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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.
Published: Basic Books on
ISBN: 9780465006205
List price: $22.99
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Difficult writing style. He expects the reader to have a significant knowledge of the people and events before reading his book. He also takes a very slanted view of his subject. more
After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation by Giles MacDonogh tells a story many people probably don't want to hear. We like to keep our heroes heroic. We like to see World War II as "the good war, " the soldiers who fought it as "the greatest generation." When we talk about Germany after the war, we brag about how generous the Marshall plan was. But what happened in Germany immediately after the war was not so great. The fact that what so many Germans did before the end was far worse doesn't change that. Human suffering is human suffering.Giles MacDonogh, to his credit, deals with this question in his book's preface.This book is about the experience of the Germans in defeat. It is about the occupation imposed on them following the criminal campaigns of Adolf Hitler. To some extent it is a study in resignation, their acceptance of any form of indignity in the knowledge of the great wrongs perpetrated by the National Socialist state. Not all of these Germans were involved in these crimes, by any means, but with few exceptions they recognized that their suffering was an inevitable result of them. 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.After the Reich begins where most war stories end. What happens to the civilian population of a defeated nation? What happens to the soldiers in the defeated army? Who is to be held responsible for the war? What price shall they pay? Some histories aim for understanding by focusing on a narrow range of topics, while others try to cover the entire breadth of an event or period. After the Reich is of the latter type. Mr. MacDonogh divides After the Reich into four sections. The first section, Chaos, deals with life during and immediately after the closing days of the war in Europe. What happened is best characterized by rape and ethnic cleansing. If you were a woman, and the Russian army found you in territory once occupied by the German army, you would almost certainly be raped. You were much safer if the Americans or the British found you, but you were not completely safe. After the fall of Nazi Germany millions of ethnic Germans were forced to leave their homes in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia and what was once Prussia. It did not matter if you were a former Nazi, a child, a former inmate of a concentration camp or Jewish. The lines on the map had been redrawn; all Germans had to go. Many did not survive.The second section, Allied Zones, is a detailed description of daily life in each of the Zones of occupied Germany. What was once the most feared nation on earth, was divided into Russian, American, British, French Zones, each controlled by a different set of rules and laws. While the quality of life differed from zone to zone, certain characteristics were common in all four. Food was remarkably scare as one would expect. What little shelter had survived intact was soon taken over by the occupying forces. To survive, large numbers of German women turned to prostitution or took lovers. The adult population of each zone was largely female. While money existed, almost all real business used cigarettes as currency. Orphaned children could be found hiding in piles of rubble, living like wild animals. Many did not survive the first winter after the war.Crime and Punishment, section three of After the Reich, will be familiar territory to fans of The Third Man. Carol Ballard's film, based on a novella by Graham Greane, is mentioned by Mr. MacDonogh as a very accurate representation of life in occupied Vienna. Everyone sought what they needed to survive on the black market. Theft was everywhere. The way the allies divided authority over Germany and Austria kept everything in a state of confusion. While he trials of former Nazi officials are not the main concern of After the Reigh, Mr. MacDonogh shines a critical light on them. Although some of the surviving high ranking Nazis did face trial and eventual execution, the trials then moved on to relatively small fish. Most of those guilty of criminal acts were never tried. Section four, The Road to Freedom, deals briefly with the beginning of the cold war and the realization that both sides needed Germany as an ally to keep the other side in check. This turns out to be the main motivation for the eventual reconstruction of Germany. It's interesting to discover that early on Stalin offered to give East Germany it's freedom if all sides agreed to make united Germany a neutral state. His offer was refused.After the Reich is not easy reading. While not intended as an academic book, it's not aimed at a wide general audience. But if we believe the maxim that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, then don't we have to make an effort to remember it? The U.S. is currently occupying two countries we conquered in battle. While the situation is not as extreme by any measure, history holds valuable lessons that could prove useful for understanding Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 60 years since the end of World War II or over 6,000 miles between New York and Iraq, seen from a great distance of either time or space it easy to overlook how terrible the experience of occupation can be and to overlook that the price paid is paid by both the guilty and the innocent alike.more
The canvas that this book tries to cover is vast. Not surprisingly it does not cover everything. It is best on the political experience and weakest on the religious. It would have been could to have seen a reference to the Stuttgart Eklarung and the visit of George Bell, Bishop of Chichester in the Autumn of 1945. There is also little sense of what it meant to be in the British army in Germany in 1947 after the first families arrived.more
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Reviews

Difficult writing style. He expects the reader to have a significant knowledge of the people and events before reading his book. He also takes a very slanted view of his subject. more
After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation by Giles MacDonogh tells a story many people probably don't want to hear. We like to keep our heroes heroic. We like to see World War II as "the good war, " the soldiers who fought it as "the greatest generation." When we talk about Germany after the war, we brag about how generous the Marshall plan was. But what happened in Germany immediately after the war was not so great. The fact that what so many Germans did before the end was far worse doesn't change that. Human suffering is human suffering.Giles MacDonogh, to his credit, deals with this question in his book's preface.This book is about the experience of the Germans in defeat. It is about the occupation imposed on them following the criminal campaigns of Adolf Hitler. To some extent it is a study in resignation, their acceptance of any form of indignity in the knowledge of the great wrongs perpetrated by the National Socialist state. Not all of these Germans were involved in these crimes, by any means, but with few exceptions they recognized that their suffering was an inevitable result of them. 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.After the Reich begins where most war stories end. What happens to the civilian population of a defeated nation? What happens to the soldiers in the defeated army? Who is to be held responsible for the war? What price shall they pay? Some histories aim for understanding by focusing on a narrow range of topics, while others try to cover the entire breadth of an event or period. After the Reich is of the latter type. Mr. MacDonogh divides After the Reich into four sections. The first section, Chaos, deals with life during and immediately after the closing days of the war in Europe. What happened is best characterized by rape and ethnic cleansing. If you were a woman, and the Russian army found you in territory once occupied by the German army, you would almost certainly be raped. You were much safer if the Americans or the British found you, but you were not completely safe. After the fall of Nazi Germany millions of ethnic Germans were forced to leave their homes in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia and what was once Prussia. It did not matter if you were a former Nazi, a child, a former inmate of a concentration camp or Jewish. The lines on the map had been redrawn; all Germans had to go. Many did not survive.The second section, Allied Zones, is a detailed description of daily life in each of the Zones of occupied Germany. What was once the most feared nation on earth, was divided into Russian, American, British, French Zones, each controlled by a different set of rules and laws. While the quality of life differed from zone to zone, certain characteristics were common in all four. Food was remarkably scare as one would expect. What little shelter had survived intact was soon taken over by the occupying forces. To survive, large numbers of German women turned to prostitution or took lovers. The adult population of each zone was largely female. While money existed, almost all real business used cigarettes as currency. Orphaned children could be found hiding in piles of rubble, living like wild animals. Many did not survive the first winter after the war.Crime and Punishment, section three of After the Reich, will be familiar territory to fans of The Third Man. Carol Ballard's film, based on a novella by Graham Greane, is mentioned by Mr. MacDonogh as a very accurate representation of life in occupied Vienna. Everyone sought what they needed to survive on the black market. Theft was everywhere. The way the allies divided authority over Germany and Austria kept everything in a state of confusion. While he trials of former Nazi officials are not the main concern of After the Reigh, Mr. MacDonogh shines a critical light on them. Although some of the surviving high ranking Nazis did face trial and eventual execution, the trials then moved on to relatively small fish. Most of those guilty of criminal acts were never tried. Section four, The Road to Freedom, deals briefly with the beginning of the cold war and the realization that both sides needed Germany as an ally to keep the other side in check. This turns out to be the main motivation for the eventual reconstruction of Germany. It's interesting to discover that early on Stalin offered to give East Germany it's freedom if all sides agreed to make united Germany a neutral state. His offer was refused.After the Reich is not easy reading. While not intended as an academic book, it's not aimed at a wide general audience. But if we believe the maxim that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, then don't we have to make an effort to remember it? The U.S. is currently occupying two countries we conquered in battle. While the situation is not as extreme by any measure, history holds valuable lessons that could prove useful for understanding Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 60 years since the end of World War II or over 6,000 miles between New York and Iraq, seen from a great distance of either time or space it easy to overlook how terrible the experience of occupation can be and to overlook that the price paid is paid by both the guilty and the innocent alike.more
The canvas that this book tries to cover is vast. Not surprisingly it does not cover everything. It is best on the political experience and weakest on the religious. It would have been could to have seen a reference to the Stuttgart Eklarung and the visit of George Bell, Bishop of Chichester in the Autumn of 1945. There is also little sense of what it meant to be in the British army in Germany in 1947 after the first families arrived.more
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