. However, Macdonogh's eloquent account of the suffering of these people is, hopefully, able to evoke strong feelings of both revulsion and compassion from most readers. Freeman, Jay --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The first part of the book unsurprisingly reads very much like “Savage Continent,” Keith Lowe’s account of the retributive machinations of damaged and disaffected populations throughout the continent taking advantage of their bloody victories to settle old scores with surpassing brutality. MacDonogh naturally focuses on the German experience and his descriptions of the predations of all of the occupying forces, and especially the Russian orgy of rapine, is at least as difficult, if edifying, to get through as Lowe’s accounts.
But the story is of course much more than that and, indeed, so much more that a knowledgeable reader will likely credit this as the definitive work on the subject. I found especially interesting the author’s reflections on the shaky legal underpinnings of the Nuremberg trials and the disconcerting conclusions of his research demonstrating beyond contradiction that an amazing number of bad Nazi actors not only escaped justice but in many instances did so simply because both Allied and German prosecutorial officials grew tired of the game. Finally, I know of no better account of how thoroughly Russia dominated the tripartite spoils competition, partly due to Stalin’s preternatural gall and duplicity, the fact that Russian forces first occupied territories that Britain and America knew were not going to relinquished without a fight they were unable to offer, and the combination of Roosevelt’s failing health and inexplicable, if difficult to quantify, trust in Stalin.
Our modern vision of Germany as a peaceful, prosperous and progressive nation makes this book all the more important because it demonstrates as nothing else that I’ve read how close to Hell the country and its people had to come before the eventual redemption. Believe me when I say that no associative readings in European history have equipped you with the knowledge this book provides. I recommend it as essential reading for the serious History buff.