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"Explosion of violence at the End of WW2?" Topic

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World War Two on the Land

1,084 hits since 29 Nov 2017
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP29 Nov 2017 10:25 a.m. PST

Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

"The end of the Second World War saw a terrible explosion of violence across Europe. Prisoners murdered jailers. Soldiers visited atrocities on civilians. Resistance fighters killed and pilloried collaborators. Ethnic cleansing, civil war, rape and murder were rife in the days, months and years after hostilities ended. Exploring a Europe consumed by vengeance, Savage Continent is a shocking portrait of an until-now unacknowledged time of lawlessness and terror.

Praise for Savage Continent:

'Deeply harrowing, distinctly troubling. Moving, measured and provocative. A compelling and plausible picture of a continent physically and morally brutalized by slaughter' Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

'Excellent', Independent

'Unbearable but essential. A serious account of things we never knew and our fathers would rather forget. Lowe's transparent prose makes it difficult to look away from a whole catalogue of horrors…you won't sleep afterwards. Such good history it keeps all the questions boiling in your mind', Scotsman

Keith Lowe 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. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Inferno: The Devastation of Hamburg, 1943 (Penguin). He lives in north London with his wife and two children"


Main page

It was so terrible…?


daler240D Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Nov 2017 11:07 a.m. PST

Tony Judt's "Postwar" addresses this very well. I read it last year; all very new info to a 50 year old American.

Mark 129 Nov 2017 12:18 p.m. PST

Looks like an interesting book. I agree that the violence across Europe during the post-war period is often neglected in historical discussions.

However I take issue with the opening statements of the Amazon review:

"The end of the Second World War saw a terrible explosion of violence across Europe. …"

No. Disagree. Completely disagree. Can't even stand to read on with such a bold-faced revisionist statement as the opening bid.

It was so terrible…?

From my readings I believe and understand that it was indeed a very bad time. But the idea that it was an INCREASE, much less a substantial, shocking increase, from the levels of violence that preceeded this period (ie: the levels of violence before the war ended) is non-sense.

The end of WW2 did not see a "terrible explosion in violence across Europe". It saw a "massive reduction in violence across Europe." It's just that the level of violence that had characterized the prior 4-5 years did not immediately drop to the levels one would normally consider acceptable.

All of the ills and violence decried in this bit of breathless journalism -- prisoners vs. jailers, soldiers vs. civilians, resistance fighters vs. collaborators, ethnic cleansing, etc. were all present 10-fold during the war. They ramped DOWN after the war, but not immediately and not to zero.

At least that's my understanding. Admittedly I was not present in Europe at that time. But I have done a fair bit of reading of wartime as well as post-war accounts and history. If this book is trying to suggest that violence went UP after the war ended, then I am highly, highly skeptical.

But I don't believe that's what the book says. So my comments are not a criticism of the book. Just a criticism of the review.

(aka: Mk 1)

deephorse29 Nov 2017 12:54 p.m. PST

The end of the Second World War saw a terrible explosion of violence across Europe.

There is no attribution for this opening passage on Amazon UK, unlike the other review comments, so perhaps take it with a pinch of salt. On the other hand there is a very good review on the site dated 28 July 2017. This gives a much fuller account of the content of the book and makes it one that I will likely buy.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP29 Nov 2017 2:47 p.m. PST

I read the book rather than the review. Doesn't anyone remember the guiding principle? ("Cover illustrators can't read. Blurb writers CAN read, but have not read the book.") I don't think Lowe anywhere says that, say, the fall of 1945 saw more people killed than the Spring. But things do seem to have gotten more Hobbesian. The (relatively) disciplined clash of empires and ideologies was replaced by tribal, fratricidal and even personal violence.

The book is quite clear, and I think as accurate as we're likely to get. The worst I can say is that it's episodic. The author could probably put out a companion volume just as long focusing on different aspects of the overall civic breakdown.

