POSTWAR: A HISTORY OF EUROPE SINCE 1945 By TONY JUDT


What is truth? What is history? What really happened? How did we wind up where we are now? This is the book that will go a long way to explaining it. You might not like the explanation, but when you want truth, confronting it can be painful.

Reading Postwar was a project, an immersion experience in modern European history during which I unlearned, then relearned modern history. It was a long book, but more than worth the effort.

At 960 pages, the book is crammed with information, much of it contrary to everything we’ve previously learned. I had to read it twice before I felt I had a grip on the material. The third time was to pick up some more details that I might have missed.

Dr. Tony Judt was an historian with controversial opinions. He made no pretense of being a neutral observer. Not that any historian is genuinely neutral. Historians have agendas. They have a point of view and usually strong beliefs backed by considerable research. There is no such thing as historical neutrality. When a historian writes about an era, he or she has an opinion about it. All history changed by the historians who write it. You can read a variety of histories on the same subject that differ greatly. It’s up to you to determine where the truth lies. It’s also why, if you are interested in history, you don’t read one book. You read many books. Eventually, you will also have a unique point of view.

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

In Postwar, Dr. Judt undertakes the debunking and de-mythologizing of post-World War II European history. He lays bare lies that comprise the myth of French resistance, the “neutral” Swiss, the open-minded anti-Nazi Dutch and exposed an ugly legacy of entrenched anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and ethnocentricity. It should be no surprise that all of this is coming back to bite all of us.

Wars don’t fix things. They don’t repair a damaged world. They solve nothing.

A war can stop an invasion. Kill off an entire ethnic group. Redraw national lines. Yet, when wars end, little has really changed except the population. Wars ravage continents, putrefy the earth, and leave peoples dead, defiled, homeless, and helpless. Victory is awarded to whoever is left standing when the war is officially declared over.

Although Dr. Judt follows a chronological path from World War II to this century, he doesn’t do it as a traditional “timeline.” It’s more than a lineal progression of political events and wars. Has anyone other than me noticed that “history” these days isn’t history? It’s all about wars. Who was fighting. How they began. How or if they ended. How the next one started and the one after that.

We’re trying to extract ourselves from an endless war right now. To all those who object, does anyone think we should fight forever? We’ve been fighting for twenty years and have gained nothing. Learned nothing. We can fight until the end of time and my guess is we will still have gained nothing and learned less.

Dr. Judt believed it was the role of historians to set the record straight.

Postwar altered my view of the world and how it became the way it is. It is not only about what happened, but what is happening and will happen. If Dr. Judt had lived longer, I doubt he’d have been surprised at the calamitous mess we’re in today. He saw it, expected it, understood why it would happen.

Tony Judt and I were born in 1947. We grew up during the same years, but his Old World roots gave him a different perspective. He forced me to question my fundamental beliefs. What really happened? Was the history I had learned actually true?

Maybe not or maybe only parts of it. It was hard to swallow, but by the time I was done, I believed it. And I recognized that we had not seen the worst of it. Not yet. I think now we are about to really see the worst of it.

If you are Jewish (I am and so was Judt), and lost family during the Holocaust, this will stir up painful memories. The intensity of European anti-Semitism and collusion in the destruction of European Jewry is stomach-churning. The lies are easier to deal with than the ugly reality. It’s not hard to understand why so much of what we know is wrong but I think it’s important to recognize that it is wrong. Sometimes completely wrong. Trump is not the only president who created an alternate reality to avoid dealing with the truth. He was far from alone.

Map of Nazi conquest of Europe as of 1940

Even though I knew a lot of history, I didn’t grasp the impact of these years until Postwar brought all the pieces together and made it real. I assumed, having lived these decades and followed the news, I knew what happened. But the news reported by American media barely scratches the surface of “truth.” The transformation of Europe from the wreckage of the war to modern Europe is far more complex and far-reaching than I grasped. These changes affect all of us directly and personally.

I read Postwar on paper, then listened to the audio version twice more. Available from Audible.com, I recommend it to anyone with easily-tired eyes. It has excellent narration and is a fine showcase for the author’s conversational (and controversial) writing style.

Postwar is analysis and criticism, not just “what happened.” The book is an eye-opener, worth your time and effort. It’s an investment in understanding and historical perspective. It’s never dull. After reading it, you won’t see Europe or World War II the same way.

Moreover, this is a book which provides context for our century. Postwar has breadth, depth and makes sense of many puzzling historical omissions. It will change the way you look at the past and how it connects to the present.



Categories: Book Review, civilization, History, News, truth, War and battles

Tags: , , , , , , ,

4 replies

    • It’s a really, REALLY good book. It seriously changed my entire view of history and reality. It is very long, but there’s so much in it. I read very fast, but it still took me a while to get through it, but after that I needed to read it again. There’s just SO much in it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was a teenager during WW11 and immediately following. I remember a lot about those days. I married when I was 19 and lived in a GI trailer camp with my husband at the University of South Dakota. Even though everyone was trying to get back to a “normal” way of living, there was still always the fear that some other skirmish was about to erupt. I thin there will be a war. There seems to be some kind of gene in men that foster and welcome it.

    Like

    • There will always be a war. It must be genetic because in each generation, there are enough people to create and fight wars. Now, of course, we don’t bother with ground troops. We do it all with drones and long distance computer-operated gun so only the grunts get blown up. Grunts and supposed peacekeepers.

      I don’t get it. One of the many, many things I don’t get and probably never will. Maybe I don’t want to get it.

      Like

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Touring My Backyard

Rediscovering Singapore

Our Eyes Open

Come along on an adventure with us!

Travel with me

Travel snapshots from Toonsarah

Thoughts & Theories

My Personal Rants, Ravings, & Ruminations

France & Vincent

Writing Magic, Myth and Mystery

Barb Taub

Writing & Coffee. Especially coffee.

This, That, and The Other

Random musings on life, society, and politics.

Keep it alive

A look at life, achieving good physical and mental health and happiness

Covert Novelist

Light Hearted Mysteries

Salted Caramel

Blogging, Motivation, Lifestyle and much more.

Sarah's Attic Of Treasures

Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.

Green Screen

The Environmental Movie Podcast

bushboys world

Photos of my world and other stuff I hope you will enjoy too. Photos taken with Canon PowershotSX70HS Photos can be purchased.

musingsofanoldfart

Independent views from someone who offers some historical context

My Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

National Day Calendar

Fun, unusual and forgotten designations on our calendar.

Cee's Photo Challenges

Teaching the art of composition for photography.

Trent's World (the Blog)

Random Ramblings and Reviews from Trent P. McDonald

Views from the Edge

To See More Clearly

serial monography: forgottenman's ruminations

wandering discourse, pedantic rant, self-indulgent drivel, languorous polemic, grammarian's bête noire, poesy encroachment approaching bombast, unintended subtext in otherwise intentional context, unorthodox unorthodoxy, self-inflected rodomontade, …

draliman on life

Because sometimes life just makes you stop and think

The English Professor at Large

Posts about old Hollywood, current concerns

sparksfromacombustiblemind

EMBERS FROM SOMEONE DOGGEDLY TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL...

The Day After

Musings, Photography, Writing, and More

THE SHINBONE STAR

NO LONGER ENCUMBERED BY ANY SENSE OF FAIR PLAY, EX-JOURNALISTS RETURN TO ACTIVE DUTY TO FIGHT THE TRUMPIAN MENACE!

Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

Welcome to the Anglo Swiss World

ScienceSwitch

Your Source For The Coolest Science Stories

%d bloggers like this: