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Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 by…

Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (2005)

by Tony Judt

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A comprehensive but turgid survey of post WWII European history. ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 26, 2016 |
I read this last year over the summer holiday, and forgot to Goodreads review it! I'm very disappointed in myself. Anyway, it's as good as everyone says. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Oh boy. Wish me luck!
  beabatllori | Apr 2, 2013 |
Very thorough and impressive study of a very broad area/era in history. Filled in a lot of gaps in my historical knowledge. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 29, 2013 |
“Since 1989 it has become clearer than it was before just how much the stability of post-war Europe rested upon the accomplishments of Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler (p. 9).” The previously ethnically heterogenous societies become more homogenous states.

Details how devastated Europe was, in terms of physical and human capital, many children were orphaned or ill fed, people were killed and displaced, many German (and East European) women were raped by the Red Army. But still managed to rise.

Observes that (German) occupation may have made non-democratic alternatives less appealing, and thus strengthened democracy.

In Norway the highest proportion prosecuted for collaboration after the war - all 55 000 members of NS and 40 000 others (of a population of 3 mill). Otherwise great variation in the extent of prosecution. In Denmark, where collaboration was little known of, people were punished harshly, while in France it was more common so punished less (when speaking about civil servants). And in Greece it was the wartime resisters, from the left, who were prosecuted, since Britain and US thought it vital not to disrupt the business interests, who had been dealing with the Germans. And in general often also took the form of settling old scores, e.g. in Yugoslavia and Hungary.

Collective amnesia was a key in Europe’s success after the war. Former nazis held important positions in many countries, both because of necessity and because of choice.

Big fear in France about American culture taking over through the Marshall aid, and great protests against Coke opening bottling plants. Indeed American films did dominate the European market in the 50’s, and actually got 50 % of their revenue from there.

It is easy to forget how dramatically living standards and real wages grew in the decades after the war.

Radio became widespread, then TV. Judt thinks the shared experiences this brought as being more important for a sense of national community than earlier efforts at nation-building, in particular in Italy. Both radio and tv were first controlled by the adults, then by those who were listening or watching. Did that opportunity for autonomy, exploration, shallowness, etc. do something to the generation that experienced it?

Argues that the wartime industrial structure and investments in Germany laid the ground for the country’s later industrial and economic success. Made quality goods.

I was surprised to learn that censorship of the theatre in the UK did not formally end until 1968, but I probably should not have been - Monty Python’s Life of Brian from 1979 was actually banned in Norway... In fact censorship in the BBC subsisted long into the 70’s and 80, and indeed still takes place, now with reference to e.g. violence, racism and animal cruelty. Although the postwar censorship of what was considered improper is certainly nothing to be proud of, this state of affairs should be kept in mind when getting discouraged by censorship in different regimes around the world today. A related issue to keep in mind in the context of “developing” countries is the strong link between religion and politics in many European countries in the postwar year, e.g. in Germany and Belgium, where Catholics at times had to fear excommunication were they to vote for anyone else than the Christian Democrats.

The beginning of an official thought police in Soviet in the triall (1965-66) against Sinyavsky and Daniel, accused of publishing anti-Soviet material: “The Sinyavsky-Daniel trial was held in camera, although a press campaign vilifying the two writers had drawn public attention to their fate. But the trial proceedings were secretly recorded and transcribed by several people admitted to the courtroom and they were published both in Russian and English a year later, generating international petitions and demands for the men’s release. The unusual aspect of the affair was that for all the brutality of the Stalin decades, no-one had hitherto been arrested and imprisoned solely on the basis of the content of their (fictional) writings. Even if material evidence had been freely invented for the purpose, intellectuals in the past had always been accused of deeds, not merely words (p. 425).”

In the 80’s and 90’s, it was working class districts that most directly were affected by low-skilled East European immigration and later globalisation, and as the left often no longer had as strong a presence as previously, this created an opening for the far right. E.g. Front National in France often did very well in former communist districts.

More than one in five military officers in Norway joined Nasjonal Samling.

Judt’s concluding message is how Europe to a large degree has come well to terms with its past. After the war many stories were purposefully suppressed and forgotten, like the fact that more than one in five military officers in Norway joined Nasjonal Samling, and some of this was necessary to go forward. I think that the crucial question is how to do this in real time. I do not know. ( )
  ohernaes | Mar 26, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143037757, Paperback)

World War II may have ended in 1945, but according to historian Tony Judt, the conflict's epilogue lasted for nearly the rest of the century. Calling 1945-1989 "an interim age," Judt examines what happened on each side of the Iron Curtain, with the West nervously inching forward while the East endured the "peace of the prison yard" until the fall of Communism in 1989 signaled their chance to progress. Though he proposes no grand, overarching theory of the postwar period, Judt's massive work covers the broad strokes as well as the fine details of the years 1945 to 2005. No one book (even at nearly a thousand pages) could fully encompass this complex period, but Postwar comes close, and is impressive for its scope, synthesis, clarity, and narrative cohesion.

Judt treats the entire continent as a whole, providing equal coverage of social changes, economic forces, and cultural shifts in western and eastern Europe. He offers a county-by-county analysis of how each Eastern nation shed Communism and traces the rise of the European Union, looking at what it represents both economically and ideologically. Along with the dealings between European nations, he also covers Europe's conflicted relationship with the United States, which learned much different lessons from World War II than did Europe. In particular, he studies the success of the Marshall Plan and the way the West both appreciated and resented the help, for acceptance of it reminded them of their diminished place in the world. No impartial observer, Judt offers his judgments and opinions throughout the book in an attempt to instruct as well as inform. If a moral lesson is to come from World War II, Judt writes, "then it will have to be taught afresh with each passing generation. 'European Union' may be an answer to history, but it can never be a substitute." This book would be an excellent place to start that lesson. --Shawn Carkonen

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:31 -0400)

Provides a history of contemporary Europe, covering thirty-four countries over a span of sixty years, and includes discussion of the region's economic development, culture, and politics.

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