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Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 #1-4

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

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Almost a decade in the making, this much-anticipated grand history of postwar Europe from one of the world's most esteemed historians and intellectuals is a singular achievement. Postwar is the first modern history that covers all of Europe, both east and west, drawing on research in six languages to sweep readers through thirty-four nations and sixty years of political and cultural change-all in one integrated, enthralling narrative. Both intellectually ambitious and compelling to read, thrilling in its scope and delightful in its small details, Postwar is a rare joy.

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award
One of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of the Year.

Table of contents

About the author
Copyright page
Preface & acknowledgement

PART ONE - Post-War: 1945-1953
1. The legacy of war
2. Retribution
3. The rehabilitation of Europe
4. The impossible settlement
5. The coming of the Cold War
6. Into the whirlwind
7. Culture wars
CODA The end of old Europe

PART TWO - Prosperity and its discontents: 1953-1971
8. The politics of stability
9. Lost illusions
10. The age of affluence
POSTSCRIPT: A Tale of two economies
11. The Social Democrat moment
12. The spectre of revolution
13. The end of the affair

PART THREE - Recessional: 1971-1989
14. Diminished expectations
15. Politics in a new key
16. A time of transition
17. The new realism
18. The power of the powerless
19. The end of the old order

PART FOUR - After the Fall: 1989-2005
20. A fissile continent
21. The reckoning
22. The old Europe -and the new
23. The varieties of Europe
24. Europe as a way of life

Photo crdits
Suggestions for further readings

933 pages, Paperback

First published October 6, 2005

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About the author

Tony Judt

64 books553 followers
Born in 1948, Tony Judt was raised in the East End of London by a mother whose parents had immigrated from Russia and a Belgian father who descended from a line of Lithuanian rabbis. Judt was educated at Emanuel School, before receiving a BA (1969) and PhD (1972) in history from the University of Cambridge.

Like many other Jewish parents living in postwar Europe, his mother and father were secular, but they sent him to Hebrew school and steeped him in the Yiddish culture of his grandparents, which Judt says he still thinks of wistfully. Urged on by his parents, Judt enthusiastically waded into the world of Israeli politics at age 15. He helped promote the migration of British Jews to Israel. In 1966, having won an exhibition to King's College Cambridge, he took a gap year and went to work on kibbutz Machanaim. When Nasser expelled UN troops from Sinai in 1967, and Israel mobilized for war, like many European Jews, he volunteered to replace kibbutz members who had been called up. During and in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, he worked as a driver and translator for the Israel Defense Forces.

But during the aftermath of the war, Judt's belief in the Zionist enterprise began to unravel. "I went with this idealistic fantasy of creating a socialist, communitarian country through work," Judt has said. The problem, he began to believe, was that this view was "remarkably unconscious of the people who had been kicked out of the country and were suffering in refugee camps to make this fantasy possible."

Career: King's College, Cambridge, England, fellow, 1972-78; University of California at Berkeley, assistant professor, 1978-80; St. Anne's College, Oxford University, Oxford, England, fellow, 1980-87; New York University, New York, NY, professor of history, 1987--, director of Remarque Institute, 1995--.

Awards: American Council of Learned Societies, fellow, 1980; British Academy Award for Research, 1984; Nuffield Foundation fellow, 1986; Guggenheim fellow, 1989; Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction finalist, 2006, for Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 914 reviews
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,180 followers
December 21, 2017
History is a discipline peculiarly impervious to high theoretical speculation: the more Theory intrudes, the farther History recedes.

When I was in university, studying anthropology, I always resented the requirement that my essays have thesis statements. Can’t I just collect information and serve it up without taking some ultimate stance? Tony Judt seems to have been of the same mind, since this book is one very large serving of information, absent of any overarching thesis. As he says himself, Judt is rather like the proverbial fox than the hegdehog: he knows many things, and has many valuable observations scattered throughout the text, without any one big idea to tie them together.

There are compelling advantages to this approach. This book is one-stop shopping for many aspects of post-war European life. Economic development, intellectual fashions, architecture, film history, political movements, the Cold War, regionalism, the emergence of the European Union—all this and more is covered in impressive detail. And though multifarious, all of these pieces come together to form an astounding story: a continent nearly destroyed by war, divided by dangerous political tension, slowly emerging from American and Soviet dominance to become the most affluent, most peaceful, and most progressive place in the world.

The main disadvantage of this method is, of course, that this story remains fairly messy and haphazard. Without a thesis to guide him, Judt had to rely on a mixture of interest, instinct, and whim—the latter playing an especially significant role in some sections. What is more, though Judt is an opinionated and assertive guide, the lack of a thesis renders it difficult to point to anything distinctly “Judtean” in his analysis. What ties the narrative together is, rather, a certain mood or sensibility—most notably, Judt’s keen sense of historical irony, which he employs to great effect.

This ironic sensibility is most often directed toward Judt’s political foes. Though he is never explicitly partisan, it is easy to tell where Judt’s sympathies lie: in the center-left, socialist-democratic camp. Thus, depending on where the reader falls on the political spectrum, Judt’s comments will be either gratifying or grating. For me they were usually the former. What irked me, instead, was Judt’s relatively brief treatment of Spain—the Franco era is entirely ignored, and the transition to democracy is covered in just a few pages. But this is admittedly my own prejudice speaking.

If Postwar has one takeaway message, it is this: that Postwar Europe is the anxious construction of a generation wearied and horrified by conflict. After going through the belligerent nationalism of the First World War, the economic depression and intense ideological polarization of the interwar period, the even more gruesome Second World War and the unspeakable Holocaust—all this, coupled with the prolonged armed standoff and Soviet repression of the Cold War—Europeans were intent on creating a world where this could never happen again. Extreme ideological stances fell into disgrace; strong government social safety nets helped to prevent economic crisis and, in so doing, made people less susceptible to demagogues; and governments forged institutional ties with one another, a project that culminated in the European Union.

Without constant reminders of this catastrophe—a European civil war that began in 1914 and whose political aftereffects did not disappear until 1991, if then—we risk falling into the same errors that tore the continent apart one hundred years ago. For this, we need good historians—and Judt is certainly among the best.
Profile Image for Szplug.
467 reviews1,227 followers
September 6, 2010
This is history writ large done to perfection. Judt has compressed a lifetime of study and exploration of European cultural memes into this masterwork, one which abounds with erudition, penetrating analysis, and wise reflection. Judt states in his introduction that he hoped to produce a work that might compare favorably with that of the historians he had read and enjoyed, such as Eric Hosbsbawn. Speaking as one who has read the latter's brilliant tetralogy that runs from the French Revolution to the end of the twentieth century, I can announce that the author succeeded in every single way. Fifty years of European history, producing such an amazing amount of transformative change and renewal, presents a daunting task for the historian; that Judt manages to pull it off with prose that is compulsively readable and effortlessly scintillating, that combines broad overview with pinpoint observation, is endlessly impressive. This truly is as good as it gets.

The period under examination encompasses the broken, ruined remnants of a shattered Europe that grimly faced an exhausted world in 1945 through to the 2005 admission of several former communist states—Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech, Slovak, and Baltic Republics—into the European Union, the continent's overdue response to the cycle of war and destruction enacted with sanguine regularity throughout the first half of the twentieth century. These five decades witnessed the astonishing economic and political recovery of the western half set against the repression and stagnation endured by those eastern realms with the misfortune to have been liberated by the mighty Red Army and wrapped in the strangling bonds of Real Existing Socialism. This bifurcation was enacted as the Cold War under the auspices of the twin superpower patrons, the United States and the Soviet Union—a continental standoff that sparked a handful of terrifying flash points before settling into a more endurable détente—until the eastern communist edifice shrugged its shoulders in 1989 and the entire house of cards tumbled down.

From his vantage point circa 2005, Judt posits that the World War was a single event which began in 1914 with the onset of mass mobilization and mechanized slaughter, and didn't end until the global embers of the Cold War were fully extinguished with the Soviet Empire's final implosion in 1991. The eighty-some year conflict—a search for workable political and economic systems to go along with military and colonial conquest—ended with the United States globally regnant from its ocean-moated stronghold; Russia dazed and reeling after its recent tumultuous imperial dissolution; and the former Great Powers of Europe—having been thoroughly chastised and humbled by the ruinous outcome of their own folly and hubris—shadows of their former dominant strength and influence. The ofttimes troubled and resentful attitude of Europeans towards their American protector and benefactor—whose tendrils were uncomfortably taking root everywhere—was deeply intermingled with a profound gratitude and appreciation for America's unyielding and unending support over the decades. Needing America yet resisting America—this would become Europe's seemingly permanent modus operandi. This love/hate relationship would subsequently emerge in the Eastern nations that rejected communism and undertook crash courses in market economies in the nineties—the painful lessons quickly learned from Shock Therapy and the resulting liquidation of savings and support networks meant that before the dawn of the new century, a sizable portion of the Eastern populace looked with a nostalgic longing upon the staid, boring security that Real Existing Socialism provided for its closed-off citizenry. Not everybody finds it easy—or preferable—dealing with freedom, with the rapid, daily change that is inherent to democratic capitalism with unfettered markets. As Judt points out, Europe needs both to remember and forget its history in the past century if future generations are to expand upon the continent's remarkable resurrection and transformation and put paid to the ghosts that haunt a collective memory's retreats.

It really is difficult to convey, in the space of a review, the extraordinary range of Judt's knowledge of this tumultuous and historic epoch of our recent past. His assessments are liberally spiced with wry commentary and thoughtful opinion, and there really is no corner of the European landscape that escapes his sure-footed stride. The impossible task that faced the triumphant allies, as they surveyed the endless wreckage of a continent brought low, is laid out clearly; and while he stresses the admixture of American generosity and commitment with European forbearance and resolve that wrought such transformative changes upon the West, he also illuminates the willful amnesia that was both tacitly encouraged, and required, by the postwar governments in order to bring off this stunning turnaround—a collective disremembering that would surface in future years seeking payback with interest. On the Soviet side of the liberation the introduction of Stalinist terror and repression—with the brutal show trials and torture-induced confessions that inevitably accompanied them—quickly snuffed whatever enthusiasm for communism existed in the repressed nations and opened the West's eyes to exactly what they were dealing with. In this, as in so many things, Stalin proved his own worst enemy—his murderous implementation of Soviet-style communism increasingly diminished the political power of communist parties in the Western half of Europe, ceding the left-wing ground to the various Social Democratic parties that were resolved to work within the confines of elective political systems and capitalist economies. As acute as Judt is in relating the story of the West, he truly excels in his dissection of the miseries and impositions enacted upon the East, especially the travails of long-suffering Poland and perpetually betrayed Czechoslovakia. As the dynamic recovery in West Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom churns along—even as the latter two shed their remaining Imperial territories, peacefully and bloodily—the festering wards of the Red Army endure the crushed hopes of the 1956 Hungarian uprising and the 1968 Prague Spring. The brutal subjugation of these doomed-but-inspired attempts to pull free of the Soviet Union's grasp shattered what remained of the unity of the European Left, along with whatever traces existed in the Communist buffer states of a belief in Socialism's Historical Necessity.

