24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2012
After books on the wartime bombing of Dresden and the Berlin Wall, Taylor now provides a popular read on the less explored (by non-German historians at least) immediate post war history of Germany, 1945-47. The initial chapters provide a narrative of collapse and defeat including the mass movements of Germans from east to west (although not with the same degree of depth or breadth as in Giles MacDonogh: After the Reich - from the fall of Vienna to the Berlin Airlift). I was fascinated to discover that teams of economists had been working secretly within the Nazi structure under Backe (Hitler's Food Minister) and Speer planning for the economic survival of a defeated germany from 1943 onwards. The team included one Ludwig Ehrhard, later to be the architect of west Germany's economic miracle.
Where Taylor shines is when he looks at the specific occupation policies of the allies. One useful chapter examines the practical problems of denazification. An early IBM system was introduced to set up a database of suspected Nazi's - but was plagued by technical issues. It was to prove an impossibility for demobilising occupiers to denazify an entire population and Taylor chronicles how pragmatism led to this being one of the first areas handed back to German control. Another factor slowing down the process is suggested as being an underlying anti-semitism amongst the US command (especially Patton) which was reflected in a distaste for supporting and listening to DP's (Displaced persons) many of whom were Jewish survivors of the camps.
Post war zonal policy is examined individually. Much has already been written of the attitude of the Soviets in the east, less about the British and especially the French in the west. It seems the British tended to treat their zone initially as if it were andAfrican colony. At one point an exasperated Kurt Schumacher (later to become the leader of the SPD party) exclaims "Wir sind kein Negervolk" ("We are not Blacks" - which says as much about the racist attitudes prevalent at the time as well as British policy!). Taylor is especially useful on the French position. Early French treatment and policies were harsher even than those in the Russian zone. There were large numbers of prisoner of war deaths, they refused to accept refugees from the east, saying as protestants they would unsettle the religious balance of their Rhineland zone - and cleverly recruiting German Catholic support. Paradoxically though the French were also the first to give the Germans a genuine role in self-government and denazification (Taylor suggests one reason for this may have been more empathy between occupier and occupied given that many of the French had played a collaborational role with Germans in Vichy).
What the reading makes clear is how the occupiers had to juggle many, often conflicting demands: initial concern over "Werwolf"counter attack and desire for revenge, followed by the practicalities of feeding a people incapable of doing this themselves because of destruction and dislocation. How to restore Germany - non industrial state incapable of going to war (The US Morgenthau plan), nation made up of fragmented states as after 1648 (France), a client state incapable of returning to a Nazi, or capitalist past and too weak to wage war (Soviet Union) or a Poor Law pauper kept alive but no better than the poorest at home (Britain). Political and emerging Cold War reality soon focussed minds: Britain and the US restore the framework for economic revival and the ability for their zones to feed themselves. France and Germany begin the dance of a couple destined to tie them and the rest of Europe into the European Union. In the east, concerned Soviets, try to use Berlin to halt these developments, which after the blockade accelerates the binding of wartime western allies and their zones, by then the Federal Republic.
One of the most useful sections is the epilogue - essentially an essay on how post 1949 Germany has come to terms with its nazi past: The sleep cure of the 1950's when the Adenauer regime admits the "fellow traveller" nazi's back to positions of administrative authority to manage the economic miracle. Then the questioning of this by the generation of the 1960's: Press criticism, 1968, Baader-Meinhof terrorism. In the 1970's as a prosperous but not yet confident society, the Ostpolitik of Brandt coming to terms politically with its eastern past.
Only today, over 60 years later is Germany sufficiently confident under a Chancellor born after the Nazi period, to take a lead again, but hesitantly, still conscious of its past malevolent ghosts.
PS: The full title is presumably/hopefully an Editor's choice - surely we no longer need images of Hitler and his name in Big Blocks to sell a book? The German edition (called "Between War and Peace") is much more appropriate. Perhaps a little denazification of the book industry might do some good.....
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2012
Hidden behind what looks like a very dry and technical title lies a vety well written easy to read book.
