- File Size: 29550 KB
- Print Length: 500 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (July 3, 2012)
- Publication Date: July 3, 2012
- Sold by: Macmillan
- Language: English
- ASIN: B006ZL9C8E
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,439 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II Kindle Edition
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About the Author
John Lee has read audiobooks in almost every conceivable genre, from Charles Dickens to Patrick O'Brian, and from the very real life of Napoleon to the entirely imagined lives of sorcerers and swashbucklers. An AudioFile Golden Voice narrator, he is the winner of numerous Audie Awards and AudioFile Earphones Awards. --This text refers to the paperback edition.
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Where the book is a little weak, to me, is in the way the author avails himself of stories that lack credibility. To his credit, he points this out, but that doesn't stop him from using those stories to fill space. One example in particular is the fact that he dwells on a book by someone named Bacque. He points out that academics thoroughly trashed the book, which indicates to me that it is not worth returning to, yet he wastes time and space on it. (This might be worth doing if the book still has a kind of popular life, but I didn't notice that this was indicated.) Other examples are more lurid. At one point he writes of some tales, "And yet such stories are recounted again and again as if they are true" - well, yeah, like the general contents of this book sometimes. The writing is strangely light, leaning almost toward sensationalistic journalism. Some sentences are indicative of a lack of restraint, like, "The struggle of the anti-Soviet resistance is one of the most under-appreciated conflicts of the twentieth century" and "While his comments were certainly misguided..." In other words, there is a bit too much of the presence of the unsophisticated author in this book. Despite the fact that I'm as sympathetic as anyone to the grinding of his anti-Stalinist axe in the last part of the book, some objectivity would inspire more confidence in the content.
The book is worth reading for a sense of what happened - indeed, clearly there could be more movies about this era, as there are literally millions of human stories here. It's unbelievable when I think that my parents were safely in first or second grade in America while this was happening.
Still, read with caution. Also, as others have pointed out, the amount of time spent on the rise of Stalinism in the countries occupied by the USSR might come as a surprise. It's worthwhile content, but as the stories unfold it seems they belong in a different book. There might have been two books here.
More--perhaps all-- Americans should read this book. I was born at the end of the post-WWII baby boom. The history that I was taught in high school and college, and the movies I grew up with, invariably glossed over the aftermath of World War II, creating a triumphalist narrative (the Allies saved the day, and thereafter everything was fine). This combined with several decades of relative peace and prosperity in the US and Western Europe, has fostered ignorance and lulled us into complacency. In fact, as Lowe describes in Savage Continent, winning the war and rebuilding Europe involved messy, less-than-heroic decisions and compromises that reverberate into the present. Ethnic, religious, and political tensions inflamed by the war contributed to horrific violence long after its official end. As a woman, I am grateful that Lowe does not downplay sexual violence, including rape, which was widespread and often extreme. After reading this book, I am left with greater awareness. World War II was catastrophic. For millions, it was a no-win situation. The losses are incalculable. Recovery and rebuilding was not easy or quick.
As World War II fades from living memory, we are seeing the reanimation and rehabilitation of some of the philosophies and attitudes that fueled it. We should be terrified.
Top international reviews
The "popular" perception of WW2 in Europe is a picture painted by the Allies after the war, to both justify their actions during the war and to further their political aims. The grossly simplistic picture of "the good Allies beating the nasty Germans, who committed the Holocaust" ignores the reality of a sea of small scale forgotten ethnic, political and civil wars, which, in my opinion, resulted in regional horrors that matched the Holocaust, but are now largely forgotten. This book is well researched, almost comprehensive and both an entertaining and thoroughly informative read. It also provides the student of WW2 with some understanding of the rationale for the Germans behaviour toward the various indigenous populations in the occupied countries.
My only major regret is that the author chose to "omit the horrors perpetrated against the German civil population by the Soviet forces, because this is well documented elsewhere" - this was a massive and unfortunate omission. To discover those events, and to gain a small understanding of why the German forces fought so desperately against the Soviets in 1945, you need to read Hellstorm: The Death of Nazi Germany by Thomas Goodrich.
I love history books. I’ve read a fair bit on the immediate post war history of the UK, but very little on that of the European mainland. This book covers the immediate aftermath. It is something of an untold story before Savage Continent, or at least not mentioned. Perhaps we’re ashamed of that part of our history. If so, then quite rightly.
It is scary. I stopped reading it twice, not because it is written poorly, in fact, it is just the opposite. Lowe sort of chats to you, and his matter of fact style makes it worse. However, the list of horros just got too much. Then it drew me back, only to be appalled again.