Judt's take upon the sixties and the seventies, and their impact—both perceived then and realized later—upon the courses of European history is masterful. The origins of the European Union in a sidebar French project to unite France, West Germany, and the Benelux countries in a tariff union against the overweening domination of the Anglo-American alliance; the re-birth of democracy from the authoritarian ashes of Portugal, Greece, and Spain; the Post-Keynesian enthusiasm for Hayekian market reforms, privatization, and tax cuts that launched the eighties into a remarkably affluent, and destructive, financial boom; the Soviet Union's long road to dissolution and ephemerality that proceeded from the unlikely turning point of the Helsinki Accords through the Afghanistan invasion, the formation of Poland's Solidarity movement, and the unrelenting bravery and passion that exploded over Gorbachev's introduction of glasnost and perestroika, reforms that lead to the unforeseen and swift shedding of communist shackles by the Warsaw Pact realms in the miracle year of 1989; Judt produces the entire story, beautifully written and packed full of immensely courageous individuals—Adam Michnik being a favorite of mine—in history that probes and sheds light in prodigious abundance.

Yet perhaps the best is saved for last: the seesaw struggles that played out in the East—newfound, shaky freedom greeting these blinking patients awoken from stasis—and the wary enthusiasm these desperate struggles were greeted with by a West startled out of a complacent and accepted duality. The author's disappointment is palpable at the manner in which these fledgling Eastern democracies were treated by their Western cousins, who abandoned the American wisdom in the aftermath of the Second World War in favor of the misguided approach of the First: there was no Marshall Plan to be extended in 1990—rather, a slew of consultants and corporations offered their advice and money, and made a fortune purchasing national assets (in Russia foremost) for a fraction of their market value. This avaricious plunder of the East's resources would be a source of simmering anger and foster a sense of betrayal in the years to come. The story arc of the European Union—its bureaucratic complexities, its financial strictures and structures, the long waltz that wended its way across the dance floor of the nineties before the post-Communist nations, impatient to embrace their new continental destiny, received their invitations to the European community—is described better than any account I've read. The overarching need for a purpose for the new communal powerhouse makes itself clear in the shameful response of the European powers to the tragedy that was enacted by murderous bands of paramilitary thugs in the broken shards of Yugoslavia, filled with bloodlust by cynical and power-hungry demagogues and enjoined to genocide while the UN peacekeepers idly stood by. Without the firm directing hand of the US, who knows how much more blood would have soaked the already well-watered soils of the Balkans?

Judt closes with a pair of chapters that examine the modern European identity, contrasts it favorably with that of the dominant economic titans, America and China, and posits that if the EU and its plurality of ethnicities, religions, and nationalisms can manage to seriously get its shit together, there is really no reason that the twenty-first century couldn't belong to a Europe that has learned so many painful lessons, and crafted so many prudent and preventative responses. The epilogue, a thirty page essay examining the lingering memories of the Holocaust that have hung over the postwar continent for decades—a relentless burden of guilt that had been studiously ignored, prevaricated over, avoided and then finally accepted and acknowledged, in various (perhaps necessary) stages as the savage slaughter of World War Two began to fade in the rearview mirror—brings this masterpiece to a close with a sober, but optimistic caution. Evil was unleashed in the war, and of necessity this evil had to be confronted by those who had participated in or enabled it; but if this guilt can be cleansed without leaving the stains of self-pity or angry ressentiment, there is a real possibility that the future existence of Europe may be—finally, enduringly—one of peace.
June 3, 2020
Δεν έχει γραφτεί κανένα άλλο βιβλίο με την ικανότητα να παρουσιάσει την μεταπολεμική ιστορία της Ευρώπης ως τις μέρες μας, τόσο καίρια και πολυδιάστατα. Ο μακαρίτης πλέον Judt κατάφερε να γράψει όχι μια ιστορία, αλλά μια αφήγηση της ίδια της ζωής της μεταπολεμικής Ευρώπης - και ιδιαίτερα της ζωής στην κομμουνιστικη Ευρώπη - με εκείνο τον μοναδικό τρόπο αφήγησης των Αγγλοσαξονων που κάνει την ανάγνωση μυθιστορηματικη! Διαβάζεται εύκολα και απολαυστικά, μολονότι πιάνει και αναλύει σε βάθος κάθε κοινωνική, πολιτική και οικονομική αλλαγή αυτής της εποχής. Και έγιναν πολλά μετά το πόλεμο.

Ο Judt διερευνά και παρουσιάζει την πορεία της ηπείρου μέσα από τα σημαντικά πρόσωπα και γεγονότα που οδήγησαν στην σημερινή Ευρώπη, αλλά, το σπουδαιότερο μέσα από τις καθημερινές αλλαγές της ζωής των ανθρώπων. Και αυτό είναι το ατού του, ότι αναδεικνύει σε κάθε περίοδο που καταγραφεί το μείζον και το συνδέει με τα ελάσσονα με μοναδική ικανότητα αντιστοίχησης. Τολμά να παρουσιάσει τις κομβικες στιγμές της με βλέμμα στο μέλλον. Χαρακτηριστικά αναφέρω την σχέση των τριών πρωτεργατων της Ένωσης Άνθρακα και Χάλυβα (που εξελίχθηκε στη σημερινή ΕΕ). Το χαρακτηριστικό των Αντενάουερ, Μονε και Ντε Γκασπερις, ήταν ότι γεννήθηκαν στις περιφέρειες των χωρών τους, ήταν γερμανοφωνοι και κατάφεραν να σκεφτούν έξω από το εθνικό αφήγημα των ηττημένων από το πόλεμο χωρών τους (για τον Μονε η Γαλλία ήταν μια ελάσσονα δύναμη πια). Ο Γερμανός Αντενάουερ είχε γεννηθεί στην Κολωνία, ο Γάλλος Μονε στο Στρασβούργο και ο Ιταλός Ντε Γκασπερις στην Βόρεια Ιταλία. Αυτό, κατά τον συγγραφέα, καταδεικνύει την διάθεση τους να κατανοήσουν ο ένας τον άλλο όχι σαν μέρος ενός έθνους αλλά σαν εκπρόσωποι ενός κοινού πολιτισμού, βοηθώντας τους να ταυτιστούν με μια Ευρώπη όχι των εθνών αλλά των συνθέσεων. Κι αυτό μόλις μερικά χρόνια μετά την καταστροφή.

Παράλληλα, η μελέτη των αρχείων των πρώην κομμουνιστικων χωρών, καθιστούν το έργο πλήρες αφήγημα της σταδιακής μεταπολεμικής κατάληξης των χωρών αυτών προς την Σοβιετική κυριαρχία. Η μετέπειτα πορεία τους μέσα στο κομμουνιστικο σύστημα της Ανατολικής Ευρώπης δίνεται σε συνάρτηση με την εξέλιξη του ευρωπαϊκού κομμουνισμου της Δυτικής, καταδεικνυοντας τα χάσματα που γέννησε ο εμπειρικος κομμουνισμός με την φαντασιακή θεσμιση των δυτικών θιασωτων του. Κομβικό σημείο της πτώσης των καθεστώτων θεωρεί - και δικαίως - την ψήφιση της συμφωνίας για τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα στο Ελσίνκι από την πρώην ΕΣΣΔ, τον Αύγουστο του 1975, που ώθησε όσους διαφωνούσαν στο εσωτερικό των χωρών αυτών σε κινήματα αντικαθεστωτικα πχ η Χαρτα 77 των Τσεχοσλαβακων, το Σωματείο Αλληλεγγύη των Πολωνων, και τα οποία πλέον είχαν σημείο αναφοράς στις διεκδικήσεις τους το Παρατηρητηριο του Ελσίνκι.

Ο Judt αντιμετωπίζει τις πολιτικές αλλαγές και κοινωνικές εξελίξεις στην δυτική Ευρώπη ως εμφάνιση μιας γενιάς νέων, προνομιούχων, που χάρη στην οικονομική βελτίωση της ποιότητας ζωής διεκδίκησαν και πέτυχαν εργασιακά και πολιτικά δικαιώματα για αυτούς τους νέους Ευρωπαίους αστούς, τέκνα μιας εργατικής προπολεμικης γενιάς. Η πολιτιστική αλλαγή της δεκαετίας του '60-'70 και το κίνημα της αμφισβήτησης βελτίωσε τις σχέσεις ισοτιμίας των φύλων παράλληλα με την απαίτηση για πολιτική εκπροσώπηση των μειονοτήτων. Οι οικονομικές κρίσεις του εβδομήντα έφεραν την άνοδο των συντηρητικων πολιτικών του ογδόντα που έθιξε τα κεκτημένα. Ωστόσο η οικονομική ανέλιξη δεν σταμάτησε ποτέ, το όραμα για μια καλύτερη ζωή ποιοτικά παρέμεινε το "αμερικανικό όνειρο" των Ευρωπαίων. Η ίδια η ΕΕ, αν και αποτέλεσε όχημα αμφισβήτησης της εθνικής κυριαρχίας για Φλαμανδους, Βασκους, Σκότους, Καταλανούς, παρέμεινε το κοινό σημείο αναφοράς χάρη στην οικονομική της επιτυχία. Απόδειξη η πλήρης ενσωμάτωση των πρώην κομμουνιστικων χωρών σε αυτήν σχεδόν την επαυριο κιόλας της πτώσης του Τείχους. Ο Judt δεν τρέφει ψευδαισθησεις και αναγνωρίζει τα διλήμματα αυτής της νέας Ευρώπης. Ωστόσο στην ποικιλία της ευρωπαϊκής κουλτούρας καταφέρνει να αναδείξει το μείζον· τον ιδιαίτερο τρόπο ζωής των ανθρώπων της ηπείρου, τόσο στην καθημερινότητα τους, όσο και στο κοινωνικό και πολιτικό σκηνικό. Διαφορετικοί άνθρωποι, διαφορετικά έθνη, με διαφορετικά σημεία αναφοράς· αλλά με μια κοινή συνισταμένη, την αξία της ανθρώπινης μοναδικότητας και την προσωπική ιστορία του Ευρωπαίου πολίτη.

Δυστυχώς αυτό το υπέροχο μυαλό έφυγε νωρίτερα από όσα ακόμα είχε να δώσει...
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,549 reviews1,823 followers
October 6, 2019
A history of Europe from 1945 up to 2005, readable, interesting and puts a lot in context.

For Judt Europe ends where North Africa, Turkey and Russia begin, so everywhere in between gets some coverage. The coverage given to eastern Europe contrasts with the situation in the west - an advantage which earlier pre-1989 histories can't offer.

In retrospect the treatment of the immediate post war years stands out as particularly good - but this may be due to their inherent drama. There are lots of points were I disagree with Judt's opinion (say on the film Heimat) or on his coverage - it feels as though he pulls his punch over terrorism in Italy when the involvement of senior government and party figures is relegated to a footnote and the fact that Andreotti, seven times prime minister of Italy during the period actually went through a series of trials accused of intimate involvement with the mafia and political violence. Perhaps one of the pleasures about a book like this is that you can disagree on the details but still be impressed by the book as a whole.

