Germany 1945: From War to Peace

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Overview

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, ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Brian Ladd
We have rarely felt sorry for what the Germans suffered at the end of World War II, in part because the Germans have done a superb job of feeling sorry for themselves. Most Germans in 1945 (and long afterward) believed that their own suffering freed them from any obligation to ponder what Germans had done unto others. Historians, therefore, have hesitated to exploit this material, for fear of seeming to endorse the repellent spectacle of German self-pity. The distinguished British historian Richard Bessel, however, understands the difference between suffering and atonement, and with Germany 1945 he has produced a sober yet powerful account of the terrible year he calls the "hinge" of the 20th century in Europe.
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Oppress a continent and kill millions of its inhabitants, and payback, when it comes, is likely to be ugly. Such was the case when Nazi Germany fell in the first months of 1945, encircled by mighty Allied armies determined to put an end to Hitler's regime. That year, writer Bessel (History/York Univ.; Nazism and War, 2004, etc.), began with a bloodbath, following the American and British breakthrough in the West after the unsuccessful breakout that would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. But the blood flowed more heavily in the East, following the Soviet offensive; it yielded the highest monthly total of German casualties of any month in the war, more than 450,000. It is difficult to feel much pity for the doctrinaire Nazis among those dead and wounded, but it is easy to gauge the desperation of their cause as the Red Army threw division after division against the Wehrmacht-indeed, so desperate were they that, in what will come as news to readers who forget the Russian contribution to the conflict, the German forces tried to stage a Battle of the Bulge in the East too, in the deep forests of Hungary. Their stiff resistance, and the fact that many Germans took seriously Hitler's command to fight to the death even when it meant suicide, yielded a whirlwind of revenge. Bessel raises the question of whether the war might have been cut short had Eisenhower not insisted on unconditional surrender on the Western front-which his German counterpart rightly said was not in his power to grant. The war was not cut short, of course. Instead, Germany disintegrated into crime and anarchy in the last days of the regime, and countless Germans died needlessly as the conquering armies moved in. Nonation has ever been so thoroughly defeated as Germany, Bessel helpfully notes, and it was by no means certain that it would emerge from ruin. A lucid contribution to the history of World War II.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060540371
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/3/2010
  • Pages: 522
  • Sales rank: 950,422
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Bessel is a professor of twentieth-century history at the University of York and the author of Nazism and War.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii

List of Abbreviations ix

Maps xi

1 Introduction: To Hell and Back 1

2 A World in Flames 10

3 Murder and Mayhem 48

4 Fleeing for their Lives 67

5 The Last Days of the Reich 93

6 Revenge 148

7 The Beginning of Occupation 169

8 The Loss of the East 211

9 Societies of the Uprooted 246

10 Visions of a New World 279

11 The Great Disorder 320

12 Paying for War and Peace 340

13 Conclusion: Life after Death 385

Notes 403

Select Bibliography 497

Index 501

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 26, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended!

    Very, very interesting and informative!

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  • Posted October 4, 2009

    A Must Read

    This was my first book on Germany's past. Highly recommended as a starting point, or simply, for a supplement for WWII content library. Some accounts written from a first hand experience were a bit much for me at times, I almost had to stop reading. However, despite the chaos, which was contained and processed through Bessel's writing style, it maintained itself as a readable text. Some facts and scenes of the War are repeated, however, each instance seems to branch out into the affect on battle strategies as well as civilian and military lives. Anyone with WWII interest must read this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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