Book Review: Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II


by Keith Lowe

New York: St. Martin's Press, 2012. Pp. xix, 460. Illus, maps, notes, index. $30.00. ISBN: 1250000203

Savage Continent is a grim work.  In it, novelist and historian Lowe, author, among others, of Inferno - the Devastation of Hamburg 1943, reminds us that by the end of the Second World War most of Europe was almost literally in a state of anarchy, civilization itself seeming to have collapsed. 

Lowe then methodically lays out his case, dividing the work into four broad categories.  He first examines the physical effects of the war, the devastation of the environment and the infrastructure, its costs in lives and the displacement of millions, the hunger and even famine that lingered into post-war years, and the resulting general moral collapse, affecting even the victors and the neutrals.  Lowe follows with a look at the virtual chaos of the times, violence by “liberated” peoples, Allied troops (of all nations), former slave laborers, and former concentration camp inmates, directed against “collaborators”, prisoners-of-war, displaced persons, minorities, and especially women.  This disorganized violence was followed in some areas by systematic “ethnic cleansing”, and that by “civil wars” of varying degrees of violence in
many countries, from which the Cold War emerged, setting the political stage in Europe for the next fortyfive years. 

A deep and thought-provoking work, Savage Continent reminds us of a time in European history that everyone prefers to forget.  It is essential reading for not only for those interested in the Second World War, but also for an understanding of the Cold War.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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