After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation

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9780465003389: After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation

When Hitler’s government collapsed in 1945, Germany was immediately divided up under the control of the Allied Powers and the Soviets. A nation in tatters, in many places literally flattened by bombs, was suddenly subjected to brutal occupation by vengeful victors. According to recent estimates, as many as two million German women were raped by Soviet occupiers. General Eisenhower denied the Germans access to any foreign aid, meaning that German civilians were forced to subsist on about 1,200 calories a day. (American officials privately acknowledged at the time that the death rate amongst adults had risen to four times the pre-war levels; child mortality had increased tenfold). With the authorization of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, over four million Germans were impressed into forced labor. General George S. Patton was so disgusted by American policy in post-war Germany that he commented in his diary, “It is amusing to recall that we fought the revolution in defense of the rights of man and the civil war to abolish slavery and have now gone back on both principles"

Although an astonishing 2.5 million ordinary Germans were killed in the post-Reich era, few know of this traumatic history. There has been an unspoken understanding amongst historians that the Germans effectively got what they deserved as perpetrators of the Holocaust. First ashamed of their national humiliation at the hands of the Allies and Soviets, and later ashamed of the horrors of the Holocaust, Germans too have remained largely silent – a silence W.G. Sebald movingly described in his controversial book On the Natural History of Destruction.

In After the Reich, Giles MacDonogh has written a comprehensive history of Germany and Austria in the postwar period, drawing on a vast array of contemporary first-person accounts of the period. In doing so, he has finally given a voice the millions of who, lucky to survive the war, found themselves struggling to survive a hellish “peace.”

A startling account of a massive and brutal military occupation, After the Reich is a major work of history of history with obvious relevance today.

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About the Author:

Giles MacDonogh is the author of 1938: Hitler’s GambleThe Last Kaiser: A Life of Wilhelm II, and Frederick the Great. MacDonogh was born in London in 1955 and studied history at Oxford University. He has a regular column in the Financial Times and has written for the Times (London), Guardian, and Evening Standard. He lives in London.

From The Washington Post:

Reviewed by Andrew Nagorski

There's a gruesome last chapter to World War II, the bloodiest war in history. During the forced expulsions of about 12 million Germans from the Reich's eastern provinces, mostly from territory that became part of the newly reconstituted states of Poland and Czechoslovakia, about 2 million died. Imprisonment in former Nazi concentration camps, death marches, starvation, beatings, rapes and outright murder were all commonplace. As the Red Army and many local inhabitants saw it, this was justifiable revenge for Germany's monstrous crimes. The Americans, Brits and French didn't engage in violence on anything close to that scale, but they, too, sometimes let their desire for revenge get the better of them.

For a long time, this record of retribution was a taboo topic outside of Germany. Even the Germans worried that emphasizing their suffering could open them to accusations of rewriting history to cast themselves as equal victims. But since the collapse of communist regimes in their countries in 1989, at least some Poles and Czechs have been confronting that history. (Don't expect anything of the sort from Putin's Russia, where Stalin is glorified once again.) And in the West, this is a painful subject that has been attracting more attention.

In After the Reich, Giles MacDonogh, a British author of several books about German history, chronicles the final weeks of the war and the occupation that followed. His ambitious mission: to offer a comprehensive, unsparing account of what happened to the German people when the tables were turned. MacDonogh works to assemble a massive indictment of the victors, and his array of detail and individual stories is both impressive and exhausting. But he's far less successful in navigating the tricky moral terrain that such a subject inevitably occupies. As a result, his is a deeply flawed book.

It's misleading to talk about German suffering without referring to the Nazi record, but MacDonogh offers only the most perfunctory nods in that direction. "I make no excuses for the crimes the Nazis committed," he writes. What's troubling is his willingness to leave unchallenged some of the most dubious if understandable assertions of those Germans who suffered, his eagerness to trumpet any acts of brutality by Allied forces as the rule rather than the exception, and his propensity for highly questionable, sweeping generalizations.

MacDonogh informs us that 1.8 million German civilians had perished by the end of the war. Here, at least, one would expect a couple of comparisons that are glaringly absent: the death toll for the Soviet Union (an estimated 26 million, more than half of them civilians) and Poland (nearly 6 million, half of them Polish Jews). True, that's not the subject of his book, but some context is needed.

