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Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II Hardcover – July 3, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 402 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A superb and immensely important book.” ―The Washington Post

“Lowe's work, thoroughly researched and written with scrupulous objectivity, promises to be the year's best book on European history.” ―Financial Times (UK)

“Deeply harrowing. Moving, measured and provocative. A compelling picture of a continent physically and morally brutalized by slaughter.” ―Sunday Times (UK)

“Graphic and chilling. This excellent book paints a little-known and frightening picture of a continent in the embrace of lawlessness and chaos.” ―Ian Kershaw Bestselling author of The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945

About the Author

Keith Lowe is the author of two novels and the critically acclaimed history Inferno: The Fiery Devastation of Hamburg, 1943. He is widely recognized as an authority on the Second World War, and has often spoken on TV and radio, both in Britain and the United States. Most recently he was an historical consultant and one of the main speakers in the PBS documentary The Bombing of Germany which was also broadcast in Germany. His books have been translated into several languages, and he has also lectured in Britain, Canada and Germany. He lives in North London with his wife and two kids.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (July 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781250000200
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250000200
  • ASIN: 1250000203
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (402 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Gelman on July 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In the introduction to his book, Keith Lowe writes that the story of Europe in the immediate period following WW2 " is not primarily one of reconstruction and rehabilitation-it is firstly one of descent into anarchy". Such a history has never been written before.
This book,which comes to fill in this void, has four main parts and its main theme is that of vengeance. Its other themes are those of displacement, famines, moral destruction, rape and civil wars.
In other words, after WW2 there was an atmosphere of chaos and violence almost everywhere and people decided to take the law into their hands. It was also the time to settle old scores. Yogoslav partisans decided to cut off the noses of their opponents, while Sudeten Germans were butchered in Czechoslovakia. Dutch and Belgian collaborators were summarily executed and their houses were set on fire, while in Italy the bodies of Fascists were displayed in the streets where they could be spat at by passers-by. In Hungary, members of the far-right Arrow Cross were forced to exume mass Jewish graves in very hot weather while local people threw sticks and stones at them. In France, clandestine prisons were set up where suspected collaborators were subjected to multiple forms of sadism including mutilation, rape, enforced prostitution and every type of torture imaginable.
This book is also about the history of ethnic cleansing and inter-communal and political violence. Poland harnessed the wartime hatred for Ukrainians to launch a program of expulsion and forced assimilation. Slovaks, Hungarians and Romanians embarked on a series of population exchange.
Take, for example, Berlin. It was there where Hannelore Thiele was raped by seven in a row, "like animals".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book opens a window on the "Old Europe" of virulent ethnic hatreds and murderous ethnic cleansings against minority groups. The book reveals that contrary to what we've been taught these atrocities did not end with the defeat of the Nazis in 1945. In fact the defeat of the Nazis inflamed them for several more years. It really wasn't until 1948 or 1949 that Europe gained some sense of political and economic stability. During this time murderous inter-ethnic wars added a toll of hundreds of thousands more to the tens of millions killed outright in the war.

Author Keith Lowe brings home the terror of these early post-war years:

* He describes the near-total destruction of European cities. Some cities like Warsaw had nearly 100% of their housing stock destroyed and most of their pre-war populations obliterated. They might as well have been vaporized with hydrogen bombs. The prewar economy in all of Central and Western Europe was defunct due to loss of life, worthless currencies, and obliteration of urban and industrial infrastructure. America did its part to restore economic order in Europe with billions of dollars of aid via the Marshall Plan, but this took several years to produce results.

* People resorted to desperate means to survive even in places where the war ended relatively early, such as Southern Italy. Lowe illustrates degrading scenes like those in Italian railway stations and public buildings where hundreds of Italian women lined up to prostitute themselves on the public benches for American soldiers who traded sex for a tin of rations. Later on this happened in Germany. This was a time of starvation rations when the lifeline of many families depended on having a young woman in the household to trade for sex.
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Format: Hardcover
For Americans at home, the end of WWII in Europe and the Pacific meant peace and reconstruction of Europe with the Marshall Plan. But in the wake of the war, another war continued on. The formation of the Soviet Bloc and the hostilities between rival groups in Eastern Europe, and between collaborators and Resistance fighters in Western Europe continued. Food and necessities were rationed (well into the Fifties, did you know?) and as often is the case, a population turns on itself after a war is over and an external enemy is defeated.

Here is the story of many of these conflicts, something that Americans are not so familiar with. For example, Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy had "partisans" who fought the Germans, and after the war continued, were unwilling to lay down arms and still at war with factions. Yugoslavia was created as a country under strongman Tito, but ultimately broke apart in more bitter civil war decades later, after Tito's death.

Disease and privation was rampant--though we remember the Berlin airlift, other parts of Europe saw diseases of starvation such as pellagra (a niacin deficiency) --especially in Romania where corn is a staple and processed corn is notably lacking in that nutrient.

More disruption and violence; a civil war in Greece, the subjugation of Eastern Europe under the Soviet bloc. It's all in this worthy history and lest we forget how Europe formed itself, with blood and tears after the worst war in its history, we should read this and remember. Recommended.
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