Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Savage continent: Europe in the aftermath of…

Savage continent: Europe in the aftermath of World War II (2012)

by Keith Lowe

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3741828,918 (4.1)17
  1. 20
    Year Zero. A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma (gust)
  2. 10
    Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 by Tony Judt (marieke54)
  3. 00
    My Hundred Children by Lena Kuchler-Silberman (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: This memoir by a woman who founded a Jewish orphanage in Poland immediately after the war shows quite a lot of the violence, tension and problems Lowe's book describes.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 17 mentions

English (17)  French (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Great. I really enjoy European history and WWII history in particular. And I hadn't really been aware of what Europe had been like in the immediate aftermath of the war. This book is dark, dark, dark. But very interesting. ( )
  chasing | Jan 18, 2016 |
For a person well read in the history of WW2 this book really exposed a huge gap in my own knowledge about the aftermath. In many ways it was worse for more people than the war itself. Who needs to read about the zombie apocalypse? Europe was the apocalypse defined and it was not pretty. The numbers in every realm of human suffering are more or less mind-blowing and hard to 'appreciate' (not that you really want to). Credit to the author for trying to humanize the story with little vignettes to illustrate the nature of the suffering but no one can describe the thousands, millions of lives ended, ruined or damaged without losing the reader completely. It seems he struck a good balance between overview and detail. The book could have easily been twice as long just trying to catalog the litany of suffering and vengeance but again there was enough to tell the 'story' while retaining readability. A fairly nice bibliography will allow readers to delve deeper if so interested. I emerged with more questions on the Greek Civil War. At the end you marvel that Europe was able to recover as it did which is a testimony itself to human resilience. ( )
  PCorrigan | Jun 7, 2015 |
Review, Keith Lowe, SAVAGE CONTINENT
Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, by Keith Lowe
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Released: July 3, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1-250-00020-0

Softcover: 460 pages

Publisher contact: John Karle 646-307-5546 john.karle@stmartins.com

Nonfiction History Military History & Affairs World War II

Keith Lowe is a novelist and the author of Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg 1943, a critically acclaimed examination of the background for and implementation of the western Allies’ decision to destroy major German cities by fire.


What really happened in Europe after May 8/9, 1945 has remained largely unknown to the general public, especially in the United States. Keith Lowe argues, in the Introduction to Savage Continent, that neither historians nor the members of the foreign business and government elites who worked on the resurrection of western Europe ever wrote publicly about the reality of “life on the ground” in the immediate postwar era. They chose instead to depict the period as one in which Europe “rose like a phoenix from the ashes of destruction.”

Keith Lowe is not silly enough to contend that Europe did not ultimately rise “like a phoenix”. He is perceptive enough to know, however, that this did not happen either quickly or immediately after the war, and that it would likely not have happened the way it did without the East/West political conflict and the resultant Marshall Plan. But as Lowe makes abundantly clear, Savage Continent is not about the happy ending brought to Europe by the Marshall Plan and related western intervention. It is about the several immediate postwar years during which Europeans availed themselves of the opportunity to “settle scores”.

Lowe makes clear from the beginning of Savage Continent that his work is not the product of original research. Instead, he synthesizes a raft of existing books and articles written by many disparate authors. Lowe does a masterful job in bringing this material together in order to give the reader a more comprehensive description of the process by which Europe continued sinking into the moral abyss that filled the void left by the war’s conclusion.

The author’s prose is compelling, and nowhere more favorably demonstrated than in the first three paragraphs of his introduction, in which he invites the reader to “Imagine a world without institutions”. In such a world, there would be no governments, no education, no way of knowing about the rest of the world or communicating with it, no means of locomotion, no jobs, no money, no food, and utter chaos instead of law and order. These things strike one as the product of an overactive imagination, but Lowe cautions us to recognize that there remain several “hundreds of thousands of people alive today” who experienced such a way of living throughout Europe in the years after the end of the Second World War.

In order to best describe the events with which he deals, Lowe breaks the story down into manageable portions. He uses his first such section, called “The Legacy of War”, to lay the literal and figurative groundwork for the rest of his work. Here we are confronted with such horrors as the purposeful destruction during 1944-1945, on direct orders from Adolf Hitler, of “93 per cent of Warsaw’s dwellings”, as well as many priceless architectural treasures such as Pilsudski Square, the Jesuit Church, and the Royal Castle, along with numerous archives and libraries, including their contents.

There was also the partial or complete destruction, primarily by aerial bombing, of hundreds of cities throughout Europe, the nearly complete devastation of both cities and countryside in European Russia, the “de-housing” of 10 million Ukrainians and 18-20 million Germans, the obliteration of tens of thousands of places of work like factories, mines, and shipyards, and the reduction of the European transportation system to pre-Industrial Revolution standards through the destruction of roads, railroad tracks, harbors and canals.