The style of writing is a low jargon and easy to understand explanation, without at any point talking down to you, or sacrificing depth. This makes it both an entertaining and informative read.
This is a period of history of which I don't know a great deal, and this book toppled quite a few of my pre-conceptions. I found the information on the French sector to be a bit of an eye opener, and was disturbed by the indication that we don't yet know anything like the full extent of Soviet atrocities in the Eastern sector, whilst the epilogue with its description of the "Sleep cure" ties all the threads together perfectly.
This was a very satisfying read. Frederick Taylor is now high on my list of authors to look out for.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2011
As someone who had previously read Frederick Taylor's books before, I have waited for his new book on Germany and I was not not disappointed at all.
This time Mr. Taylor presents his readers with the story of the Zero Hour of Gemany. To start with, you will learn about the "Werwolf" which was an organization whose purpose was to resist the occupation of Germany by the Allies in 1945. With some exceptions, this organization did not achieve much and Mr. Taylor continues with his fascinating story about the horrible conditions which were to be witnessed in Germany in 1945 and beyond. He focuses on the Red Army advance into what had been the Greater German Reich in January 1945. The German population had to fear not only rape and destruction but also the longer-term intentions of the Russians, or, in other words, the ethnic cleansing of Germany.
Stunde Null or Zero Hour began in May 1945. The destruction and loss during the last phase of the war was so tremendous, the chaos so thoroughgoing and the fall from apparent grace so dramatic that however strong and the sense of relief that the fighting was over, there was little hope of a tolerable future. German felt anxiety about what the victors would do to them and they had also felt total humiliation above all against the Nazis who promised them so much. At this point there are some personal testimonies which are based on memories and diaries which form the basis of Taylor's chapter on the above. To quote: "It would not be an exaggeration to say that in 1945, a great many-in some countries most-Allied national clearly hated the Germans".
In the USA, there was a political struggle between those who wanted to severly punish the German for their bestial crimes, led bt Henry Morgenthau, and those who were more practical, led by Henry J.Stimson, the veteran Secretary for War, who weighed up the plight of the country's seventy million people, most of them now reduced to penury.
There are extremly interesting and detailed chapters concerning the fate of those Germans who living in the various occupation zones as well as the shocking Allied soldiers' discovery of the concentration camps and the lice-infected prisoners-of-war. The chaos found during that time was further increased by eight million slave labourers and other displaced persons and a special chapetr is devoted to the hunger the Germans went through. Potatoes, for example, largely coming from the East,could not be transported because of shortages of rolling stock, caused by Allied bombing. Huge quantities of nitrogen fertilizers essential to successful large-scale production within Germany were diverted to the armaments sector.
It was not only hunger which was a serious problem but also the various diseases, among them dysentery-related ones, which killed thousands of prisoners in the American occupied zone. Food riots and unrest erupted in the towns of the Ruhr,where there had already been mass meetings to protest at the food and fuel shortages. In many parts of Germany, the daily calorific allowance was around 800-850, which was a starvation level.
The Allies wanted to penalise but also to purify Germany, to make its beaten, hungry population ready for a future in which the country would not be a threat to the world. Thus, the denazification program started and more than 8.5 million Germans who had been members of the Nazi Party were to be checked or vetted, among them the chief industry managers ,some of which were responsible for the production of poison and nerve gas and other chemicals used in live human experiments By Dr. Mengele and his cohorts. Millions of questionnaires-Fragebogen- were reviewed by the American military. The British, for example, set out to find those Germans who had committed war crimes against British POWs or captured Allied aircrew.
The black market had a field day and goods were paid for in cigarettes and much less in money, which was almost worthless.
Taylor also brings the story of those ten million German speaking refugees who were expelled from Poland and the fate of the two million women who got raped by the Russian soldiers.
In the end, the American and British wanted to build strong sectors so that they would be able to resist the attempts of the Russians to fortify the GDR. This was due to the fact that denanification was a tool for economic transformation and an instrument for political control for the Soviets.
