Savage Continent describes what happened in Europe after the "official"
shooting stopped in exhaustively researched detail not only the massive, almost incomprehensible level of destruction of property and infrastructure throughout Europe, but in many areas the destruction of all social mores. Due to the factory-level murder developed and deployed by the Nazis across Europe throughout the war, the survivors were often left without any sort of a moral compass. Killing had become so common, so mainstream under the Nazi regime that it often became the adopted process to settle any difference either at an individual or a country-to-country level.
Killing for revenge, killing to keep stolen property, killing because of race or religion--it is all chronicled in detail in this book.
Most people who have studied WWII assume that the killing stopped in Europe on VE Day, May 8, 1945.
Author Keith Lowe clearly shows that this is far from the truth.
Ongoing ethnic cleansing throughout Europe often predated WWII and started anew at war's end kept the blood flowing. Often the cleansing actions were more violent and bloodthirsty then prior to the war, due to college-level learning at the hands of the SS. Many local peoples throughout Europe assisted the Germans in running the death camps,
learning at the knees of these master murderers they learned how to slaughter towns and the efficient use of mass graves. The killing was nowhere close to being complete when the Germans signed their unconditional surrender. These cleansing atrocities in some cases continued into the 1950s and remerged again in the Baltic countries in the 1990s.
Much of Savage Continent
focuses on the massive Russian land grab, both geographical and political, at the end of the war. The Russian plans for
Communist expansion had been finely honed before and during the war. They knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish once it became clear that the Germans would be beaten. Their strategy was to roll their tanks over as much European territory as possible before the surrender terms were signed. Once the tanks were in place, they would hand-pick
local government officials who would follow the Kremlin in lockstep. The Russians never intended to stay within their borders;
the possible counter to this government via armored division was the approach taken by the Americans.
The book uncovers the incredible naiveté of the Americans and the constant shortsightedness of the US on the world stage of foreign policy. The American focus had been on stopping the Germans, not on the next steps the Russians would take. That miscalculation started the Cold War that would run another 44 years.
Lowe reveals great details at the end of the largest conflagration in human history. That immediate period in time is barely covered by the thousands of books already in print about WWII. Savage Continent is not an easy read, nor is it an easy subject to read about--but it is well worth the time and effort put into mining the exhaustive details contained in the text. A must-read for anyone with interest in WWII or the birth of the Cold War.