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on 8 February 2008
A lot has been written about World War II, and some has even been written about the aftermath regarding the development of the Cold War. However, there is not a lot of published information giving an overall view of the occupation of Germany and the development of the divided country that lasted for 40 years. After the Reich, by Giles MacDonogh, rectifies that fact. It is heavily sourced, examining individual accounts as well as publications covering certain aspects of the occupation to give a broad overview of the horrors that developed and the neglect and outright savagery that caused the deaths of huge numbers of Germans in the aftermath of the war. MacDonogh gives a vivid yet very depressing picture showing that inhumanity was not limited to the Nazis.

MacDonogh begins the book with the months leading up to the end of the war, as the Soviets were advancing through Poland and eastern Germany, raping and pillaging as much as possible. Revenge was a common motive, vengeance for every inhumane act the Nazis perpetrated on the Soviets during the almost four years of war. Others just gave into their baser instincts. Heavily covered in this book, both at the beginning as well as throughout the text, is how Austria figured into the whole issue. Many on both sides saw the Austrians almost as guilty as the Germans for what happened, yet it was always treated slightly differently.

This makes the beginning of the book quite heavy. While MacDonogh obviously doesn't go into details of individual rapes, the near-constant refrain about the rape and pillaging, both from individual accounts as well as statistical ones, constantly wears on the reader. However, it also gets across just horrible life in Germany and Austria was in the few months after the war ended. He also details the mass starvation that was happening, as the populace lived on the bare minimum (and sometimes less) that allows sustenance. Hundreds of thousands died in this aftermath, and some thought `good riddance" to a population that they blamed for the war. This idea of "collective guilt" for the German populace is also examined by MacDonogh, where he presents figures from both sides of the controversy on whether the German civilians should be treated as a conquered people or as victims of the Nazi horror machine.

This is where After the Reich really becomes interesting, as MacDonogh details the political machinations of both sides (American/British/French against the Soviets) as they jockey for position. Stalin wanted a united Germany that acted as a buffer between the West and Poland/Czechoslovakia (where he was busy installing Communist rule), while the other Allies desperately resisted this idea, for various reasons. The French did not want a united Germany on their doorstep again, while the British and Americans did not want a prospective Soviet ally that close to France. All of this information is clearly presented by MacDonogh in a very interesting fashion.

MacDonogh ends After the Reich with the Berlin crisis and the massive airlift to keep the Soviets from taking over the entire city. Much like Germany itself, Berlin was divided into four occupation zones, but the Soviets tried to force the other Allies out in 1948 by blockading the land route from the Western zones to the city itself. This chapter is actually rather brief, but it's brimming with information. While a more detailed account can probably be found in a book on the Airlift itself, MacDonogh does an excellent job of covering the story well enough for the reader to know why it happened and how it was resolved.

After the Reich is a very important book in a number of ways. It shows us the horrors of trying to rebuild a country that's been devastated by war and its own government's evil, as well as demonstrating that all sides in war are capable of atrocities. We also see how human many of these people who commit these atrocities are. One of the most interesting chapters is on the Nuremburg trials and how the big guys (Goering, Hess, and others) treated the trials. Goering is shown scoffing at everything, Hess pretends to have lost his memory, and they all seem very human. Because of this, they seem even more evil. After the Reich is a riveting overview of the immediate postwar history of Germany, and it's valuable for that..

