Thursday, September 18, 2014

Savage Continent by Keith Lowe

Keith Lowe looks at Europe as a whole in the aftermath of WWII. He describes what happened and provides well researched statistics and context.

Keith's aims in writing the book were: "to break away from the narrow Western view that tends to dominate most writing on the period" and "to clear a path through the labyrinth of myths":
"Many of the 'massacres' I have investigated turn out, on closer inspection, to be far less dramatic than they are usually portrayed. Equally, some quite astonishing atrocities have been hushed up, or simply lost in the sweep of other historical events".
"Statistics really do matter, because they are often employed for political purposes. Some nations routinely exaggerate the crimes of their neighbours, either to distract attention from their own crimes or to further own national causes."

For many eastern Europeans the war truly ended only in the 1990s with the retreat of the Soviet Union armies and regaining of independence.

I learned many things from this book. For example, I learned:
  • that Lithuanian partisans were fighting the Soviet Union well into the 1950s - the last partisan group in Lithuania was destroyed in 1956,
  • that Jewish population in Bulgaria increased during the war,
  • how the Greek communists lost the civil war, despite large popular support,
  • how Stalin gradually took control of Romania and other central European countries.
Central and Eastern Europe lost freedom after WWII for 50 years.

The 20th century European history is fascinating, because it shows how low people can go, but also it gives us hope: shows that forgiving and living together in peace is possible.

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