Taylor questions whether Germany has exorcised Hitler and shows to what extent the denazification process was far from actually becoming a success. He wraps up his book by describing the actions taken by Chancellor Adenauer to change Germany's situation and society as well as his efforts to establish new relations with the Western world.
This book shows to what degree a society which was run by a mad and despot leader can face innumerable hardships-a price which was paid for many years to come by a society which fell victim to the mad illusions of Hitler and his cronies. Taylor has again managed to tell this story by the help of a combination of serious academic research and a very good and lively style of narrative skill.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Frederick Taylor's latest book is subtitled `The Occupation and Denazification of Germany'. The title, `Exorcising Hitler', suggests the focus of the book will be the process of denazifying the defeated Third Reich. It was this aspect that I was most interested in as it is a subject that seems to avoid the forensic coverage that saturates anything to do with the Nazi regime.
I was therefore slightly disappointed by the balance of this book being focused on the occupation of Germany. That said, the occupation narrative is handled deftly, with Taylor focusing on the different reception of western and Soviet forces and the death throes of the Nazi regime. The Götterdämmerung of fortress cities and the assault on east Prussia contrasts with the relatively benign reception of western forces across the Rhine.
The fate of the German people and the allied occupiers from Stunde Null (Zero Hour) is even-handedly covered. Millions of Germans suffered expulsion from their homes and homelands and all Germans lived through the starving years of limited rations (albeit in a Europe similarly afflicted by lack of food).
There are interesting diversions, such as telling the story of the Werwolf brigades that threatened (and, in large part, did no more than threaten) to terrorise the occupiers after the end of the war, or plans for a Nazi national redoubt in the Alps. US State Department plans under Henry Morgenthau to revert Germany to an agrarian economy, an impossible plan that would turn the clock back to a pre-industrial age, demonstrate how things could have been even worse for the conquered nation.
I expected more coverage on the specifics of denazification - reversing the brain washing of more than eleven years of saturation propaganda. Taylor covers the Spruchkammer (tribunals) and the infamous Fragebogen (questionnaires), but there is limited coverage of the reverse psychology and propaganda designed to induce a sense of collective guilt and responsibility.
To be comprehensive, this book would need to cover the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force's psychological campaigns and press coverage, the civilian tours of concentration camps, the destruction of any physical manifestations of Nazi rule (e.g. removal of swastikas from buildings) and changing street and place names.
On the positive side, Taylor's narrative is strong and balances the sweep of historical coverage with personal examples of the impact of occupation. He handles each four occupying powers separately, highlighting the different approaches taken by British, French, American and Soviet forces. If you are interested in the down fall of the Nazi regime and fate of the German people thereafter, this books makes a worthy addition.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2012
This book, like the previous title 'Dresden', enables the reader to reach past the typical 'Victors' point of view and look behind the 'they got what they deserved curtain' to determine how Germany suffered after the war. Various points have been addressed, from the obsessive 'De-Nazification' of the population, which was absurd considering that practically everyone was obliged to walk the party line as required in a fascist state(wouldn't you when faced with the repercussions?) to the horrific treatment of German civilians by the Russians. Fascinating, honest, factual and disturbing.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2011
As an avid reader of WW2 political history, I enjoyed this book which spans an era that I haven't previously read much about. History belongs to the victors and it strikes me that much of what went wrong in the period after May 1945 gets lost in books that tend to focus on the euphoria of victory. That's why it was fascinating to read about the experiences of the millions of German POWs in the Rhine fields who were literally left out in the open where thousands of them perished, the quandary that 'broke Britain' was in around borrowing even more money to feed the German population who were starving, the decision to strip Germany of her entire Government apparatus and start again (unlike the end of WW1 where it was largely left in place), and the ongoing abuses perpetrated by the Russians particularly towards Poland and the survivors from the Home Army. An excellent read.
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2011
Frederick Taylor's latest book, Exorcising Hitler, sits neatly between his previous two books Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945 and The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989. Dresden looked at the controversial bombing of a city with many civilians as `collateral damage' while The Berlin Wall described the events leading up to the construction of the wall through to its eventual demolition and the reunification of Germany. Both of these books provided well-researched and clear insights into the events they covered while not shying away from difficult subjects frequently at odds with the sanitised versions of history generally preferred by the `victors'.