Maybe there should have been more on Vatican II (the treatment of religion is not a strong point)and less on CAMRA (the UK campaign for real ale, ie traditionally brewed beer, as opposed to Lager style beers) and with a book of such ambitious scope you can always question the distribution of space but on the whole - there is a want of a conception demonstrated in this, a big Braudelian vision of the direction of travel over this period, and so one can only wonder what is the historical significance of CAMRA (for example), what does it tell us about modern Britain, and how does it fit into a history of postwar Europe, and why is it worth mentioning? If Judt has no conception or overall picture of post war European history then this can't be a coherent book, but can only be a rag bag of fragments, some intrinsically interesting, others not. Still I'd be happy to recommend it to anyone looking for an introduction to modern European history, or looking to understand something more about modern Europe.

Read and release.
Profile Image for Marc.
3,068 reviews1,091 followers
July 3, 2022
This book is a real 'tour de force': incredibly balanced in its width, accurate in its general outlines and details, critical and lucid. Judt brings a reasonably classic political narrative of European history, but adds it with many socio-economic data and elements on mentality. All well supported by statistics, examples and quotations.

The whole book also has a personal stamp: an at times explicit nostalgic yearning to the time social democracy improved so many things in Europe, for so many people. In that sense Judt isn't very popular with neoliberals and neocons these days. You can endlessly debate about that, but Judt at least had the courage to stand for his opinions.

Yet there are also some clear weaknesses in this book: Judt regularly settles personal scores, with the generation of May 68 for example, with the 'Third Way' of Blair, with Mitterrand and so on. And in the end this historical work inevitably becomes more of an essay which results in rather ambiguous points of view, like on the European Union.

Remarkable is the central place Judt gives to the way the Holocaust has been dealt with in different countries; he uses it as a benchmark to judge people and deeds; the essay that is added at the end of the book rightfully underlines this. This is a must read for years to come!
Profile Image for Jim.
2,054 reviews673 followers
January 27, 2014
I was born in 1945 and lived through everything that Tony Judt writes about in Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, but from a slightly different perspective. I was a Hungarian born in the United States, in Cleveland, which along Buckeye Road was fully as Hungarian as that ancient capital on the Duna. From my youth, I was surrounded by stories about Hungary, about the little farm in Felcsut that was "taken away from us" by the Communists.

Europe was always very near to me, even though it was many years before I was to see it with my own eyes. What Judt does in Postwar is fill in many of the blanks for me. In high school, I wrote papers about the Common Market (as the Euro Zone was called back then), and even about geopolitical considerations in a nuclear war with the Russians.

Even though I was looking at Europe, so to speak, through the wrong end of the telescope, from the point of view of a mighty postwar America that could do no wrong, I found myself following the late historian closely, saying to myself, frequently, "Yes, it must have been this way!"

... until ... until finally the whole thing came clear to me. World War II never really ended: It merely continued using "other weapons" until Communism came unglued around 1990 (and not because Reagan had outspent the Russians in the arms race, as our more dim politicos insisted) and Europe became a bright little economic island because, for once, its countries did not try to savage each other (with some exceptions, such as Yugoslavia and the Balkans).

Postwar is a superb work of history. It is never easy to write about one's own time (and the period of the book is exactly my own time, too). I almost feel as if it had been written for me.
Profile Image for Will Ansbacher.
306 reviews86 followers
September 3, 2014
What an absolutely outstanding book. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed reading history so much - there were some nights I read till after 1 because I couldn’t put it down. This is the story of Europe since the end of WW2, a seemingly dry topic if ever there was one, so what is it that makes the book so compelling? Well, it feels as if it is all here, every significant event for the whole period presented in so balanced a way that the weight given to each just “feels right”. Reading Postwar is like entering a fast-flowing river, experiencing the torrent of events as they occurred, but sped up so that 60 years pass in just a few weeks (it did take me a couple of months to read, on and off).

At the same time Judt is not at all dogmatic or polemical; and you feel you are standing back far enough to get a clear sense of why events developed the way they did. And how do I know that he got the balance and interpretation of events so right? I don’t of course, but such is the power of this book that the “plot”, as it were, just makes so much sense.

When I first started reading it, one of my motives was to get a better sense of those events that I thought were so momentous when I was younger – the student uprisings and riots in the ‘60s, the oil shocks and hyperinflation of the 70’s and so on. At the time they seemed like defining moments in history. How wrong I was. In Postwar they appear as rather minor and not very interesting developments: the first following naturally from the coming-of-age of a mass of baby boomers and its discontent with the safe world their parents created after WW2; and the second, the almost inevitable aftermath of the US’s insane war in Vietnam and its inability to pay for it.
I had also wanted to get a better sense of earlier events that I dimly remember from my parents’ conversations – these would have been from the late 50’s on: they’re all there too.

Although this is not your average footnote-laden academic textbook, there are some slightly dry segments of course – some very detailed accounts of heinous but rather obscure events in communist Eastern Europe, and a couple too many statistics comparing the number of TVs in the East versus the West. But I devoured them all, wonk that I am.

I have a couple of minor regrets after finishing this book. One is that it was written in 2005 – a natural cutoff so the span is a nice round 60 years. But I would have liked to have known how he viewed the deepening depression since 2008. Judt saw the much-unloved EU as a significant success but more importantly a necessary development for Europe, but it seems to me that some sort of major readjustment would have been inevitable even if there hadn’t been a financial meltdown, given the disparity between the newer members like Greece and the original countries.

The other is a connection that was not made. In the Epilogue which for me was one of the most important and emotional chapters, Judt sums up the essential meaning and lesson to be learned after WW2 – the defining event that lead to everything else - and that is atonement for and real acceptance of the consequences of the Holocaust. That was a real surprise to me, but as he points out, virtually every country was complicit in some way. In the immediate years after the war, “forgetting” was the practical response that allowed Europe’s rebuilding to take place, and it took many years for the reality to be faced. Now, as he says, the actual experience of the Holocaust is moving into history and there has to be a proper way to remember it. I’m not saying this well. But this last chapter is a searing reminder of the evil that ordinary people can either be persuaded to do, or tolerate or just not see, then justify afterwards. And my regret about the point he didn't make was that this tolerance seems to be in direct proportion to the level of desperation and deprivation in everyday life.

I don’t know, perhaps Judt felt that this point was sufficiently obvious from everything he had written, but I thought the link needed to be made, as a warning lesson for the future. Perhaps that’s why I’m so concerned about the current deepening depression. Or maybe I’m wrong and history does not repeat itself in so obvious a way. I think Judt would have had the answer, but anyway I seem to have drifted some distance from reviewing this wonderful book.
Profile Image for Michael Kotsarinis.
462 reviews122 followers
May 8, 2020

I know that this book has already received enough praise but it is very well deserved indeed.
It is a detailed and vivid tour of Europe from the end of World War II to 2005. Using the political, social, economic and cultural events and their perspectives the author managed to construct an elegant and convincing narrative that makes the sequence of events that shaped postwar Europe a coherent read.

I can only recommend it to everyone who is (or considers oneself) European, it will be a journey into self-awareness.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,617 reviews429 followers
January 24, 2020
-Esfuerzo titánico en aras de una hazaña imposible.-

Género. Historia.

Lo que nos cuenta. El libro Postguerra (publicación original: Postwar. A History of Europe since 1945, 2005), con el subtítulo Una historia de Europa desde 1945, se sumerge en los eventos sociopolíticos, militares, socioeconómicos y culturales que, tras la finalización de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y hasta nuestros días (2005, en realidad, que fue cuando lo terminó el autor), hicieron la Europa que conocemos en la actualidad).

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,262 reviews185 followers
May 9, 2023
Легитимността на една държава или държавно формирование, посочва Джъд към края на тази книга, е функция на капацитета и на територията. Епосът на Джъд, разпрострял се на близо хиляда страници, е функция на ерудиция, фактология и (без)пристрастност.

В историята място за безпристрастност всъщност няма. Иначе ще имаме сух сбор от статистически данни. Или като във вица, където професорът казал: "Библиотеката ми знае повече от мен, но професор съм аз, а не тя!". Анализът сам по себе си предполага заемане на позиция, иначе е безсмислен. Стои единствено въпросът дали позицията е формирана преди или след съставянето му.

Как стои въпросът с този европейски магнум опус на Джъд? При Джъд е предимно вторият сценарий, с мъничко от първия.

Освен епичен, друго определение за обема и обхванатите теми и течения, не ми хрумва. Даже чисто хронологически съдържанието на четирите основни раздела е съсипващо:
- 1945 - 1953 г.
- 1953 - 1971 г.
- 1971 - 1989 г.
- 1989 - 2005 г.

За Джъд Европа е територия, но и идея. Границите им често не съвпадат, и това води до възмущение или объркване. И територията, и идеята, възкръсват в средата на ХХ век от пепелищата на неописуемо изтребление, познато като втора световна война. Невинни в нея са евентуално само избитите. Виновните щастливо и гладко се сместват в новите процеси по възстановяване и просперитет. Един от канцлерите на ФРГ през 70-те е бивш нацист. Франсоа Митеран, този виден френски "социалист", е бивш бюрократ от режима на Виши.

Голямата поука от войната е, че поука от историята може да покълне из умовете само, ако тези умове не се притесняват за насъщния си и за живота си. И то чак след едно поколение! Планът Маршал изиграва за Западна Европа ролята на началния капитал за нейното "чудодейно" възстановяване и последвало благоденствие. НАТО изиграва ролята на общ западноевропейски военен щит срещу последващи глобални заплахи. Дори и днес Европа като идея и конкретно като ЕС няма друг обединен военен инструмент, което я поставя винаги в уязвима и глупава позиция при кризи. С две думи, благоденствието е създадено от самите западноевропейци с американско финансиране, но сигурността си остава все така аутсорсната отвъд океана - от 1945 г. до днес.

Социалната държава е ключовият акцент на Джъд, и ключовата заслуга на следвоенна Европа. Балансът между ефективен пазар и социално благоденствие и несекващия опит за (пре)дефинирането му е в основата на мечтата и лелеяна Европа за мнозина. Разказът за формирането и е интересен и поучителен, и освен плана Маршал, включва деколонизация, удобна забрава на отговорности за причинени злини през войната, немалка доза снобска арогантност, битката между ляво и дясно, консервативни и прогресивно-либерални партии, страх от близкото минало, и удобна слепота за някои неудобни факти. В крайна сметка, социалната държава доказва, че капитализмът не е и не може да бъде безконтролен, а социализмът е едностранчив и вреден, защото не отчита икономическите механизми. За комунизма да не говорим - той се проваля гръмко със Сталин и гние още 40 години.

Източна Европа е някак неопределена при Джъд. Той хем я третира като интегрална част от континента Европа, т.е. географски неделима. Хем включването и изключването и дори и на този иначе ясен принцип при него силно варира. Естествен е фокусът върху железния похлупак на комунизма, отцепил културно и политически тази част на континента, и върнал развитието му с години. Но в тези случаи Джъд, за мен, пропусна да направи широкоспектърния анализ, който му се удава отлично за Запада. Не че изложеното не е интересно, провокативно или вярно - то просто е недостатъчно за съставяне на мащабната картина на Изтока. Не мисля, че е поради липса на данни, т.к. Джъд просто жонглира с тях. По-скоро е отгласът на студената война и част от нейните клишета, според които дори кървавият, диктаторски антикомунизъм е по-добър за пряко изтърпяващите го, и е идейно по-висш, от най-мирния (за момента) комунизъм. Тук не съм съгласна с Джъд. И двата варианта следва да се отхвърлят безапелационно - защото всеки един е зло! Сравнението им е ирелевантно, и не служи на някаква смислена цел, освен на казуистиката.