David Roy
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Recently I have tried to educate myself about the events in Europe in the aftermath of VE-day as this is a period and area of history which, in common I suspect with many of my countrymen in Britain, I have little or no knowledge. For most of my life what I knew could be summed up as : the Second World War in Europe came to an end, my parents generation had a knees-up on VE-day,and the modern world was born. A while ago I read Keith Lowe's excellent 'Savage Continent' which changed such niave misconceptions. Determined to learn more, I have only recently completed my reading of Giles MacDonagh's After the Reich. This is a truly fascinating and impressive piece of writing. It has taken me a long time to read because it contains literally thousands of eye-witness accounts and testimonies which all deserve careful, concentrated, reading . In it MacDonogh describes a Europe to which peace was most certainly not restored on May 8th 1945 as the joyful crowds danced in the streets of London. Across wide swathes of central and eastern Europe, VE-day instead marked merely the beginning of rabid retribution against native German speaking populations.
Along with these dark tales , Macdonogh tells the long suppressed details of the western allies mistreatment of prisoners of war , and the intrigues of the war crime trials. The steps and hurdles overcome in the creation of the state of West Germany make interesting reading as does the early ambitions for a very compact, essentially North-West, European Union which would have probably have excluded Italy and Spain. I found this book a superb piece of writing, which I intend reading again to absorb more of its fascinating details .
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on 1 September 2014
I had just finished reading two books The Germans in Normandy, and the Bitter Road to Freedom, a new history of the Liberation of Europe. I thought After the Reich would be a good follow up to find out the rest of the story. The book did not disappoint me. I took the book with me during a recent vacation and thought that I might be better served reading a historical fiction or more contemporary novel. The book exceeded my expectations ! At times, it was a bit academic and presumed a previous knowledge of history, geography, art, literature, etc which only sharpened my desire to learn more. I found the antecedote comments of the author and the quotes and comments of persons who had real life experiences during the period to be enlightening. The author skillfully tied the events and circumstances to the people that lived them. I felt as if I was reading a first person history of people who had witnessed the times and events. There were so many facts that were presented which were outside of the information normally contained in history books that I was shocked and unaware of what had occurred during the period of occupation. I was assigned to an Army Military, counter intelligence unit, in Germany in 1963 as a young draftee and was surprised that there were still DP's in Germany at that time. This book helped portray how significant the Displaced Person issue was after the war and what a colossal task the Allies had ahead of them to sort out the damage to persons and property. I believe the author was honest and straighforward, without sugar coating, the roles of the various participants responsible for the occupation of Germany. I wondered, as I read the book, how I would have personally dealt with the events if I had been a US soldier as part of the occupation. It certainly was a moral and ethical gut check ! I highly recommend the book. The next time that I visit Germany, I will have a better appreciation and different perspective of the history that has occurred over the past years.
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on 7 November 2010
I was born in a little town near Stuttgart in 1940 and have memories from the time between 1945 and 1947.
I remember the American soldiers as nice men, one could always ask for chewing gum, sweets and cigarettes and they gave us children usually what we asked for. We had for some time French soldiers and we did not like them because they chased us away when we asked.
The book "After the Reich" was a real eye opener for me - having only memories from that time and I was never sure whether it had been really as I remembered. We starved and froze the two winters, now I know why.
After 1947 it all got better and we had then a "family Amie" who came every Thursday evening and brought us food from the PX.
The book is, especially for somebody who remembers, not an easy and pleasant read. Nevertheless I would recomend this book for everybody - although after having read it you might feel exhausted and emotionallt drained.
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on 31 December 2012
So well written, I think should be mandatory reading. One up for British sense of fair play, in that the safest and best managed of the Allied occupation zones post 1945 German surrender was the British zone. OK, you could say that we were never occupied so did not suffer at the hands of the Germans -well "hands on" as it were, but how does this justify what atrocities were commmitted in zones under American control?
Makes you think long and hard, great book
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on 5 May 2008
Any modern writer of post war Germany who mentions the names of Hajo Holborn and Michael Balfour in the first few pages clearly has done their reading. This book fills in the gap left in many English language histories of postwar central Europe: from the actual end of war and its immediate impact to the outbreak of the Cold War. Covering not just the zones of Germany, but also Austria and the events of German speaking Europe elsewhere - the German Reich at its largest.

The initial 100 pages or so are a harrowing account of the treatment of the German speakers as they were invaded, occupied, looted, raped and for the millions in the east, moved westwards. The brutality by all concerned is meticulously documented - too much so in places - I wanted to skip on as it was so disturbing and relentless. The Red Army is well documented by others, less so the proportionately greater savagery of the Czechs on the Sudetenlanders (especially grim as MacDonogh makes clear the pre 1938 Sudetenlanders were ex Austrians, not Germans who had been unlawfully deprived of the chance at self determination after Versailles by a nationalist Czech regime.).