Exorcising Hitler, in fact, has some extremely troubling stories to tell which quickly dispel the simplistic ideas of moral conquerors defeating evil Nazism and providing enlightened government to bring the defeated nation back to normality. How many of us were aware of the horrors inflicted on the German population in the last few weeks of the war: the rapes, the creation of concentration camps, starvation of hundreds of thousands of surrendered soldiers and civilians, destruction of the means to feed themselves and the application of inconsistent and arbitrary law? And these privations continued until Adenauer was elected to lead the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 almost 5 years later.
Germany would be in a far worse situation today if it had not been for the Cold War and the importance that West Germany took on as a front-line state. If Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt's Treasury Secretary, had had his way (and he nearly did), Germany would have been reduced to an 18th century agrarian state with no manufacturing capacity at all. Frederick Taylor weaves the stories of everyday lives with the international-level events that affected them. He also describes the botched attempts at `denazification' that hindered the recovery of post-war Germany and should have served as a warning to those advocating `debaathification' in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. For those of us of an age who were brought up on interminable war movies filled with heroic events on the allied side and evil inhumanity on the Nazi side, this book provides a stern warning that you should never believe your own propaganda!
on 6 January 2015
This book is a very accurate record of the aftermath of WW 2 in Germany. It covers the period from when the Allies first entered Europe until the 1960's; the time when Germany started to become the economic power that we now know. It portrays the shocking chaos in that country and central Europe in 1945-46 and the Allies attempts to punish the German people for their war crimes, while at the same time, trying to rebuild the country's industry. Frederick Taylor deals with this subject very thoroughly and leaves us with no doubts about the huge achievements Germany has made, though not without paying a considerable price for the horrors caused by Hitler and his followers. A very interesting read which explains how the Europe we know today evolved.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2013
The period in German history following the Second World War is probably one of the most neglected in terms of popular history, far overshadowed by the war itself and frequently overlooked as a mere footnote to the origins of the Cold War. Yet the fascinating question remains as to why the peace following the First World War contributed to the beginnings of the Second, whilst the policies following the latter led to one of the longest periods of peace on the continent.
How the victors handled their policy of 'unconditional surrender', and what this entailed for occupied Germany, is the subject of Frederick Taylor's book. His book covers the final stages of the war, as the Allied and Soviet forces prepared to attack and occupy Germany proper. Military actions only play a background role in the narrative, Taylor focussing only on interactions with the civilians, including the atrocities most severely carried out on the Eastern Front, as well as retaliatory attacks by Nazi fanatics and so called 'Werwolf' units.
Where this book shines is in Taylor's ability to compare and contrast the widely differing policies and practices of the occupying forces. Despite the complexity of the subject, the book highlights the differences between those directing policy and those governing forces on the ground, between those espousing punitive policies and those wishing to see a rapidly rehabilitated Germany, and between the Soviet, American, British and French zones. It becomes clear just how much of a challenge the question of denazification posed to the victors, which ostensibly remained an inflexible goal of all parties. The totalitarian nature of the Nazi Party meant that virtually no one had remained completely aloof of the system, leaving policy planners the major task of separating hardline Nazis from 'career Nazis', 'muss Nazis' or fellow travellers. Taylor treats each of the occupying zones separately, and looks at the systems put in place and measures their successes and failures, not just in terms of raw numbers weeding out devout Nazis, but also the impact of these policies on the German population, and to what extent these changes were lasting.