Като се изключи този уклон, който преобладава в изследването на периода на 70-те и 80-те, източноевропейците можем да осмислим доста неща за себе си из страниците, и трябва да го направим.

Енциклопедичността, вплетена в този исторически разказ, е впечатляваща. Джъд не се ограничава с ��зреждане на факти. Джъд тъче платно, картина и откроява и осветява тенденции, течения, причинно-следствени връзки и използва сякаш бездънно море от най-различни източници от политиката, културата, архитектурата, икономиката, даже ежедневни анекдоти. Разказът е за историята като симфония с постоянно менящ се сюжет, където обаче винаги нещо остава постоянно, само мени формата и етикета си, и прелива безпрепятствено от едно десетилетие в друго.

Ако някой се чуди каква е връзката между настоящите постидеологически партии в Европа и предхождащите ги силно идеологизирани леви и десни партии, вероятно ще намери част от отговора в книгата, и той ще е, че постигне ли се дадена цел, която е била в основата на идеология, тази идеология просто отпада... А дефинирането на новите цели не винаги е ясно дори за проповядващите ги, или за историците...

Макроисторическият анализ на Джъд е великолепно усещане, на моменти обаче рязко нарушавано от недоизпипан/ пропуснат като несъществен или направо непасващ на конкретното тълкувание факт. За Югоизточна Европа такива "подводни" камъчета има доста, и мен лично те силно ме подразниха (за “славянско” малцинство в Македония, например, допреди тази книга не бях чувала, и това съвсем не е случаен пропуск, т.к. в съвсем друг контекст след около 300 страници това обобщение е пропуснато, и се казва нещо съвсем, съвсем различно). Генералните тенденции обаче тъкмо защото са генерални, в повечето случаи са необорими, освен - разбира се - от навъдилите се теории на (националистическата) конспирация.

Концепцията на Джъд за историята като голям разказ е крайно интригуваща и той я прилага на практика. Истори��та Е разказ, тя не е заместител, а коректив на паметта, защото паметта е винаги индивидуална и често пожелателна и разкрасена. За разлика от миналото си пропагандно прилагане обаче, в днешната си версия този исторически разказ няма гарантиран щастлив край, където съответната държава-обект побеждава всичките си врагове и щастливо си заживява като империя или обществото с песен на уста превъзмогва своите 2-3 милиона избити несъгласни в името на всеобщото светло бъдеще. Всъщност този разказ изобщо не гарантира и не бива да гарантира нещо друго, освен истината. И е наша отговорност да я отстояваме, за да бъде Европа една добра идея, а не просто сбор от малки, ръфащи се територии.

П. П. Книгата просто плаче за преиздаване.
Profile Image for Ярослава.
772 reviews322 followers
September 2, 2018
Ґрунтовний огляд того, як після Другої світової - й у відповідь на неї - поставала Європа (і як інституційна одиниця, і як певний набір ідей, що в нас у обігу з нею асоціюється). Є контрінтуїтивні штуки (велика роль не пам'яті, а забуття й ігнорування - як мінімум у перші десятиліття після катастроф; Джадтівська повторювана тема про те, що welfare state - це не лівацтво, а, навпаки, спосіб захистити центр від різких рухів у будь-які крайнощі політичного спектру, і т.д.). Є досить багато цікавого дрібного фактажу, напевно добре знайомого фахівцям - але зручно зведеного в одному місці для нефахівців (скажімо, про непропорційно великий внесок таки крипто-приватних підприємств до економіки СРСР).
Profile Image for fourtriplezed .
455 reviews96 followers
September 29, 2017
What an outstanding history book. Postwar probably covered the events and issues as well as I can imagine considering the massive scope of the subject. Well written, informative, thoughtful and maybe as good an attempt at being even handed as I can think of. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Michael.
22 reviews1 follower
November 2, 2010
I have often referred to this book as a great act of hubris and an uncommon realization of the author's ambition. The sheer audacity in enclosing a continent's history over 60 years in one spine is staggering and only pales in comparison to the striking amount of detail and context Judt provides his readers. In many ways Postwar is the ultimate starting point for anyone who seeks to enhance their postwar history chops, in other ways Judt provides a perfect condensation of thousands of postwar texts, providing an original review of nearly all pertinent developments, and I again stress that no author has approached "all" in this genre to such a degree of completion.

Judt does not focus solely on political development and is certainly not a "Great Man" historian, although he does provide detailed portraits of the drivers of Europe's postwar history. Instead Postwar encompasses social movements, intellectual debates, economic conditions, the slight variations of oppression in the Eastern Bloc, and the importance of music and film in imagining and conceptualizing the shifting understandings of life on the old continent after its suicide. A great achievement in prose and non-fiction, Judt's Postwar is the Complete Idiot's Guide to Postwar Europe for the thinking man.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,689 reviews637 followers
March 13, 2021
‘Postwar’ is one of those books that merits the term magisterial. It certainly demands commitment from the reader. A mere glance conveys its length, but I didn’t notice until I began reading that the text is also in an unusually small font. Thus my usual reading speed was much reduced, provoking the usual fears of forgetting how to read properly, brain decay, etc. The time it demands is nonetheless richly rewarded. Judt is a consummate synoptic writer. He covers a vast amount of ground and commands a huge array of material, synthesising a coherent narrative that nonetheless avoids becoming simplistic or reductive. I learned a great deal of substance from this history, while also finding his choices of focus fascinating.

As I am British and was taught history in the UK school system, my view of European history is highly Western-centric. Judt avoids this and achieves an excellent balance between East and West, while conceding the ambiguous and debatable limits of continental Europe. This is first and foremost a political history, with secondary economic and socio-cultural considerations. Thus it traces how the Iron Curtain came to divide Europe, the differences either side of it, the circumstances of its fall, and what succeeded it. I don’t think I’ve read such a detailed account before. Judt is admirably wary of generalisations and thus explains the differences in experiences of communism across different Eastern European countries, something I previously knew practically nothing about. Britain comes off as marginal and largely unimportant which, of course, it is. If only our political culture could begin to accept that. There were some resonances with a book I dismissed as ridiculous while reading it years ago: Going South: Why Britain will have a Third World Economy by 2014. That argued Britain has been in economic decline since the 1870s which, despite the title’s hyperbole, does have some plausibility.

'Postwar' begins, of course, with the state of Europe immediately after the end of the Second World War. The portrait of a continent in ruins is vivid and horrifying. Some surprising paradoxes emerge: a vast amount of housing was destroyed, requiring decades of rebuilding. Yet Germany lost hardly any industrial machinery, facilitating an impressively swift economic recovery. Of the European countries (and Russia), only Britain and Germany suffered more military than civilian casualties. I’m sure that the British (English?) nostalgia for the ‘Blitz Spirit’ is influenced by this fact, which is also linked our not being invaded. One thing that stuck with me amongst the litany of disaster was the sheer number of refugees moving between European countries after the end of the war, numbering in the millions. And the fact that Germany’s currency was cigarettes, allowing American GIs to profit from arbitrage. Of course, it was also American money that helped Europe come back from complete collapse.

The broad structure of ‘Postwar’ is intriguing in itself. The four parts cover 1945-1953, 1953-1971, 1971-1989, and 1989-2005. I was surprised to find Judt much more interested in the 1970s than the 1960s. In general, he treats the 60s as a time of comfortable prosperity and cultural change in Europe, while not considering the 1968 upheavals as particularly transformative. He does not dispute that they had impacts, but devotes much more attention to the growing political and social cynicism of the 70s. I got the impression of Europe being complacent in the 60s, then losing its confidence in the 70s, both in the East and West. The subsequent account of how the USSR collapsed from within in 1989 is really moving. As in the rest of the book, Judt’s writing is clear, specific, and humane.

Two areas of history that I was particularly glad to learn more about were the Irish Troubles (which I shamefully have never read a whole book about) and the wars in Yugoslavia. Both had a vague and distant familiarity from the TV news during my childhood, yet I was too young and unaffected by them to understand what was actually happening. Judt provides elegant and thorough summaries, a reminder that postwar Europe has not been entirely peaceful. He also compares the sectarian violence in Ireland with that of ETA and German paramilitary organisations during the same period, something I hadn’t come across before. The complexity of Yugoslavia’s descent into multiple wars is difficult to explain given the web of historical, linguistic, and religious dynamics involved. I feel better informed, albeit probably not able to describe the conflicts to someone else.

While reading ‘Postwar’, my mind often strayed to the issue currently consuming UK politics in a collective nervous breakdown: Brexit. The genesis and somewhat erratic evolution of the EU is woven throughout the book, with the relationship between France and Germany presented as the greatest influence. It’s very ironic to read that Britain’s original interest in joining the European Community was purely economic, as it began as a customs union. Now the UK has a hopelessly fanatical government that refuses to contemplate Northern Ireland remaining in the European customs union, let alone Great Britain. Indeed, the government has just spent millions on an advertising campaign stating authoritatively that the UK will leave the EU in just over two weeks. On what terms? Who the fuck knows!

As ‘Postwar’ ends in 2005, it does not cover the financial crisis or its legacy of austerity across Europe. Searching for evidence of how it all came to this, however, still turned up highly relevant insights. On the EU as an institution:

The levers of the Union’s economic machinery depend for their efficiency upon the consent of all constituent parts. Where everyone more or less concurs on the principle and benefits of a given policy - on open internal borders, or unrestricted markets for goods and services - the EU has made remarkable progress. Where there is real dissent from a handful of members (or even just one, particularly if it is a major contributor), policy stalls: tax harmonisation, like the reduction in agricultural supports, has been on the agenda for decades.

This is striking to read in 2019. During the aftermath of the financial crisis, the European Central Bank definitely no longer relied entirely upon consent when it came to heavily indebted member states. I recall both Greece and Italy having their governments essentially replaced at the ECB’s behest. Both countries are more closely linked to the EU, and thus limited in their economic policy options, by the euro. Still, the UK is the only country to apparently think that leaving the EU would solve more problems than the myriad it would cause. I find it notable how rarely the idea is raised in British politics that we need to be in the EU whether we like it or not. On the continent, as Judt writes, this is taken for granted. Flawed as it is, the EU cannot be ignored and interacting with it somehow forms the only viable economic option on offer in the vicinity.

This passage also reads very differently now than it would have in 2005. It's rather bittersweet:

If a clearly articulated ‘European project’, describing the goals and institutions of the Union as they later evolved, had ever been put to the separate voters of the states of Western Europe it would surely have been rejected.

The advantage of the European project in the decades following World War Two had thus lain precisely in its imprecision. Like ‘growth’ or ‘peace’ - with both of which it was closely associated in the minds of its proponents - ‘Europe’ was too benign to attract effective opposition. [...]

For all its faults as a system of indirect government, the Union has certain interesting and original attributes. Decisions and laws may be passed at a transgovernmental level, but they are implemented by and through national authorities. Everything has to be undertaken by agreement, since there are no instruments of coercion: no EU tax collectors, no EU policemen. The European Union thus represents an unusual compromise: international governance undertaken by national governments.

When the ECB subsequently wielded debt relief as an instrument of coercion, I think it demonstrated the continuing strength of Germany as the heart of the EU. National government remained instrumental, albeit in penalising other such governments.