Apart from the physical destruction of much of Europe, the war brought about the destruction of families, the displacement of millions of people, and perhaps most importantly, the catastrophic and nearly total undermining of moral standards, especially as they related to human interaction and the relationship between the powerful and the weak. And it is this aspect of the war’s legacy that is well documented and described in the remaining three parts of Lowe’s work.

Each of those parts is grim in the extreme. In the second section of the book, the author speaks to the question of vengeance, the all-consuming sentiment of those peoples who were on the receiving end of brutality for four years and more. So aroused were the victims of fascism that Europe was tortured for several more years beyond the coming of “peace”, wallowing in a pall of human suffering and grief the like of which had not been seen since the Thirty Years War. Yet further millions of human beings were brutally murdered, deliberately starved or frozen to death, herded into death camps, and otherwise brutalized for no other reason than that their existence was intolerable to others.

What we now refer to as “ethnic cleansing” was often treated as sport by the newly empowered in postwar Europe. It expressed the longings of its perpetrators not only for vengeance against their former masters, but also for their long-nurtured loathing and envy of their neighbors of differing ethnic background. Those groups with the upper hand seized the land and belongings of their victims, and drove them out of their traditional homes, often through the wilderness and in the dead of winter. By far the most victimized groups in this respect were large populations of ethnic Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia, whom their persecutors drove pitilessly west, out of the homes that they had occupied for centuries. Millions more human beings died miserably as a result of these forced “relocations”; most of the victims were women, children and the aged, as the majority of the able-bodied men had long since died in combat or were toiling without respite in a gulag of Soviet prisoner of war camps.

The last of Lowe’s topics is the series of civil wars that wracked Europe from the end of the war until the early 1950’s. These conflicts, which raged in France and Italy, as well as in Greece and Romania, stemmed from long-standing political disputes and were often exacerbated by the wartime collusion of one or another faction with the Nazis or Italian fascists. The already volatile relationships between differing political groups in these countries were not mollified by mutual accusations of treason. The result was yet another round of political murders, mass killings, and general lawlessness.

In Savage Continent Keith Lowe has continued the tradition of the synthesis in historical writing, and in doing so has made accessible to both the specialist and the general public a gruesome story of revenge in mid-twentieth century Europe. That story rarely sees the light of day, even though it is one that is important to readers trying to make sense of the Second World War. It would seem that one of the most important rewards given to the reader of Savage Continent is the understanding that the Second World War, including the Holocaust and like crimes against humanity, was not an aberrant event brought about solely through the agency of a blood-thirsty tyrant and his fanatical followers. Nazi Germany was but one of many places in Europe where groups of people consumed by fear of “the Other”, when provided with an opportunity to exorcise their fears, seized the chance to eradicate those fears as well as “the Other” itself. ( )
  tenutter | Apr 9, 2015 |
Shined a light for me on the brutality and vengeance that consumed much of Europe in the wake of war. Though the soviets were behind a degree of the savagery in the East, most of the belligerence involved partisans, nationalist militias, and even neighbor vs neighbor. The ethnic divisions were only stirred up in the aftermath of wartime, resulting in the most horrific "cleansing" and forced evictions the world has seen. Great scholarship, convincing evidence, balanced. ( )
  JamesMScott | Feb 2, 2015 |
A historian who goes the extra mile to get a better understanding of the issues. Definitely not afraid to take on sacred cows of history or cherished myths. Very good organization with flow of ideas developed in a coherent manner. Unusually good prose for historical writing, very fluid, no need for those pauses and backtracking where you have to untangle the meaning. ( )
  VGAHarris | Jan 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
To Vera
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Information from the Spanish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067091746X, Hardcover)

The Second World War might have officially ended in May 1945, but in reality it rumbled on for another 10 years ...Across Europe, landscapes had been ravaged, entire cities razed and more than 35 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 this epic book, Keith Lowe describes a continent still racked by violence, where large sections of the population had yet to accept that the war was over. He outlines the warped morality and the insatiable urge for vengeance that were the legacy of the conflict. He describes the ethnic cleansing and civil wars that tore apart the lives of ordinary people from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean, and the establishment of a new world order that finally brought stability to a shattered generation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Recounts the disorder in Europe after World War II, describing the brutal acts against Germans and collaborators, the anti-Semitic beliefs that reemerged, and the Allied-tolerated expulsions of citizens from their ancestral homelands.

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
105 wanted4 pay3 pay

Popular covers


Average: (4.1)
2.5 1
3 10
3.5 5
4 36
4.5 5
5 19

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 105,898,139 books! | Top bar: Always visible