I had no idea what had gone on. I knew there was some retribution handed out to collaborators. I’d seen film of a few bodies and young women with their heads being shaved. But this goes deeper. The figures are just that; figures. If you thought 100 dead was bad, then 500 is just a bit worse. But the book highlights the hundreds of thousands who were killed, maimed, died, displaced, lost. And it has, largely, been ignored.
I recently read of the ‘missing’ in the years of Franco, and the way the government have sort of covered it up, making it an offence to mention it. He was nothing compared to what went on after the war in Europe.
Want to sober up, for days? Then Savage Continent does it for you.
The worst thing is that you slowly realise that, although you think you'll be above all the hatred, the retribution and the killings, people just like us was committing ghastly acts, then going on to do it again. The scariest thing is that there's no real justification for thinking we would not do just the same in similar circumstances.
It will keep you awake. It will increase your knowledge of what humans are really like. It exposes an horrific bit of European history. It's depressing.
I knew about the plight of millions of displaced people, the treatment of German prisoners of war, the suffering of women and children, the return of surviving Jews,etc...But what about more examples of lawlessness and chaos like the repulsive civil war in Greece, the insidious communist takeover of Eastern Europe, the shocking ethnic cleansing in Poland and Czechoslovakia , the rampant, persistent antisemitism, a little everywhere,...
Every chapter in this book is intensely disturbing and shocking . And now I think of 2015 : the constant threat posed by Putin's Russia, the offensive attitude of many East Europeans towards Syrian and Afghan refugees, the smouldering hatred between Croats, Muslims and Serbs , the Far Left in power in a Greece where the extreme Right is also all powerful and I ask myself : what have we learnt ? What is the purpose of knowing about past History ? Should this war that ended nearly 70 years ago be " regarded as little more than Ancient History " ? Should it be remembered ? It should not be allowed to poison the present, says Keith Lowe.
This is without any doubt one of the most powerful and impressive History books that I have ever read. Mr Lowe is a genius.
A good book will make you read more into the subject and I found myself buying more books about the aftermath of the war and finding out more horrific stories that today I am astounded that most people know nothing about.
I never knew of any film documentaries or books or even web pages that dealt with this subject until I read this book and I find it unbelievable that this subject is not spoke about in schools when learning about WW2. Deaths after the war are more than most other wars yet this subject is anonymous.
From other sources I have read or watched, most of what Keith Lowe writes is spot on. The fact I went on to find out and understand more is worth the 5 stars.
Some assertions clash with other sources: Lowe says that food was short in Germany all through the war, others that they were doing very well on plundered countries until the Russians pushed back; Lowe says that the Dutch hunger winter was circumstantial, others that the Nazis inflicted it in retaliation for the national rail strike; the destruction of Gestapo HQ in Copenhagen on 10.3.45 was not 'luck' but targeted with precision by the RAF.
This book should be required reading by everbody, preferably before they finish full-time education; but I for one could not stomach more than a chapter at a time, with time between chapters to recover. It is horrifyng on every page. Keith Lowe is a novel-writer as well as an historian; so his story is clearly presented in plain prose. It is so uniquely outstanding that it needs no novelist's literary tricks however to make its impact.
For those of us who remember the Second World War ending in 1945, this book by Keith Lowe will shake you to the bones. It took me a month to finish this harrowing history, mostly because it was so depressing.
The truth is the war ended in the 1950's. Killing continued, ethnic cleansing erupted, Communism spread tyranny, mass migration of millions of people (especially 11 million Germans) - all were the rule in Europe in the supposed post- war environment till much later. Particularly harrowing is the history of the Jews in this post war period. It is impossible to understand why Israel exists without understanding how the Holocaust continued after German defeat, especially in light of the behaviour of the Poles and the pathetic reaction of the Allies to the Jewish plight.
Lowe is thorough and reaches into the history with skill. He unearths great examples, and puts the shape of the events in perspective. He writes well, but not exceptionally well, like Beevor, Montefiore or other top flight new historians of the war. So he loses a star for style but not content. Perhaps his lack of narrative skill also slowed my completion of this sizeable book.
I learned a great deal from this book - and that is something I don't usually say - and recommend it without reservation
In short, a book which should be read by anyone interested in WWII.
Dr John Baldwin
Well written, very well researched, with an ominous ending, when you learn what happened and look at what's going on in the world at the moment, and think about the old sores opened again in the former Yugoslavia, etc.
I'll be buying his book on Hamburg next, as I am very impressed.
Another we should get on our school curriculums!