By the time ‘Postwar’ was published, nationalist and neo-fascist parties with no policies beyond hysterical opposition were already rising in Western Europe, among them UKIP and the National Front in France. Judt presents these as in part the political heirs of communist parties before the fall of the USSR, while also linking them with growing wealth inequality and anti-immigrant and islamophobic racism. He points out that far-right parties have been able to wield influence disproportionate to their electoral support, which is how the UK ended up with the bloody referendum on EU membership in the first place. On Blair’s restriction of access to social security for immigrants:

It says something about the mood of the time that a New Labour government with an overwhelming parliamentary majority and nearly 11 million voters in the 2001 election should nonetheless have been moved to respond in this was to the propaganda of a neo-Fascist clique [the BNP] which attracted the support of just 48,000 electors in the country at large.

Although this was not dissimilar to events across Western Europe, I think in the UK case at least part of the blame should be placed on the Murdoch-owned tabloid newspapers. Judt also comments on the EU’s encouragement of regionalism, which he explicitly links to the rise of Welsh and Scottish nationalist identification.

Perhaps the most immediately relevant part, though, reflects upon Britain’s toxic nostalgia, which I consider a major influence on Brexit:

In its place there emerged a country incapable of relating to its immediate past except through the unintentional irony of denial, or else as a sort of disinfected, disembodied ‘heritage’. [...] Thus the real, existing British railways were an acknowledged national scandal; but by the year 2000 Great Britain had more steam railways and steam-railway museums than all the rest of Europe combined: one hundred and twenty of them, ninety-one in England alone. Most of the trains don’t go anywhere, and even those that do manage to interweave reality and fantasy with a certain marvellous insouciance [...]

In contemporary England, then, history and fiction blend seamlessly. Industry, poverty, and class conflict have been officially forgotten and paved over. Deep social contrasts are denied or homogenised. And even the most recent and contested past is available only in nostalgic plastic reproduction. [...] The English capacity to plant and tend a Garden of Forgetting, fondly invoking the past while strenuously denying it, is unique.

While these quotations are all to be found in the last hundred pages of the book, the continuity with previous decades is shown beautifully. The final chapter is a stand alone essay on the centrality to European identity of remembering and memorialising the Holocaust. This implies that the English tendency to nostalgic forgetting represents a philosophical schism with the rest of Europe. When observing British politics in Autumn 2019, what’s in evidence from the government is this tendency at its most extreme, manifesting as Boris Johnson’s constant lies and contradictions or denials of previous statements. I found reading ‘Postwar’ much more enlightening as to what’s happening than following the livetweeted mayhem in real time. Judt recounts not just the legacy of the Second World War but how it has been remembered very differently across Europe, sometimes with destructive consequences.
Profile Image for Tudor Cretu.
317 reviews59 followers
March 2, 2022
Nu am crezut că mai termin cartea asta, tot o citesc de vreun an și ceva încoace. De la jumătatea ei a început partea cea mai frumoasă și atrăgătoare pentru mine. Las mai jos mai multe idei extrase, fără o ordine anume, într-o editare sumară:

Am fost rasiști și înainte și după cel de-al doilea război mondial. Mai suntem și acum.

Comunismul și nazismul au fost niște dictaturi de neimaginat înainte de a se întâmpla, dar au relevat și faptul ca dacă sunt puși in niște poziții anumiți oameni, aceștia pot deveni chiar mai rai decât li se cere - feroce și sadici. Vezi Franța, cu predarea a 13000 de evrei parizieni in 1942 fără sa li se ceara asta de către naziști - și care abia in anii ‘90 au recunoscut prin Chirac participarea țării sale la Solutia finala, vezi România (cu experimentul Pitești) și exista sau cazuri ca “Germanii n-ar fi putut face ce au făcut în Norvegia, Belgia sau Olanda ocupată fără cooperarea localnicilor”. Chiar și mai târziu, masacrul de la Srebrenica - Iugoslavia.

“În socialism, poluatorul era statul. Însă cea care suferea era societatea, astfel încât poluarea era un subiect ce interesa pe toată lumea”, am poluat mai mult ca niciodată fără a ne pasa vreodată de consecințe: Celiabinsk-40 - 1957, poluarea lacului Baikal, distrugerea Marii Aral, scufundarea in Marea Barents și Oceanul Arctic a navelor cu propulsie atomică, Norilsk - poluare cu dioxid de sulf, Cernobîl - 1986 și altele.

Pentru Ceaușescu, in 1983, etnicii germani aveau doar valoare tranzacționala - solicitau 8000 mărci/persoana.

Dacă eram puțin mai la vest sau la sud, am fi avut un pic mai mult de noroc - cum ar fi Grecia sau Austria.

A fost secolul pierderii coloniilor - prea mult timp, țări ca Spania, Portugalia, Anglia sau Olanda au ținut cu dinții de niște colonii pe care mai mult le-au exploatat decât ajutat.

Bisericile Catolică și Ortodoxă și practicanții lor au avut de cele mai multe ori implicații negative asupra vie��ii civile - poate cu o singura excepție - vizita papei Ioan Paul al doilea in Polonia in iunie 1983, care a fost încă o scânteie la prăbușirea URSS-ului.

Spațiul Schengen rămâne încă un vis pentru România și Bulgaria, iar eu mi-aș dori însă să devină realitate, să nu ne mai simțim oameni de mâna a doua in vămi. “A fi “în” Europa echivalează cu un grad de siguranță: este granița - sau, cel puțin, promisiunea - refugiului și a includerii. De-a lungul secolelor, aceasta a devenit treptat o sursă a identității colective.”

Ne uitam cu multă admiratie la Uniunea Europeană, dar a avut și ea corupții săi, la fel ca și statele componente. In același timp, deschiderea granițelor a însemnat și înrobirea multor oameni “ un număr alarmant de moldoveni, ucrainieni sau ruși mai ales tinere femei, au încăput pe mâinile rețelelor mafiote, fiind expediați spre UE prin România și Balcani. În cel mai bun caz ei sfârșeau ca slugi cu contract în ateliere și restaurante. În cel mai rău (și cel mai frecvent) caz femeile ajungeau prostituate în Germania, Italia sau chiar Bosnia, servind o clientelă formată din soldați, administratori și “asistenți social” occidentali”.

Am găsit o mulțime de referințe faine, filme, cărți. Bibliografia de la final este superba.

România a avut cea mai violenta opresiune fata de oamenii ei din URSS. Celelalte regimuri comuniste adoptaseră modelul Ungariei - “Nici măcar nu se mai prefăceau ca încearcă să obțină loialitatea autentica a supusilor lor; cereau numai ca oamenii să adopte simbolurile exterioare ale obedienței publice”. Pare ca am vrut noi să fim mai zeloși decât ne-a cerut oricine altcineva și ne-a și reușit.

Șpaga pe care încă o mai dam azi este înrădăcinată in comunism - “Pentru a-și atinge chiar și obiectivele cele mai modeste și legitime - tratamente medicale, nevoi materiale, oportunități educationale -, oamenii sunt nevoiți să încalce legea intr-o varietate de feluri minore, dar corupte.”

Băutura pare a fi un alt efect al socialismului “Adulții aveau din ce in ce mai puțini copii, beau mai mult (in acești ani 1980, consumul anual pe cap de locuitor a crescut de patru ori) și mureau tineri.”. Gorbaciov a încercat să o dreagă printr-o lege de prohibiție, dar asta n-a făcut decât și mai mult rău.

Ne lăudam cu planuri mărețe, dar Judt zice așa “in agricultura, URSS, Ungaria și România semănau cu niște imense moșii de secolul al XIX-lea: țărani prost plătiți, fără echipament și tragere de inima făceau minimul posibil pentru stăpânii lor absenți, economisindu-și puterile pentru a munci zdravăn peticul de pământ al familiei”. Țin minte că eu credeam ca in sat la mine mai aveam cai pentru ca încă mai eram tradiționali, dar pare că s-a întâmplat asta din cauza crizei petrolului, dar și a reliefului ce nu da randament pentru tractoare și unelte agricole imense. “Consumul de benzina a fost redus la minimum: în 1986 a fost lansat un program de creștere a cailor, ca substitut pentru transportul motorizat. Căruțele au devenit principalul mijloc de transport la țară, iar recolta era strânsă cu coasa și seceta”.

Comunismul e doomed imploziei - nu știu ce tot vrea Putin să faca zilele astea - fie te împrumuți in nestire ca Polonia și Ungaria, fie te străduiești și o plătești integral, dar suferă toată populația, ca in cazul României la sfârșitul anilor ‘80. Pare ca după 30 de ani, am fi ajuns tot acolo și cu datorii și fără, așa ca Ceaușescu și-a meritat-o.

Toate statele din URSS au fost conduse de niște moșnegi bășiți, care atunci când au acaparat puterea, majoritatea au murit cu ea de gât. Pare ca un lider nu poate să fie la fel de relevant și după mai mulți ani, de aia e bine să fie și limitați la câteva mandate, cum se întâmpla într-o democrație.

Și Rusia și SUA au încercat fără prea mare succes să vâneze fantoma afganilor. Pare că acolo unde nu te pricepi, mai bine nu-ți mai bagi nasul, cu toate că a existat terifiantul eveniment din 11 septembrie.

Ce și-au dorit est-europenii in tot timpul cât au fost in socialism - stat de drept, alegeri libere, dreptate socială, un mediu înconjurator curat, un popor educat, prosperitate și întoarcerea in Europa.

Chiar dacă România a ieșit in 1989 din comunism, ea tot acolo a rămas o bună bucata de timp “cum aveau să demonstreze evenimentele ulterioare, aparatul care condusese țara sub Ceaușescu a rămas absolut intact, debarasându-se numai de familia Ceaușescu și de asociații lor cei mai vizibili.”. Judt mai punctează și următoarele “in societățile postsovietice singurii oameni care știau cum să conducă un laborator, o fermă sau o fabrică, care aveau experiență în comerțul exterior sau în conducerea unei instituții de mari dimensiuni și care știau ce au de făcut erau tot cadrele Partidului: intelighenția aparatul birocratic și nomenclatura. În mâinile acestor oameni, stăteau, după 1989 ca și înainte, destinele țărilor este europene.”

Mitterand și Franța au fost mai muiști decât am vrut vreodată să cred de-a lungul istoriei, au băgat mai mult strâmbe tuturor decât să-și vadă de treaba in continuare. Pare că și in prezent, președintele Franței a încercat să dreagă câte ceva cu Putin, dar fără niciun fel de succes. Nici cu Marea Britanie nu mi-e rușine, și în trecut și în prezent pun foarte mult accentul pe stoparea imigrației. La ei, dacă s-ar putea, să nu te duci deloc, asta pare ca își doresc.

Oricât se scrie ca Basarabia e România, sau ah, Bucovina și Cadrilaterul nostru, acele regiuni nu mai pot fi ale noastre. Am avea totuși o șansa dacă Ucraina și Moldova s-ar alătura și ele UE și Schenghen, caz in care nu cred ca ar trebui să mai sufere nimeni pentru nimeni.

Ucraina nu e Rusia - au spus-o in data de 34 august 1991, 346 de parlamentari din 347 au votat desprinderea de Rusia, iar la 1 decembrie 1991 dintre cei 84% prezenți, 90,3% au votat și ei același lucru.

