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VINE VOICEon 12 April 2012
A truly jaw-dropping read. As Keith Lowe explains right from the very start the Second World War was so much more than the allies versus the axis and the fight of good against evil. If you wish to get a better understanding of what this struggle perpetuated beyond the usual military texts, then you must read this book. The majority of people would associate the term ethnic cleansing with the Holocaust;full stop. However, events throughout the European continent AFTER May 1945 will leave readers absolutely stunned. In Czechoslavkia, Italy, Poland, Western Ukkraine and Yugoslavia ethnic and religious cleansing was conducted on a truly horrifying scale. Centuries of hatred and mistrust within individual countries and communities within those countries rose to the surface. The undercurrent was undoubtedly right versus left, capitalist versus communist, but the specifics are much more shocking.

The machinations of political parties to achieve their objectives and the ineptitude of the 'Superpowers' to deal with these events lead directly to the Cold War and during the period 1945 to 1950, thousands upon thousands of innocent civilian deaths. Revenge for atrocities carried out during the war lit the flame, but much more sinister plans were at work.

I will not quote specific examples from the text as I would hope that by reading this outstanding account of a period of history that formed the basis of European life for the next 50 years, the reader will be as appalled and enlightened as much as I was.

For anyone interested in this period of history this is an essential read. I cannot recommend this strongly enough.
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This is a quality work of art from the pen of Keith Lowe. Taking a little documented period of history, the fragmented and vengeful end of the war and the spill over into the years 1945-1950 - and beyond in some cases - the dispute between Lithuania and Russia for example, he manages to show that genocide, anti-Semitism and hatred in general did not end when the war ceased. Looking back nowadays it is almost beyond belief that such hate continued, given the events of 1939-45. But they did. I cannot speak too highly of this book as it looks in detail at issues normally skirted around by the academic world - such as the vengence of slave workers and concentration camp inmates and of population expulsions - be they ethnic Germans, Poles or Ukrainians. I learnt so much from this book; the political fall-out from WW2, the Greek civil war but also how the human spirit can rise above the most hurtful and damaging of situations. Ultimately, amid the tales of destruction and sorrow, this is the message that emerges. Superb.
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on 2 April 2012
Savage Continent is an engaging and erudite history of post-war Europe. Keith Lowe's original study starts off where other books leave off. Screams often muffle out any sighs of relief for the war being over - as revenge attacks and unofficial civil wars break out across the continent. This is a bleak but necessary book for anyone who wants to understand both WWII and its aftermath - and also in some aspects Europe today.
Savage Continent is is full of grim statistics and argument, but far more impactful are the testimonies of the soldiers, children and women who lived through the period. The material on the fate of post-war Jewish and Polish people is particularly strong.
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on 6 May 2012
An important book, that should be on the history syllabus of high schools across Europe. This is a balanced account of a history that has never been written about in such depth, across such a wide spectrum of action, and on a Europe-wide basis. Having said that, as the author makes clear, many of the statistics and accounts of this after-war period are still hotly disputed - for all the reasons he lays out. There are always more than two sides to every tale, and the author tries to put forward as many as possible. His list of sources alone (originals in 38 different languages) is extensive; and his notes show the extent to which he drew on them.

The horrors of physical and moral destruction are set aside a litany of vengeance, ethnic cleansing, political violence and civil war, that lasted until the 1950's and still has repercussions today. It is a compelling, at times gripping account - very readable.
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on 31 July 2012
Having read this book, the title "Savage continent" begins to sound like an under statement. I thought I knew how WWII and the terror/horror/loss of life was mind blowing, but was unaware of the sheer scale of what was euphemistically referred to by the Allies as "displaced persons" in all its various guises including ethnic cleansing, particularly in the aftermath of WWII with the inevitable scramble for territory. Documenting atrocity after atrocity I almost became desensitized to what I was reading - the total collapse and ensuing chaos of Europe. Out of such very, very recent total destruction, whereby murder on a grand scale literally became the "norm", it is a miracle how the EEC/EU with all its good intentions/foibles, was ever conceived and maintained.
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on 23 June 2013
This book is a very thorough and evenhanded review of Europe after World War 2. The author touches on most aspects of goings-on in Europe 1944-1949. The book is filled to the brim with stories about a continent torn apart, trying to reconcile itself with what's happened. It is not an easy read, but a rewarding one if you're tired of the myths of a unified Europe on the one hand and the Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists on the other.