Mind you, as a wargamer I found little of use, but that's partly the sort of wargamer I am. I don't have so many gaming days that I'm going to waste one of them on a bunch of Polish irregulars massacring a Ukrainian village, or the other way around. Give me smoothbores and bright uniforms--or at least tank formations in a desert--any day. Those who do skirmish-level moderns might find much to inspire them here.

Ragbones Supporting Member of TMP29 Nov 2017 5:51 p.m. PST

I read the book several years ago. Terribly depressing. Appeared to be well researched and addressed subject matter not often addressed in "popular" non-fiction (ie. not academic).

Queen Catherine Inactive Member29 Nov 2017 6:06 p.m. PST


Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2017 11:04 a.m. PST

So… the violence exist…


Virginia Tory30 Nov 2017 11:08 a.m. PST

The book is very good. There's a general belief that the violence halted with the end of the war--but the book simply documents how this was not the case.

Depressing, to be sure, but a very useful corrective to those who think things were suddenly all better by 1947 or so.

One of my dad's earliest assignments in 1952 was Germany--specifically Berlin. Parts of it still were basically destroyed.

Queen Catherine Inactive Member30 Nov 2017 11:37 a.m. PST


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2017 4:49 p.m. PST

Oh, the violence certainly existed, Tango. I'd say five years from V-E Day before the civil wars, guerilla resistance and "ethnic cleansing" died down, and longer than that before all the prisoners were released.

Queen Catherine's right about the poverty, too. Just think of the destruction of capital from railroads and bridges to livestock, not to mention men of prime working years crippled, imprisoned or dead.

And Virginia Tory's right about the recovery. Read postwar British mysteries like Tiger in the Smoke or some of Ngaio Marsh. Bombed out and abandoned sections of London are regular setting into the 1950's, and London got off easy next to most German cities.

Mind you, I can still find you castles burned out by Louis XIV.

Bindon Blood01 Dec 2017 6:56 a.m. PST

In the late eighties/early nineties I was still parking my car on scrubland leftover from the Blitz and this was only a couple of miles from the Tower of London, so in theory prime land…

I am sure I read that the French were using Germans POWs as virtual slave labour for 8-10 years after the war ended

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa01 Dec 2017 11:12 a.m. PST

My Mum travelled across a relatively recently post-war Germany as a child with her parents, as tourists (she herself admits she has no idea what her parents were thinking!) and ended up at one point under armed guard in a train station… Basically it was one hell of a mess (and that's probably putting it mildly). Europe was awash with people who were stateless something that a lot of the general public now probably wouldn't even grasp as a problem.

(Needless to say my Mum has considerable difficulty with the stance on the EU many of her contemporaries in the UK have taken!)

Legion 401 Dec 2017 1:23 p.m. PST

Much of the nations of the world had been torn apart by the war. And as after any major catastrophic event, there was a lot of work to do to get things back to "normal". The refugee situation was like nothing the world had experienced at that time. Plus there may have been some old scores to settle. Probably many places were quite "lawless", so to speak, as well …

Mark 101 Dec 2017 4:46 p.m. PST

I worked for many years with a fellow from Germany who grew up in the immediate post-war era. I'm still in touch with him and consider him a friend.

At one point years after we had worked together, I was at a company where the CEO was a French North African -- a fellow who had been born and spent his first several years in Algeria.

In conversation my German friend mentioned he had met this fellow, and didn't like him. He freely admitted that it was a prejudice of his … his home town had been in the French occupation zone of Germany, and on several occasions had been garrisoned by Algerian, Tunisian and/or Moroccan troops while he was growing up. He lamented to me how harsh and uncivilized they were as occupiers, and said he could never have a friendly view of a French North African.

In the interest of preserving our friendship I never pointed out to him the irony I perceived of a German complaining how harsh an occupier might have been … to someone of Ukrainian Jewish decent who had an entire branch of his family erased between the start and end of the war.

(aka: Mk 1)

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