Pare ca iugoslavilor nu le-a ajuns al doilea război mondial și au mai avut nevoie de câțiva ani de răfuieli. Mai degrabă criminali, bătăuși și violatori și din nou, tot din motive etnice. De asta nici nu au intrat până acum in UE și nici nu pare ca își doresc.

Pâra și datul în gât au fost prezente in multe locuri din est. Ai spune că s-a terminat in ‘90, dar in Iugoslavia a mai durat câțiva ani până la terminarea războiului civil. Sancțiunile impuse lor atunci nu au avut vreun efect palpabil, dar să speram totuși că vor avea acum.

Când ești nepregătit și nu înțelegi cum funcționează lumea exterioară, ți-o iei după revoluția din ‘89: “Români și albanezi în căutare de profit instantaneu au fost atrași de scheme piramidale care promiteau câștiguri uriașe pe termen scurt și fără niciun risc. La apogeul său, una dintre ele (excrocheria Caritas, care a funcționat din aprilie 1992 până în august 1994 a atras circa patru milioane de participanți - aproximativ o cincime din populația României”. Ai mei n-au pierdut niciun ban cu Caritas pentru că n-au aveau bani pentru așa ceva, când tocmai se nastea soră-mea, iar eu aveam doi ani.

Cand am citit fraza următoare a fost ca și cum mi-ar fi spus - saracule, vrei să știi cât de sărac ai fost? “Spre sfârșitul anilor 1990, venitul mediu lunar în Polonia și Republica Ceha se apropiau deja de 400 $, dar în Belarus, Ucraina și România stagna în jur de 80 $, în Bulgaria era de sub 70 $ și în Moldova de 30 $ (medie înșelătoare, de vreme ce în afara capitalei Chișinău câștigurile erau și mai mici).”

Pe lângă ips Daniel care și-a încercat norocul cu adăugarea in Constituție a familiei compusă dintr-o femeie și un bărbat, la fel a încercat și în 2004 “Papa Ioan Paul al doilea să propună (fără succes) ca preambulul noului text constituțional să menționeze că Europa a fost cândva Europa creștină.”. Mai bine.

O concluzie a autorului este ca secolul XXI ar putea fi secolul Europei. Pentru intrarea in UE a fost nevoie de recunoașterea Holocaustului și a altor evenimente asemănătoare - de asta nu vor intra prea curând Serbia (razboaiele iugoslave din anii ‘90) sau Turcia (genocidul armean din 1915). Rămâne de văzut cum vor evolua lucrurile.
Profile Image for Max.
343 reviews309 followers
February 28, 2015
Postwar is a masterful presentation; comprehensive and detailed without losing focus. Judt fits together the pieces of European history from the fall of Nazi Germany to the fall of the Soviet Union. He goes on to describe the new Europe that ensued and its challenges. He creates the sense of flow of history usually found in the more distant past. For those focused on topical interests such as WWII, the cold war, economic or social history, this book can provide context. To cover so much in one volume in such an engaging style is an outstanding accomplishment. I don’t know how to summarize it succinctly. For anyone interested, my notes follow, but I recommend going straight to the book.

Judt views WWII as an extension of an unresolved WWI. The German people felt betrayed more than defeated. In WWII civilians were impacted as much as soldiers. Tens of millions were killed or injured. Survivors had been subjected to occupation, deprivation, and exploitation. WWI ended with borders being shifted, WWII ended with people being shifted. Millions were starving, homeless or displaced. At war’s end ethnic groups were evicted in mass, old scores settled, and many killed in retribution. Europe was turned into a collection of homogenous nations with the notable exception of the Balkans. Germany and Europe were profoundly changed.

Existing governments were swept aside by occupational governments followed often by partisan groups seeking revenge on collaborators. Ill equipped to govern resistance groups were soon replaced by pre-war left wing parties, the only ones with remaining credibility. The professional classes had been decimated. Many doctors, bankers, lawyers had been Jews. The Jews were exterminated for “racial purity” and other professionals eliminated to turn conquered ethnic groups into laborers for Germans. With governments gone twice or thrice over and community leaders killed off an entirely new order would have to take hold. Continuity with the past was broken.

Left leaning parties from Communist to Christian Democratic vied for power. All turned to planned economies and welfare state programs as a way out of their dire circumstances. European agriculture was unable to meet the most basic needs. Transportation networks had been destroyed. Food could not get to those who needed it. Housing likewise had suffered wholesale destruction. By 1947 most Europeans still lacked decent housing and sufficient food. At this time of dour moods and prospects, the Marshall plan was announced. The US realized the importance of getting Europe back on its feet. In part the fear of communism was behind the US plan. Stalin looked at the plan as a threat to his control and got Eastern Europe to opt out setting up a great divide. Stalin erred in this as the less confrontational approach of accepting the Marshall plan might have bolstered his case with the West to establish a weak neutral unified Germany which he might have eventually controlled entirely.

Just as WWII was a continuation of WWI so the Cold War was a continuation of Western and Soviet animosity since WWI, the common enemy, Germany, bringing a brief interlude during the war. The division of Europe between Soviet and Western control was based primarily on military reality. The much maligned Yalta agreement and the holding back of American advances near the war’s end made little difference to the eventual outcome.

Realizing the depression, caused by an inefficient mercantile system, the gold standard, and deflation, had led to fascism and war, Keynes championed and the US backed new economic initiatives. The Bretton Woods agreements established the International Monetary Fund based on US cash and the World Bank. The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs promoted free trade and convertibility of currencies and was followed by the World Trade Organization.

Along with fear of a return to depression, America feared Germany might again rebuild and start a third war. Americans were concerned with domestic issues and wanted out of Europe. These reasons led to the initial American reaction to placate the Soviet Union and its reluctance to realize Soviet intransigence. It was the foreign ministers meeting in 1947 that marked the recognition by France and the US that we were locked in a cold war. Britain had already figured it out. Unable to agree with Russia on the future of Germany, the West began rebuilding their zones in Germany as a bulwark against communism, while the Soviets kept exploiting East Germany. The Russians now also tightened control throughout Eastern Europe, conducting a successful communist coup in Czechoslovakia, and instructing Western communist parties to become more active.

The West established the Federal Republic of Germany with a new currency, the Deutsche Mark, which brought in goods and fostered economic recovery. Stalin responded with the Berlin blockade which he hoped to use as a bargaining chip to set up a weak neutral Germany he could subvert. But the US responded with the airlift and founded NATO. Stalin’s hopes were now dashed. Concurrently Stalin’s problem child, Tito, trying to establish his own communist federation in the Balkans, split with Stalin defying Moscow’s attempts to control him. Stalin considered attacking Yugoslavia. The West misinterpreted his military buildup. With Stalin’s support for the invasion of South Korea, the West believed Germany would be next. Dramatic increases in defense spending quickly ensued in America to give NATO some military capability.

With the death of Stalin and the end of the Korean War in 1953, Europe began to stabilize. Fears of German revanchism subsided and communist party memberships declined. West Germany was admitted to NATO and in response the Warsaw pact was formed. It was agreed that Austria would be neutral and foreign troops were withdrawn. The city of Trieste was returned to Italy, its hinterlands went to Yugoslavia. Europeans started looking forward rather than back to the war. With the growth of nuclear stockpiles and the missile race, European nations were bystanders. All power was in Washington and Moscow. The harsh Soviet putdown of the 1956 Hungarian revolt forever changed perceptions of Soviet communism further alienating the general population in East Europe and bringing a final precipitous decline in party memberships in the West. Berlin remained a touch point, ultimately settled by the wall in 1961. By 1963 a Washington Moscow hotline was in place. Both sides accepted the status quo in Europe.

Colonial empires were abandoned. Impoverished by the war and facing increasing local opposition, the economic drain of administering these dependencies outweighed the benefits. The Dutch left Indonesia, the Belgians left the Congo, the Portuguese left Angola and Mozambique. France carried on its heritage of humiliation with the debacle at Dien Bien Phu in Viet Nam. After losing Indo China, its other possessions followed, most notably Algeria after another long and costly war. Britain had acquiesced quickly in India in 1947, but it would take another dozen years for it to unwind its extensive colonial positions. Sealing the fate of France and Britain was the 1956 attack on the Suez Canal. The plans were kept secret from Washington angering the US which brought financial pressure on Britain to stop, showing who held all the cards. After which Britain fell in line with Washington. This and the mess in Algeria brought down the Fourth Republic in 1958 and France went its independent way with De Gaulle leading the new Fifth Republic with a stronger directly elected executive.

The 1950’s and 1960’s saw dramatic increases in production and employment. For the first time many people including the young had disposable income. Consumerism American style ensued with the emergent teenage category spending heavily on music and clothes. Social Democratic parties prevailed throughout Europe providing many public services with budgets representing large portions of GDP. However effective application varied. The UK engaged in endless labor disputes that restricted progress whereas the German government was able to promote cooperation. Education levels increased dramatically. For example in 1946 in Italy 5% graduated from secondary school, by the end of the sixties 1 in 7 attended university. The so called sexual revolution actually paled in comparison to the 1920’s, the fin de siècle or demi monde Paris 100 years earlier.

Student protest and radicalism took off. Largely peaceful in France led by middleclass youth who stood for little but did inspire disgruntled workers to strike. In Italy where universities were awash with students they didn’t know what to do with, some groups turned violent engaging in bombings. Italian workers who like their French counterparts had no say in their working conditions also began a series of strikes. In Germany students who had been taught nothing about their Nazi past in school or by their parents turned against their government and America many adopting heroes like Mao or Che Guevara. However, the sixties were the swansong of student dissidence both in the East and in the West. In the East the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 permanently ended any hope that they could morph their communist system into one that allowed freedom. In the West protesters were faced with more mundane concerns, jobs and economic security.

In the seventies, the US announced floating rates for the dollar to compensate for debts incurred financing the Viet Nam War. This caused all major currencies to abandon fixed exchange rates. Growth rates slowed and inflation ensued worldwide. Amidst economic challenges, violent terrorist groups sprouted up across the continent: the IRA in Northern Ireland, the ETA in Basque Spain, the RAF starting as the Baader-Meinhof group in West Germany and the BR (Red Brigade) in Italy.

New political constituencies developed particularly that of women. As increasing members of the workforce they fought for abortion and contraception rights, equal pay, child care, and against domestic violence and pornography. The environmentalist movement became prominent resulting in the formation of Green parties.

Two things in the seventies changed East-West relations. First was Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik which called for recognition of East Germany and increased exchanges between the two countries. Second was the Helsinki accord which legitimized Soviet influence over its neighbors but carried the responsibility of equal rights, an unanticipated thorn in Russia’s side. The 1970’s also saw three of the poorest countries in Western Europe move from autocratic rule to democracy: Spain, Portugal and Greece.

The 1980’s saw the privatization of most government owned industries in Britain under the strong willed conservative Margaret Thatcher. This led to economic efficiency; however, it also brought high unemployment, poverty and income inequality. Britain was the only European country to aggressively pursue this American model. France under Mitterrand started in the opposite direction, nationalizing industries until the dire economic consequences forced an about face. Mitterrand then began selling off government properties but typically maintained some government interest in a more balanced approach. Other European states also privatized industries. The communist countries continued to stagnate.

