World War II might have officially ended in 1945 but the ongoing turmoil and retribution that Ian Buruma portrays is chilling. The violence of the aggressors, the violence too of the humiliated underdog, the rape and murder of German women particularly brutal as is the fact that after the war Jews returning home were often set on, even murdered after discovering that no-one was going to give back their homes and possessions. Besides all this violence and hatred there were the first signs of a better life to come as the foundations were laid for democratic institutions, better health and, with the birth of the United Nations, an attempt to put an end to warring nations.
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Many books have been written, and continue to be written, about the Second World War: military histories, histories of the Holocaust, the war in Asia, or collaboration and resistance in Europe. Few books have taken a close look at the immediate aftermath of the worldwide catastrophe. Drawing on hundreds of eye-witness accounts and personal stories, this sweeping book examines the seven months (in Europe) and four months (in Asia) that followed the surrender of the Axis powers, from the fate of Holocaust survivors liberated from the concentration camps, and the formation of the state of Israel, to the incipient civil war in China, and the allied occupation of Japan. It was a time when terrible revenge was taken on collaborators and their former masters; of ubiquitous black markets, war crime tribunals; and the servicing of millions of occupation troops, former foes in some places, liberators in others. But Year Zero is not just a story of vengeance. It was also a new beginning, of democratic restorations in Japan and West Germany, of social democracy in Britain and of a new world order under the United Nations. If construction follows destruction, Year Zero describes that extraordinary moment in between, when people faced the wreckage, full of despair, as well as great hope. An old world had been destroyed; a new one was yet to be built.
In 1945, the war was over, rebuilding lives, putting ruined cities back together, and assessing the true toll of a global war could begin. So, too, could retribution, punishment and the settling of scores. Buruma looks in detail at that year that was uch a paradox. He tells a nuanced tale set amongst the ruins of the world, of how the peoples of the world viewed the onset of peace, and whether they saw it as a peace to end all wars or a lull before new fighting erupted.
Publication date: 04/09/2014
Publisher: Atlantic Books
|Publication date:||4th September 2014|
|Genres:||Biography / Autobiography, eBook Favourites, History,|
Ian Buruma is currently Luce Professor at Bard College, New York. His previous books include Voltaire’s Coconuts, The Missionary and the Libertine, The Wages of Guilt, Inventing Japan, God’s Dust and Bad Elements, Occidentalism (Atlantic 2004) and Murder in Amsterdam (Atlantic 2006). Author photo © Stefan HeijendaelMore About Ian Buruma