After the Reich

After the Reich

The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation

Book - 2007
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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. (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.
Publisher: New York : Basic Books, 2007.
ISBN: 9780465003389
Characteristics: xviii, 618 p., [16] p. of plates :,ill., map ;,25 cm.

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DBRL_KrisA Dec 20, 2016

I had so many issues with this book. First, I had thought the book was supposed to be an overview of the post-war years in Germany, from WWII through the creation of the FRG and the GDR on into the 1960s or even the 1970s. Instead, it focused almost entirely on the mid- to late 1940s - from the last part of the war through the occupation, and ending with the creation of the two-nation Germany. The author, MacDonogh, spends much of the first half of the book listing all the horrible things the Allied troops did to the German people - rape, murder, theft on both the small and the grand scale. He makes no attempt to hide the fact that he considers the "atrocities" perpetrated by the Allies to be just as bad as those things done by the Germans to their neighboring countries - and even to their own people - not to mention all the horrible things done to the Jewish race.
Don't misunderstand - there are plenty of examples of individual Allied troops committing crimes against German civilians. (In the case of the Soviet Army, especially, the pillaging and acts of revenge were on a wide scale.) But to compare these acts to a national policy of genocide (as regards the Jews) and scorched-earth (as regards Poland and Russia) is ludicrous. The generally accepted estimate is that 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis; add to that all the homosexuals, foreign nationals, political prisoners, religious minorities, and others that were relieved of all their possessions, herded into concentration camps, and used as slave labor until they dropped from sheer exhaustion. In many cases, those who managed to survive this experience returned to their homes to find that everything they had owned had been given away to others.
This main premise - that the Allied armies were just as bad as the Nazis - was my main issue with the book. There were others. Anytime one of the people quoted in the book refers to the "English" army, MacDonogh made sure to insert the notation [sic] - meaning, I'm sure, that it was the British army, since England is only one part of the nation of Great Britain. All well and good - except then he constantly referred to the "Russians" or the "Russian army", when any historian of the era can tell you that the same idea applies - Russia was only part of the nation of the USSR.
The author several times refers to the theft of artwork owned by Hitler, Goering, and the German state in general - yet, as I learned in The Rape of Europa, much of this artwork was "bought" from French, Dutch and Austrian dealers after the pieces were stolen from art museums or private collections throughout Europe.
For all this, though, there were many new pieces of information that I learned from the book. For instance, I was unaware that, immediately after the war, Austria and Vienna were divided up into sections much like Germany and Berlin. It's for these occasional bits of new information that I rated the book as highly as I did.

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