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Germany, 1945: From War to Peace Hardcover – 2 Mar 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (2 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743239555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743239554
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 4.1 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 444,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

1945 was the most pivotal year in Germany's modern history. As World War II drew to a devastating and violent close, the German people were confronted simultaneously with making sense of the horrors just passed and finding the strength and hope to move forward and rebuild. Richard Bessel offers a provocative portrait of Germany's emergence from catastrophe, and he astutely portrays the defeated nation's own sense of victimhood after the war, despite the crimes it had perpetrated. Authoritative and dramatic, Germany 1945 is groundbreaking history that brilliantly explores the destruction and remarkable rebirth of Germany at the end of World War II. Ultimately, it is a success story; a story of life after death. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Richard Bessel is Professor of Twentieth Century History at the University of York. He works on the social and political history of modern Germany, the aftermath of the two world wars and the history of policing. He is a member of the Editorial Boards of German History and History Today. His books include Political Violence and the Rise of Nazism, Germany after the First World War and Nazism and War.


Customer Reviews

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By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book documents Germany's re-emergence from barbarism to civilisation. It deals not so much with the roots of German revival but why the Allies faced almost no resistance to their occupation after May 1945. Given the fanaticism of German resistance, especially in the east, this wasn't what the Allies expected. In fact, Germans swiftly repudiated Nazism and were docile in the face of defeat and got on with the task of building a new society. How did this come about?

The first 150 pages rehash the now-familiar story of the dying days of the Third Reich. They are important as background, because the scale of Germans' trauma in the last months of the war seared itself on the country's collective psyche. Germans were caught between the twin fires of regime terror (hitherto only experienced on any scale in Germany's occupied territories) and Allied retribution. It helps explain in part the absence of any guerrilla resistance to the occupiers. No one wanted to fight to restore the regime that had brought such a calamity on their heads. In any case, there were no resources to furnish an insurgency, no safe havens and millions of occupying soldiers posed impossible odds against any putative insurgency's success. The Allies hanged a few would-be terrorists and that was that. The defeat was psychological and moral, as well as physical and military - this really was the definition of `total defeat'.

The book shows that even though Germans did not want the regime restored after May 1945, many did not feel implicated in its crimes in the immediate aftermath of the war. Germans felt that they were the victims (in part justified, since Allied bombing for instance rained bombs on the innocent and guilty alike).
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Format: Paperback
Zero Hour is apparently how many Germans regarded the end of 1945. A source of almost endless misery and destruction, the result of which was for many of them to see themselves as victims of the war as much if not more so than the people and countries upon which they wreaked such devastation themselves. Richard Bessel is very even handed and precise in his descriptions of perhaps the most fateful year in German history. His work is thorough and well documented and takes you from the well known and well trodden ground of the final allied assault and Russian taking of Berlin, to some of the lesser known aspects of the allied occupation. It is still sobering to note that in one month in early 1945 the German military suffered 450,000 killed and that during the period of migration to avoid bombing and the subesquent escape and forced migration to the west from what is now Poland, the former Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia and other areas in the Russian occupied zone, some 11 million people were on the move, mostly women, children and the elderly. The treatment of many Germans by the the nazis towards the end was often as barbaric, pointless and sadistic as their other crimes. The young (17) year old Gunter Grass himself in the Waffen SS recalled seeing boys as young as himself hanging from trees.

The Occupying forces saw their role as to crush Germany so that it would never rise as a military power again. That the Russians enacted this through an orgy of rape and destruction is both appalling and sadly an act of vengeance that to them was completely justifiable, particularly as they saw the wealth of Germany through the eyes of their own suffering and poverty. Less understandable was the action of French colonial troops who acted in a similar if not such destructive manner.
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A very absorbing and easy to read book. Whilst not exonerating the german nation for their culpability in the Nazi policies and actions during the 12 years of the 3rd Reich, the author nevertheless retails at great length and objectivity, the horryfying experiences of the ordinary german during the last months of the war.

Whilst there was no doubt of the appaling behaviour meted out by both the Wermacht and the SS/einzatzgruppen during the nazi invasion of the USSR and the Western European nations, one's attention is drawn to the fact that 'two wrongs can never make a right'.

All very well written and documented. highly recommended. A v good read
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Format: Hardcover
I couldn't disagree more with the previous reviewer. I am one of the first people to be put off by dry books crammed with figures statistics.
This is a highly readable study by a professional historian of German descent of 1945....the last months of the war in Germany and the first months of the allied occupation and the process of rebuilding a modern state out of the ruins.
Figures are used with skill to portray the apocalyptic scale of the problem and the extent of the destruction and dislocation.
Eg 450,000 German soldiers were killed in January 1945 (more by a considerable margin than the military losses of the western allies throughout the whole war).
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This was a very readable book, presenting valid statistics but not being governed by them; it is made clear that the total collapse of Germany followed the most severe losses in terms of men, matériel and resources and last but not least, territory. The style is concise but not (pace another commentator) to my mind dry. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to know about the context of Stunde Null.
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