Another eyeopener is the evidence that all the allies used prisoners of war in ways similar to Speer in his use of slave labour (and often in the face of resultant deaths). The US was especially cynical in this matter announcing they had released all POW's in mid 1946 when in fact they released them to be handed over to other allies: Belgium and France, for manual work. The USSR was still returning POW's in the mid 1950's.

The early stance of the US was surprisingly tough. Outside the Soviet Zone, the US had and maintained the hardest stance to its prisoners and civilian population for the first 18 months. Torture seems to have been common initially amongst all the occupiers as they sought to do the necessary and root out Nazi's. However MacDonogh's examples indicate a direct line of war's dehumanisation that makes treatment of Iraqi prisoners seem minor.

One issue with After the Reich is caused by its heavy reliance on documentary sources, especially memoirs. This had meant a skew towards recounting the experiences of the better off, in particular the womenfolk of the German/Prussian nobility. At times this leads perhaps to a too unconsidered appreciation of the sometime self-serving motivation of the 1944 plotters, many of whom were close to the writers of the memoirs used.

The final section takes a reader swiftly but clearly through the fog of the origins of ther Cold War, only after 500 pages of the aftermath analysis what follows has a clarity lacking in the work of many other revisionist writers.

Since the Wende, this has been a topic occupying the history shelves of most German bookshops. MacDonogh has done English readers a service with this account. The underlying sentiment is that this book records the consequences of the far greater evil perpetrated on others by the Germans - a feeling that many of those recorded reflect, despite their misery. It is not surprising that with the opening of the east Germans have wished to document the period, nor is it surprising that Anglo-saxon writers have shunned it for so long.
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on 24 July 2007
"After the Reich" is one of the most harrowing books I've ever read. I've always said that because we weren't invaded, & despite the bombing in Britain, the loss of life & injuries suffered by those at home & away, we were so lucky & this book will show why. I've also wondered what happened in Germany after the war finished & the second half of this book explains all. Many thanks for extending my knowledge.
Rose Harris
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on 3 March 2016
From 1945-1948, 2.5 million Bolshevik soldiers raped every women from 8 - 80 years old in occupied Berlin. Over 8 million abortions were carried out. The serial, officially condoned systemic rapings, which were ordered by Stalin, only stopped when infections among Bolshevik occupation soldiers became too overwhelming for the soviet doctors to handle. The same mass rapings were committed in all the Bolshevik annexed western towns. America was complicit, as they armed and funded the Bolsheviks, allowing them to finally defeat German defences and invade and occupy eastern Europe - as Hitler had warned about. Most children born in Berlin and Austria from 1945-1948 - and alive today in their seventies and early eighties - have Soviet fathers. Women of 70-80 years of age today were victims of rape in these countries. All German men, from 10 years to 70 years of age, were transported to work camps in Soviet Union in 1945. Only a handful came back.
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on 7 June 2007
As the as yet only other comment is by someone who appears not to have read this wonderful (if gruelling) book, a short and more informed note would seem to be in order. My interest was aroused by a lengthy review from Max Hastings in the Sunday Times, who praised the work highly (as have other broadsheet reviewers). However Hastings found some of the material hard to handle, which is as serious a recommendation for a major piece of historical writing as I can imagine. Anyone with an interest in WWII, 20th century history generally or indeed broad questions on the moral ambiguities of warfare should read this book.
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on 22 June 2016
A must read for any aspiring politician who might consider getting their country involved in a war ... this book outlines the conditions of the ordinary citizens who having been deserted by their leaders were left to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives. Much of what is contained is that which is ignored by most writers, it is not exciting there are no tales of 'daring do' just the sheer misery of trying to feed themselves on a day to day basis of those hundreds of thousands displaced by the fall of Nazi Germany ... the expulsion of ethnic Germans from the east and as if that weren't enough to put up with, the mass rapes and sexual offences against the German women which were not confined as popular history would have us believe to the Red Army.
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