The 1980’s brought increased pressure on the Soviet Union’s moribund economy. Reagan’s aggressive defense buildup strained the Soviets to keep pace. More importantly the Soviet Afghanistan war led to economic drain and increased Muslim dissidence. Returning soldiers succumbed to alcoholism and psychological problems the same as America’s Viet Nam and Iraq/Afghanistan vets. Most important was the dying off of the old guard: Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko in quick succession. Gorbachev, who took over, was born well after WWI and the revolution. He was a reformer and as the author quotes de Tocqueville, “The most dangerous time for bad government is when it starts to reform itself.” The loosening of control through Glasnost and Perestroika ended in the unraveling of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev through a Leninist lens tried modifying the Soviet System one piece at a time but this was not possible in such a tightly controlled system.

Soviet European satellites were reeling under massive debt that had propped up their inefficient economies; limited reforms only emboldened the growing opposition. Poland for example could keep implementing martial law or finally deal with the illegal trade union Solidarity. With no support from Gorbachev Poland chose the latter and communist rule ended quickly. Hungary soon followed suit and paved the way for the especially repressive East Germany to crack despite its acceptance and support by the West German government. Once Hungary opened its border East Germans flooded in, many crossing into Austria then West Germany. Tens of thousands East German’s stayed in Czechoslovakia and Hungary embarrassing the East German communist party and its West German accommodators. This inability to control its borders made the Berlin Wall superfluous and it was opened.

One after another, the USSR’s Eastern European satellites declared independence then the USSR itself fell apart. First the Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were able to separate then as 1991 came to a close, the Central Asian Republics, the Caucuses Republics and finally long time significant pieces of the USSR, Belarus and Ukraine. Gorbachev was clueless and in the end outmaneuvered by Yeltsin who became President of Russia which left the Soviet Union with nothing for Gorbachev to rule. The fall of the Soviet Union was the final phase of the aftermath of events beginning with WWI.

Only in the Balkans had ethnic populations not been separated out into homogeneous regions after WWII. Thus Croats, Slovenes, Serbians, Albanians all found themselves intermixed throughout Yugoslavia. Bosnia was the most heterogeneous with Croat, Serb and Muslim populations. Milosevic and Belgrade politicians following Tito’s death played on ethnic divisions to secure power leading to the destabilization of Yugoslavia and the wars that followed. Slovenia and Croatia were much more prosperous than the rest of Yugoslavia and as things deteriorated they quickly seceded leaving Milosevic to exploit Kosovo and Bosnia. Europe did nothing as ethnic cleansing took thousands of lives. Finally the US through NATO took action.

The European Union breaking down trade and travel barriers promoted a new European identity. Mobile educated prosperous classes in different countries had more in common with each other than with their countrymen. The euro provided a common currency and English became the common language for the mobile elite. Similarly, immigrant communities had identities that crossed traditional boundaries. As welfare state programs declined, income disparity and poverty increased particularly among the many Turks, Africans and other non-Europeans who had migrated to Europe for work. Globalization exacerbated the problem as European businesses moved investment outside of Europe. The growing Muslim community became restless and drew heated right wing reaction

Fast-forwarding to the present one can only hope that Europe can deal with the new ethnic diversity better than it has in the past. Ethnic tensions are exacerbated by the threat of radical Islam. Another challenge is the backlash in richer states particularly Germany that support poorer ones such as Greece. And last but not least is the reemergence of Russian nationalism as Putin carries on where the Tsar’s left off. Only time will tell whether the new Europe can fulfill its promise or is doomed to repeat its history.
Profile Image for Anthony.
63 reviews12 followers
October 10, 2012
I managed to get through my entire undergraduate and graduate studies in history without having ever read a single book by Tony Judt. I have read some of his essays over the years, however, and they always struck me as pragmatic and apolitical. Other than his controversial positions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Judt, an ex-Marxist and fervent Social Democrat, is a believer in being "objective" (a term he is surprisingly critical of in the introduction to Postwar). While he admires past giants like Hosbawm and Toynbee, Postwar is clearly his attempt at challenging Marxist and Whigish historical accounts of European history.

Although Judt chooses to "let the facts speak for themselves" he certainly is far from apolitical. On the contrary, I found him to be especially harder on the Left rather than the Right. I suspect this had to do more with his personal animosity towards his Marxist past. Judt's optimism with regard to Europe's future is admittingly refreshing in that he entirely dismisses the "Europe in decline" trope that American historians love to assign to the continent.

On the whole he succeeds. The book is beautifully written and his thoughful analysis of both the "bigger" countries (Britain, France, USSR etc) alongside the "smaller" and lesser known countries(ex-Soviet satellities, Romania, Albania etc) ranks him right up there with Hobsbawm and Toynbee. In that sense, this book is very old fashioned which is why it serves as a great, general introduction to post-war European history. Highly recommended.

Profile Image for Ihor Kolesnyk.
400 reviews
October 20, 2022
Це книга, якої мені бракувало після шкільної освіти. Завжди було відчуття, що на місці історії Заходу після війни просто прогалина, заповнена пострадянським коктейлем фактів та ідеологічних вставок.
Якщо комусь цікаво, чому міжнародні організації не дуже мають вплив на локальні процеси і війни - це книга для вас.
Якщо цікаво, чому Європа не готовий продукт, а процес, який досі триває - це книга для вас.
Якщо цікаво побачити, чому до росії є стільки пієтету, а радикальні політичні групи продовжують тяжіти на Схід - це книга для вас.
Якщо хочете розширити власну ерудицію щодо історії вже нашого найближчого минулого, то тут якраз текст для читання.
Багато тексту, багато фактів, багато цікавого і бувало дещо нуднувато, але це книга, яку варто прочитати і згодом подарувати комусь, хто вважає себе офігінно крутим диванним експертом.
Profile Image for David.
1,630 reviews105 followers
September 30, 2021
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt paints a wide-ranging picture of what happened throughout Europe, both eastern and western, after the conclusion of World War II. Almost a decade in the making, the author meticulously covers one country after another through developments of the selected timeframe. The scope of the task of collecting and researching the historical data needed to write this book is an astounding feat by itself. The author ties all of these separate developments together and also shows how they affected each other as well. The result is an easy-to-follow and very understandable sequence of events that make sense of seemingly unrelated activities. Drawing on research in six languages to sweep readers through thirty-four nations and sixty years of political and cultural change-the author has produced this all in one integrated, enthralling historical narrative. Fascinating, well-researched and written, Postwar really held my interest despite its length.
Profile Image for Geoff.
444 reviews1,190 followers
Want to read
June 24, 2016
Been meaning to read this for years. Now seems a more auspicious time than ever.
Profile Image for Boris.
419 reviews156 followers
May 29, 2022
Фундаментална книга за европейското самосъзнание, ценности и модел на живот. Ако всеки млад настоящ и бъдещ европеец я прочете и разбере, Европа ще има светло бъдещ�� в мир и просперитет.
Profile Image for Maria.
233 reviews42 followers
December 10, 2018
Цял месец, че и отгоре се „мъча“ с историята на Европа между края на Втората световна и края комунизма. И трябва да отбележа, че не съм чела нищо друго по това време. Ако беше различна книга, до сега да съм изгубила интерес и да съм я оставила. Но „Историята...“ не е от типа литература, които мога да захвърля с лека ръка. Не се чете лесно, но въпреки това исках да разбера „какво ще стане накрая“. Или по-скоро да разбера защо е станало точно така, къде и кога е могло нещата да тръгнат в друга посока. За съжаление останах с впечатлението, че на повечето кръстопъти друг път не е бил възможен, особено за нас, за които Желязната завеса е паднала като че ли завинаги. След Втората световна малките народи не сме имали никакъв шанс за друга съдба, освен за тази, която са ни разпределили т. нар. Велики сили. Но каквото – такова, справили сме се с раздадените ни карти.
Книгата е огромен труд със събрани факти, статистики, съпоставки и изводи за процесите след 1945-та до около 2000-та година. На места статистиката натежава, но по-добре така, отколкото наготово да се сервират изводи. Тони Джуд минава подробно през историята на Европа за тези години. Структурира книгата на десетилетия, разглежда всички аспекти на живота през отделните отрязъци – на първо място винаги политиката, следвана от икономиката, философията и културата (музика, литература, кино), както и логическите връзки между тях. И всичко това по държави, като (естествено) обръща внимание само на големите – Франция, Германия, Великобритания, Италия, СССР, Чехословакия, Унгария, Полша (последните три във връзка със знаковите опити за революция и отхвърляне на съветската опека), а другите са споменати само мимоходом. Признавам си, че изброяването на политическите ходове, стратегии и игри са ми почти напълно непонятни, но не се изкуших да прескачам пасажи. Доста време е отделено на сталинисткия режим с неговото проявление в държавите в съветската сфера на влияние, а подробностите са стряскащи и депресиращи. Подробно е разгледан краят на комунистическите режими в СССР (годините на Горбачов), в Чехия, Полша и Унгария, накратко в Румъния и още по-кратко в България (с няколко абзаца). На войната в Югославия е посветено доста място и като че ли само там Тони Джуд показва лично отношение и емоция, пишейки за персоналната вина на Милошевич, за вината на сърбите и за отговорността на останалите европейски държави за кланетата.
Имам няколко постоянни въпроса, които се опитвам да разбера през годините и заради които чета подобни книги. Радвам се, че тук намерих някои отговори. Например каква е причината за икономическия успех на скандинавските държави, които в края на Втората световна не са били кой знае колко по-напреднали от България, а и са бедни откъм всякакви ресурси. Преди 1940-та са били доста по-изостанали от Германия и Франция (има най-разнообразни статистики по въпроса), но за няколко години са успели да изградят стабилно и проспериращо общество. Очевидният отговор е социалдемокрацията, която там е по-скоро начин на живот, отколкото политическа система. Социалдемократите изоставят идеята за революционно реформиране на политическата капиталистическа система и наблягат на усърдната работа, консенсусното решаване на трудовите спорове, загърбване на противопоставянето между града и селото (така характерно за останалата европейска левица).
Друго интересно за мен беше как Германия за няколко години се е въздигнала от руините на войната. Тук обясненията също са няколко – включването й в плана „Маршъл”, решението на съюзниците да не я изключват от живота на Европа и да не я наказват, сериозната материално-техническа и иновационна база на предприятията, наследена от нацистите, която не е била унищожена и може би най-вече това, че немците са се хванали на работа и са загърбили политиката. Умишлено игнорирали нацисткото минало, нарочно забравили последните 10 -15 години от историята си, за да се справят с настоящето и да си осигурят бъдеще. Но това имало последици и се отразило на следващото поколение, на бейби бумърите, които израстнали нахранени, добре облечени и в сигурна среда, но без корени и без връзка с миналото. Това явно им е причинило проблеми и в края на 60-те придизвикало студентски бунтове.
Интересно беше да се проследи промяната на философията през 60-те и 70-те години на Запад, което обаче довело до падането на комунизма на Изток. Дискредитирането на комунистическата идея чрез натрупване на все повече неопровержими факти за убийства и малтретиране на гражданите на комунистическите държави, заедно с някои знакови философски трудове, които преобръщат начина на мислене на цели общества (отбелязвам си да потърся и прочета „Да мислим Френската революция” на Франсоа Фюре). Възприемането на идеята, че всеки човешки живот е важен и не може да се рискува в името на постигане на някаква идея. Намирам и отговор на въпроса защо все пак комунизмът се е сринал след толкова години на терор, на безумна икономическа политика, на некадърност, корупция и цинизъм. Защо СССР е позволил падането на сателитните режими? В СССР Горбачов е разбил системата отвътре, в този смисъл разпадът на империята е негово дело. А каквото става в Москва, се пренася и в сателитите. Освен това Полша, Чехия и Унгария са имали огромни заеми от Световната банка, без които населението е било обречено на глад и мизерия. А когато зависиш икономически от някого, спазваш неговите правила.
Имам известен опит за периодите от книгата, започвайки с края на 70-те години. Като погледна назад към детството си виждам един спокоен и безметежен период, в който всичко е слънчево, равно, еднакво и безпроблемно. Естествено пренасям моите спомени върху живота на обществото през онези години. Но се оказва, че през цялото време от края на войната до сега Европа е вряла и кипяла от промени, нищо не е било застопорено и сигурно. Много от сегашните вълнения в България, а и по целия континент вече са виждани от по-старте поколения европейци – обезлюдяването на селата, урбаницазията, все по-забързаното темпо на живот, инфлацията, емиграцията, замърсяването, консумеризмът, възраждането на национализма, жалбите за изчезващите местни обичаи, култура и идентичност и т.н и т.н. Но предишните поколения са се справили, почти невероятно са избегнали нови военни конфликти (с печалното изключение на Югославия), което ми дава надежда, че европейците могат да се справят и в бъдеще. С такива книги хората трябва да си напомнят какво би могло да бъде и може би да се опитат да разберат как не трябва да става в бъдещето.
Profile Image for Matthew.
234 reviews64 followers
November 30, 2010
This book is filling a gap in my knowledge so large that I cannot believe I never realised it was there. It seems to touch on so many things; it delivers the events, yes, but more interestingly it jumps from political commentary to economics to aesthetic and social theory to intellectual history. It is my first book on general European history, so I can't really critique the content, except to say I feel like I've been brought a long way. Above all I think it is a political history, delving -- sometimes for long periods -- into other areas more as a function of the politics of time. I started on this book to answer for myself the question, raised from reading Wolfgang Munchau in the FT, of why the EU is more a political construct than a streamlined economic entity. Judt's book is framed like if you asked a wise person a question and they told you a really, really, really long story, and at the end of that story you 'feel' the answer rather than 'know' the answer, and along the way you learnt about a lot of related stuff besides.