Unfortunately, this book has one major failing, and that lies in its title. Subtitled "The Occupation and Denazification of Germany", there feels to be rather too much of the former and not enough of the latter to justify the name. Taylor does spend a lot of time dealing with the occupiers' attempts to remove Nazis themselves from positions of influence in German society, but there is little to nothing on their own and subsequent German policies as regards dealing with Nazism as an ideology. There is surprisingly little on areas such as education, the media and law, or even such mundane things as the renaming of streets or the treatment of the swastika are left out. Even the Psychological Warfare Division responsible for Allied propaganda goes unmentioned in the index (albeit some of their actions are covered). Aside from this, it is also disappointing that there are virtually no comparisons to occupation and denazification policies in other countries after the Second World War, e.g. Austria or France, or similar 'purification' actions during other periods (Taylor mentions the de-Ba'athification policy of the Iraq War a few times, without making any direct allusions). However given the scope of the book, the omission can be understood. Finally as another commenter pointed out, it seems that someone working for the publisher decided that the book would sell better with HITLER written in large letters across the front, which is at once no doubt true, but all the same bitterly depressing.
For all this, Exorcising Hitler is an extremely well-written and well-researched account of immediate post-war Germany. No apologist, Taylor points out appalling conditions in Western POW camps, engineered through pure legal sophistry, the mass rapes and atrocities in the East, and the sufferings of refugees and 'displaced persons' driven from their territories and turned back from others. A potentially bewildering subject, Taylor takes the issue of denazification apart and analyses each policy and practical element in turn, comparing and contrasting the different approaches, and examining the successes and failures of the post-war occupation. The book's epilogue ties the whole together with an excellent summary of the reactions to and effects of these policies in post-war Germany right through to the present day.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The choice had to be made by the Allies in WW2 - what to do about Germany after surrender? British author Frederick Taylor takes a look at the problems inherent in coping with the post-war Germany in his excellent history, "Exorcising Hitler".
Thinking and planning for the post-war began in 1942 when Allied victory seemed to be in sight. Though the war in Europe didn't end til May, 1945, politicians and government officials in the US, UK, and USSR began to look at the options for running Germany. Post-WW1 options certainly wouldn't work in post-WW11; the Versailles Treaty and other crippling sanctions on Germany saw the economic decline of the 1920's and the rise of Nazism in the 1930's. One plan - the "Morgenthau Plan" proposed by US Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr, - would reduce Germany after the war to little more than an agrarian community. Wiser heads prevailed and more amenable plans were thought up. Basically, the overall problem to be faced by the Allies - US, UK, USSR, and France - was the denatzification of Germany after the war. If, at most, only 10% of Germans belonged to the Nazi party, millions more were involved in Nazi programs, like the Hitler Youth, League of German Maidens, professional societies that fostered the Nazi belief system in the citizenry. And after the war, how many people could/would be trusted to take part in the day-to-day running of the country, from judges to mailmen to teachers, etc?
Taylor gives a very good overview of the defeated country, from food and housing shortages felt by the Germans, to the problems of identifying war criminals and trying them for their crimes. All of this was times four as the country was divided up into quarters - I still can't figure out how or why the French got a piece of the action - and the Allies went from fragile support of each other during the war to fragile trust in each other post-war. Certainly the US and the UK made concessions in both wartime and the postwar to the Soviets in order to keep them allied, However, "support" soon gave way to "distrust" on both sides as the USSR took over what became known as the "eastern-bloc" countries like Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc.
He also looked at life, post-war, in the Allied countries. Certainly the British people continued with rationing longer than their former enemies, the Germans, did. Was there resentment by the British? Sure, of course.
And in his epilog, Taylor looks at the generation of post-war Germans who faced the crimes of their parents and grandparents and acknowledged them squarely in the eyes of the world. No where is that seen better than at the newly built "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" in Berlin. Consisting of a really odd set of piles of concrete, signifying nothing that I could tell - other than someone in the government has a brother-in-law in the concrete business - it is also home to an underground museum, which tells the story, with full admittance of guilt, of the 6 million Jews murdered under Nazi-rule. I believe that the German government opened the museum, not a private entity, which makes it even more remarkable. I visited it when I was in Berlin in June, 2011 and was awestruck at the exhibits.
Frederick Taylor's excellent history of post-war Germany made even more sense to me once having visited the "Murdered Jews" museum. Taylor is a good, flowing writer and the book was always interesting. He also provides some good maps in the front of the book.