After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation

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When Hitler’s government collapsed in 1945, Germany was immediately divided up under the control of the Allied Powers and the Soviets. A nation in tatters, in many places literally flattened by bombs, was suddenly subjected to brutal occupation by vengeful victors. According to recent estimates, as many as two million German women were raped by Soviet occupiers. General Eisenhower denied the Germans access to any foreign aid, meaning that German civilians were forced to subsist on about 1,200 calories a day. ...

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Overview

When Hitler’s government collapsed in 1945, Germany was immediately divided up under the control of the Allied Powers and the Soviets. A nation in tatters, in many places literally flattened by bombs, was suddenly subjected to brutal occupation by vengeful victors. According to recent estimates, as many as two million German women were raped by Soviet occupiers. General Eisenhower denied the Germans access to any foreign aid, meaning that German civilians were forced to subsist on about 1,200 calories a day. (American officials privately acknowledged at the time that the death rate amongst adults had risen to four times the pre-war levels; child mortality had increased tenfold). With the authorization of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, over four million Germans were impressed into forced labor. General George S. Patton was so disgusted by American policy in post-war Germany that he commented in his diary, “It is amusing to recall that we fought the revolution in defense of the rights of man and the civil war to abolish slavery and have now gone back on both principles"

Although an astonishing 2.5 million ordinary Germans were killed in the post-Reich era, few know of this traumatic history. There has been an unspoken understanding amongst historians that the Germans effectively got what they deserved as perpetrators of the Holocaust. First ashamed of their national humiliation at the hands of the Allies and Soviets, and later ashamed of the horrors of the Holocaust, Germans too have remained largely silent – a silence W.G. Sebald movingly described in his controversial book On the Natural History of Destruction.

In After the Reich, Giles MacDonogh has written a comprehensive history of Germany and Austria in the postwar period, drawing on a vast array of contemporary first-person accounts of the period. In doing so, he has finally given a voice the millions of who, lucky to survive the war, found themselves struggling to survive a hellish “peace.”

A startling account of a massive and brutal military occupation, After the Reich is a major work of history of history with obvious relevance today.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This absorbing study of the Allied occupation of Germany and Austria from 1945 to 1949 shows that the end of WWII by no means ended the suffering. A vengeful Red Army visited on German women an ordeal of mass rape, while looting the Soviet occupation zone of almost everything of value, from watches to factories. Millions of ethnic Germans were driven from Poland and Czechoslovakia, stripped of their possessions and subjected to atrocities on the way. The Western Allies behaved better, but sidestepped the Geneva Conventions, using German POWs as slave laborers and letting thousands of them die in captivity, while keeping their zones on starvation rations. Nor were the Germans, with their own death camps finally coming to the world's appalled attention, in a good position to complain. Journalist and historian MacDonogh (The Last Kaiser: A Life of Wilhelm II) gives a gripping, if choppy account of the occupation while portraying Truman, Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam as squabbling over the spoils as feral children scrabbled through the ruins. The result is a sobering view of how vengeance stained Allied victory. Photos. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Throughout time it has been the victor who has written history, but here historian MacDonogh (The Last Kaiser: The Life of Wilhelm II, 2001, etc.) examines the darker side of the Allied occupation of defeated Germany. The subtitle is probably the publisher's, since MacDonogh advises at the outset, "I make no excuses for the crimes the Nazis committed, nor do I doubt for one moment the terrible desire for revenge that they aroused." In some ways, that revenge was symbolically charged, as when the Allies put concentration camps to use housing prisoners who proved to have more than an accidental connection to the Nazi state; in others it was trivial, as when Russian soldiers went about demanding wristwatches. But aspects of the conquest were brutal indeed: Those Russian soldiers committed revenge rape on a grand scale, while, MacDonogh asserts, the American liberators at Dachau allowed former prisoners to tear guards and kapos limb from limb. More systematically, the Occupation deprived ordinary citizens of their property and, at least for a time, cast everyone under suspicion as tribunals convened and the long process of denazification began. It soon became obvious to almost everyone concerned, not least the occupied Germans, that as the Cold War got colder this process was confined mostly to the small fry; those Germans "were annoyed," MacDonogh writes, "to see the Party big-shots go free while the authorities continued to harass rank-and-file members who had done nothing monstrous." So it was that from 1945 until May 1948, when the purge ended, the French, British and American courts had tried 8,000 cases but executed only 806, perhaps half of them civil servants and workers, while the"worst culprits, the operatives who sent thousands to their deaths, were not punished at all."Of interest to students of modern Europe, complementing W. G. Sebald's On the Natural History of Destruction (2003) and other studies of history from the point of view of the vanquished.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465003372
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 7/2/2007
  • Pages: 656
  • Product dimensions: 9.28 (w) x 6.12 (h) x 1.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Giles MacDonogh is the author of 1938: Hitler’s GambleThe Last Kaiser: A Life of Wilhelm II, and Frederick the Great. MacDonogh was born in London in 1955 and studied history at Oxford University. He has a regular column in the Financial Times and has written for the Times (London), Guardian, and Evening Standard. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents


Illustrations     ix
Preface     xi
Chronology     xvii
Map     xx
Introduction     1
Chaos
The Fall of Vienna     25
Wild Times: A Picture of Liberated Central Europe in 1945     45
Berlin     95
Expulsions from Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia     125
Home to the Reich! Recovered Territories in the Prussian East     162
Allied Zones
Prologue     199
Life in the Russian Zone     201
Life in the American Zone     227
Life in the British Zone     250
Life in the French Zone     269
Austria's Zones and Sectors     278
Life in All Four Zones     314
Crime and Punishment
Guilt     339
Black Market     372
Light Fingers     381
Where are our Men?     392
The Trials     429
The Little Fish     451
The Road to Freedom
Peacemaking in Potsdam     471
The Great Freeze     496
The Berlin Airlift and the Beginnings of Economic Recovery     517
Conclusion     542
Notes     547
Further Reading     585
Index     589
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