His thesis is, I think, that the EU started as a French initiative to bind a Marshall-plan aided Germany to the rest of Europe in a way that would preclude another invasion of French soil. Along the way, though, the EU grew from out from being just a political institution and into an identity, a political and social philosophy, an aesthetic, a way of life. It is interesting to a non European reader like myself because I have always seen America as standing for a concrete set of ideals or an idea you could hold on to, Judt's narrative concludes that neither America nor China could ever end up universal ideas, but Europe -- with its social democracy, its mix of capitalism and welfare, ultimately founded on respect for human rights -- can. I wonder what he would think of the EU's budget and debt crisis going on now; he mentions early that the social democracy of Europe was fashioned in the boom of the post-war reconstruction 50s and 60s, and as early as the 70s and 80s ominous hints of budgetary constraint and shrinking demographic base had started to show -- but he doesn't take these economic considerations to their full political implication, choosing instead to end on an optimistic note in support of the European idea.

Separately it is interesting to read of the chaos in Eastern Europe post the official end of WWII as per the Allied narrative -- as an extension of the Nazi occupation under new Communist rulers. I really appreciate Judt's comprehensive knowledge here and how he pointedly covers virtually every country pushing up against Russia's borders. As someone who grew up in Singapore, it also contextualises for me the local politics -- Singapore's independence in 1965 -- and the emphasis (as written in our national pledge, at least) on a neutrality of race and religion.

Finally, he is just a great writer, never sententious, and perhaps more impressively given the topic, never tendentious, and his footnotes are on occasion very very funny.

Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,856 reviews1,371 followers
October 17, 2022
Writers, professors, artists, teachers and journalists frequently admired Stalin not in spite of his faults, but because of them. It was when he was murdering people on an industrial scale, when the show trials were displaying Soviet Communism at its most theatrically macabre, that men and women beyond Stalin’s grasp were most seduced by the man and his cult.

A sublime samizdat selection. This stretched across our collecitve interests and strove to shake us from lazy preconceptions. This was an amazing analysis. Each morning lately I shudder (October 2022) as I keep expecting to see headlines of a tactical nuclear strike in the Ukraine. I shared this fear with my friends from samizdat and I posed the question as to how much I am indebted to this book and Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts.
Profile Image for Lazarus P Badpenny Esq.
175 reviews142 followers
May 6, 2011
A veritable Mont Blanc of a book in both scale and scope that successfully synthesizes the political, economic, social, and cultural developments in Europe following the Second World War. No doubt I shall be returning to its component parts for some time to come. The Epilogue concerning evolving postwar attitudes to Holocaust culpability was equally illuminating.
Profile Image for Joseph Stieb.
Author 1 book132 followers
April 2, 2020
I think this is on just about everyone "to-read" list, but thanks to Coronavirus, I read it. Took about 2 weeks of pretty consistent reading because this book is mass-ive. Still, it is worth it as a way to excavate (I think that's a better word for this book than "survey") a huge amount of history from a first-class historian in a relatively efficient way. In place of an in-depth review (this book really has themes more than arguments), I'm just going to reflect on a few pieces.

This book's greatest strength is the sections on intellectual history. Judt's big points here are 1. The great intellectual struggle of the 20th century (capitalism v communism) basically faded away even before the end of the Cold War as the communist alternative became fully discredited. The catch is that Europe also distanced itself from the American free market model by developing the social-democratic state. Judt contends that since the end of hte Cold War the US and Europe have moved further away from each other culturally and politically. He holds out hope that just like America and the Soviet Union held out "models" for emulation in the 20th century that Europe can do the same in the 21st. 2. Judt is also highly critical of the European intellectual class for its persistent apologetics for communism and then its fanciful embrace of postcolonialism in the 60s and 70s. He excoriates 60s radicals for basically being spoiled brats who thought they were fighting on behalf of an oppressed working class that actually hated them. He shows that the public intellectual has faded in importance in European life, and honestly this doesn't seem like such a bad thing, given the ridiculous and obscurantist writings and political leanings of your Sartres, Derridas, and Foucaults. Judt doesn't quite come out and say all this, but the subtext is just barely submerged.

Judt's conclusion is the best part of the whole book, something I'll probably assign in classes on historiography in the future. In it, he shows how consciousness of and a sense of guilt for the Holocaust in most of Europe didn't really coalesce until the 60s and 70s, when public trials, televisions shows, and historical studies thrust it into prominence. From that period on, the Holocaust became a touchstone for an entire transnational culture, something to be honored and begged forgiveness for. Judt argues that this consciousness underlies the entire social democratic project; the hope of transcending nationalism and hatred. He sees this generally as a good thing, but he says that we must soon transition from memory to history, to an unflinching look at a horrific first half of the 20th century, to motivate future generations to share in this project. Memory, for Judt, is too self-justifying and partial; we need the unflinching rigor of history.

If this book has any weaknesses, I'd say there are 2: First, Judt emphasizes high culture stuff like "film" and plays a lot more than pop culture. That's not necessarily bad as a way to talk about national moods and artistic trends, but it isn't that fun to read numerous pages about French and Italian movies that are 60 years old that I will never ever see. Second, and this may be unfair, but I think this book might have been more effective if it was subdivided into 2 volumes. It would be a bit more...digestible. That's obviously a petty criticism of a great history, but it is hard to absorb the skillful way that Judt pieces together certain themes if you can't read this book relatively quickly (which is really hard to do barring a pandemic that shuts you inside).

So who is this book good for? I know that it will be a great reference point for me, and the survey of European intellectual history will save me a lot of primary readings in that area. Russian history is more or less left out (thank goodness or this book would have cracked 1k pages), FYI. I'd say anyone teaching modern world, intellectual or obviously European history should at least have access to this for reference, if not read it cover to cover. However, if you are looking for a survey that's shorter and less coverage-oriented, Mark Mazower's Dark Continent is also very good.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,105 reviews52 followers
August 9, 2020
This very lengthy Pulitzer winning book covers Europe from 1945 to 2005. First off it is well written. Naturally 900 pages is insufficient to cover sixty years of history of nearly thirty nations. It quite simply tried to cover so much ground that there is not so much depth on anyone topic. There were some insights that I found fascinating including:

1. Britain was one of the poorest countries in Western Europe well into the 1970’s.

2. France was the most reluctant of the European nations to give up its overseas Empire essentially southeast Asia and North Africa colonies.

3. Post War Berlin did not mean as much to Russia as either the Eisenhower or Kennedy administration thought. In fact many officials in America were relieved when the Berlin Wall was built because they thought an open Berlin might be the flash point for WWIII.

4. In the late 1960’s West Germany had serious riots as large and deadly as those occurring in the U.S. A new generation of youth were sympathetic to the Nazis and dismissive of the West German government.

5. The U.S. and Britain allowed Russia to occupy Eastern Europe without resistance, a fait accompli, in part because they were concerned that Russia might co-opt a down and out but not quite dead German Army and meddle militarily in Western and Southern Europe.

6. Consumerism in tandem with the U.S., an emphasis on education, less emphasis on farming were three major focal points of modernization that led to Western Europe’s surprising economic success post WWII. West Germany led the way, perhaps surprisingly the ‘high tech’ infrastructure (roads, manufacturing capability, telecommunication networks) built during the Nazi era was largely intact. By the 1950’s West Germany had a larger GDP than Britain.

One additional area that was insightful was the excellent epilogue which discusses Europe’s much delayed reckoning with the Holocaust. It was not until the 1990’s and 2000’s, after Germany had made genuine efforts and progress toward taking responsibility, that many European countries including France and Holland more fully dealt with their complicity during the Holocaust.

4 stars.
Profile Image for Elena.
90 reviews39 followers
June 14, 2014
Despite the title "A History of Europe since 1945," the late Tony Judt's 2005 book covers more than Europe and more than post 1945. In the avalanche of historical facts, Judt identifies a pattern of growing intolerance in the postwar world, and he's actually talking about post World War I. Where once different ethnic groups lived together in uneasy but workable ways, from 1914 on that pragmatic tolerance has been evaporating and ethnic strife has been increasing, even today when we should know better. There is a tendency to see each local conflict as an isolated instance, but Judt provides a context that deserves serious attention. Since I'm currently reading a lot of Stefan Zweig, it's interesting to me that Judt mentions Zweig in his opening on page 5, and again as he draws to a conclusion on page 751: "Before he committed suicide in 1942 the Viennese novelist and critic Stefan Zweig wrote longingly of the lost world of pre-1914 Europe, expressing 'pity for those who were not young during those last years of confidence'. Sixty years later, at the end of the twentieth century, almost everything else has been recovered or rebuilt. But the confidence with which Zweig's generation of Europeans entered the century could never be entirely recaptured: too much had happened." The emerging European Union is an attempt to recover the "successes of the second half of the nineteenth century."
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