by Keith Lowe
New York: St. Martin's Press, 2012. Pp. xx, 460.
Illus, maps, notes, index. $30.00. ISBN: 1250000203
is an excellent treatment of the final days of World War II in Europe and of the first months of “peace” that followed.
Most accounts of the transition from war to peace in Europe tend to focus either on Germany or on specific aspects, such as demobilization, reconstruction, displaced persons, Holocaust, and so forth. Savage Continent is different.
In Savage Continent, Lowe, author of several novels and the well-received Inferno: The Devastation of Hamburg (2007), has done excellent work covering the broad panorama of a shattered continent. Tens of millions of displaced persons, far from home, be they soldiers, forced laborers, prisoners-of-war, concentration camp inmates, refugees, millions of whom had no home to return to for reasons ranging from destruction (other than Prague, Europe from the Vistula to the Rhine was a wasteland suitable for a Mad Max movie), to politics (e.g., Poles in Germany who had no wish to return to a Stalinist Poland or Jews who would be unwelcome going ‘home’ pretty much anywhere, Germans or Italians expelled from traditional lands in the East or the Balkans). It was a continent mired in chaos, government order aside from the armies had evaporated in many places, so that gangs of deserters, refugees, even feral children, often ran wild, amidst a general chaos in which the black market, prostitution, and crime thrived, and then there were the fugitive Nazis.
Lowe takes the various threads and weaves a high readable, grim tapestry of what was immediate postwar Europe. Highly recommended.