No punches are pulled in the retelling of post-war genocide and pogroms, as well as stories about mistreatment of german POW's and civilians and the abuses of girls who loved german soldiers. We are told about how some axis countries got off lighter than others, how fascists sometimes stayed in power and how some reforms in the name of justice became undone. We also get a good account of how communists seized power in many countries and the conequences thereof. To recount all the grim stories in this book would be counterproductive and would take far too long.

This is a thoroughly researched book with excellent critique of its sources, and the author goes to great lengths to elaborate whenever numbers he cites are in dispute. He also strives to serve stories and numbers in their proper context, ensuring that the reader manages to follow the authors thread throughout.

I found this book to be a remarkable eyeopener regarding post-war Europe. The consequences of the war are felt to this day.
Read it!
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on 31 August 2012
This book provides a deep and broad explanation and description of the chaos and inhumanity that followed WWII. Its power lies in its non-judgemental tone and its contextualizing of the bitter and bloody enthnic/polictical cleansing that swept Europe in the late 1940s. Whist in geopolitical terms WWII may have been initially a three way battle between competing global ideologies - this book clearly illustrates how this broader conflict exosed and disturbed dormant underlying ethnic fault lines across the continent.

The sections on Poland are particularly disturbing as they show how a multi-ethnic country can descend into barbarism. Beyond the crualty of the Nazis and the Soviets, it is sobering to learn how quickly communities swung from being victims to perpetrators of attrocities. It is also truly shocking to learn of how Jewish concentration camp survivors faced persecution and murder at the hands of their former neighbours when they returned home from Nazi hell.

In addition to providing an education on this important but ignored period, this book also provokes thoughts about current geopolitics, such as how the "war against terrorism" and Arab Spring are opening ethic pandora's boxes.

Thoroughly recommended!
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on 27 April 2012
I'm sure we've all heard of the numbers involved relating to deaths in World war 2. For me, at least, most were just that - numbers. This book breaks them down into very recognisable groups with comparisons aggainst national and city populations which made this far more of an eye opener than I was expecting. The situation is well explained and gives context to the chaos in post war Europe.I ended up reading this a chapter at a time since the facts, which were well explained, became rather depressing when reading too much in one go.

This sort of book is long overdue. It is very educational and the solid bibliography gives one ample opportunity to cross check what has been written about. I think this book is well worth the money.
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on 15 May 2012
An extensively researched and very readable work which should be compulsory reading for all! Keith exposes the horrible truths of the aftermath of World War II which were denied by politicians and film makers. His effort demands the utmost respect and recognition.
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on 1 June 2012
This book is a must-read for those interested in 20th century history. I can't begin to describe how fascinated I was by the subject matter. As with all history books I read, I was left thirsty for more content and more detail: What about rationing and social change in the UK? What about America? How did the physical reconstruction take place? Where did all the stolen works of art surface? What about Russia and the Stalin terrors? And so on. Not a fault of this book, but the themes are so weighty that any single-tome history is going to seem superficial.

As for style, well maybe I've been spoiled by Antony Beevor and Max Hastings. Keith Lowe's style was a little grating, in themes (eg. a repeated hint on psychological impacts but no in-depth exploration) and in language (eg. every time he used italics, I winced). He also seems to have an inconsistent approach to statistics (are they or are they not important - and why?). But my biggest gripe with this book was that it failed to bring the subject matter to life in the way that Beevor, for example, does superbly. Lowe uses diaries and real-life anecdotes to great effect - but not sufficiently. For me, this is crucial for what is, in effect, a social history and to bring to life the harsh realities of the subject matter.

All in all, highly recommended: this book has made me appreciate life more.
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