When a German woman expelled from Czech lands compares her people's plight to that of the Jews under the Nazis, MacDonogh offers no comment. Of course the expulsions were anything but the "orderly and humane" action promised by the Potsdam Agreement. That doesn't make them anything like the Holocaust. The well-documented cases of mass rape by Red Army soldiers -- incidentally, not just of Germans but also of women of many nationalities in "liberated" territories -- make for chilling reading. But MacDonogh seems eager to treat the incomparably less frequent cases of rape and torture by U.S. troops as evidence that they were almost equally vengeful.

There's more than a passing whiff of contemporary anti-Americanism in the casual way that he throws around terms such as "the inhumane approach" of the American victors toward the Germans. MacDonogh sees no contradiction in mentioning that the United States honored its promise to quickly release German POWs, or in both chastising the Americans for initiating a too-sweeping de-Nazification effort and then for not persistently nailing more Nazis. He off-handedly mentions the remarkable reconstruction of Germany -- the result of the most generous occupation policy the world had ever seen -- yet seems determined to emphasize everything that went awry. The Americans were too harsh or too soft, according to MacDonogh, but almost never right. The problem with After the Reich is that it gets so much of the big picture so wrong.

Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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Descrizione libro The Perseus Books Group, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. When Hitler s government collapsed in 1945, Germany was immediately divided up under the control of the Allied Powers and the Soviets. A nation in tatters, in many places literally flattened by bombs, was suddenly subjected to brutal occupation by vengeful victors. According to recent estimates, as many as two million German women were raped by Soviet occupiers. General Eisenhower denied the Germans access to any foreign aid, meaning that German civilians were forced to subsist on about 1,200 calories a day. (American officials privately acknowledged at the time that the death rate amongst adults had risen to four times the pre-war levels; child mortality had increased tenfold). With the authorization of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, over four million Germans were impressed into forced labor. General George S. Patton was so disgusted by American policy in post-war Germany that he commented in his diary, It is amusing to recall that we fought the revolution in defense of the rights of man and the civil war to abolish slavery and have now gone back on both principles Although an astonishing 2.5 million ordinary Germans were killed in the post-Reich era, few know of this traumatic history.There has been an unspoken understanding amongst historians that the Germans effectively got what they deserved as perpetrators of the Holocaust. First ashamed of their national humiliation at the hands of the Allies and Soviets, and later ashamed of the horrors of the Holocaust, Germans too have remained largely silent - a silence W.G. Sebald movingly described in his controversial book On the Natural History of Destruction. In After the Reich, Giles MacDonogh has written a comprehensive history of Germany and Austria in the postwar period, drawing on a vast array of contemporary first-person accounts of the period. In doing so, he has finally given a voice the millions of who, lucky to survive the war, found themselves struggling to survive a hellish peace. A startling account of a massive and brutal military occupation, After the Reich is a major work of history of history with obvious relevance today. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780465003389

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Descrizione libro The Perseus Books Group, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. When Hitler s government collapsed in 1945, Germany was immediately divided up under the control of the Allied Powers and the Soviets. A nation in tatters, in many places literally flattened by bombs, was suddenly subjected to brutal occupation by vengeful victors. According to recent estimates, as many as two million German women were raped by Soviet occupiers. General Eisenhower denied the Germans access to any foreign aid, meaning that German civilians were forced to subsist on about 1,200 calories a day. (American officials privately acknowledged at the time that the death rate amongst adults had risen to four times the pre-war levels; child mortality had increased tenfold). With the authorization of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, over four million Germans were impressed into forced labor. General George S. Patton was so disgusted by American policy in post-war Germany that he commented in his diary, It is amusing to recall that we fought the revolution in defense of the rights of man and the civil war to abolish slavery and have now gone back on both principles Although an astonishing 2.5 million ordinary Germans were killed in the post-Reich era, few know of this traumatic history.There has been an unspoken understanding amongst historians that the Germans effectively got what they deserved as perpetrators of the Holocaust. First ashamed of their national humiliation at the hands of the Allies and Soviets, and later ashamed of the horrors of the Holocaust, Germans too have remained largely silent - a silence W.G. Sebald movingly described in his controversial book On the Natural History of Destruction. In After the Reich, Giles MacDonogh has written a comprehensive history of Germany and Austria in the postwar period, drawing on a vast array of contemporary first-person accounts of the period. In doing so, he has finally given a voice the millions of who, lucky to survive the war, found themselves struggling to survive a hellish peace. A startling account of a massive and brutal military occupation, After the Reich is a major work of history of history with obvious relevance today. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780465003389

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