Post War: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt :: The Cold War Reading Group

 

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Reading Table of Contents

Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6

Current Book Reading Schedule Chapter and Week

  1. Weel 1 :: Preface and Introduction
    Post War: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt


    Thought Questions
    - What were some of the long term assumptions about Cold War Europe does the author seek to clarify?
    - In what ways was the Cold War the "unfinished" end of World War II?
    - What are some of the complexities involved in understanding Central Europe during the Cold War?
    - How did the legacy of World War II impact the development of post war society in Central and Eastern Europe (including the conquered areas of the western Soviet Union) differently?
    - Why was it important for both sides of the Cold War to achieve (at least initially) a stable new order in Europe?
    - What is the author's focus for Part One of this book?
    - How does the author outline the different themes of this book?
    - Why does the author feel it is necessary to tell both halves of European History in an integrated way in the post Cold War era?
    - What was the problem to which Communism was the "solution" for in the eyes of the Soviet Union? How were these "solutions" ultimately self defeating?
    - What meaning is the story of the fox and the hedgehog intended to illustrate?

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "The Grand Illusion of the age was the resort to war and its accompanying myths of honour, caste and class."
    - "Communism may have been the wrong solution, but the dilemma to which it was responding was real enough."
    - "World War One destroyed old Europe; World War Two created the conditions for a new Europe."
    - "Finally, Europe’s post-war history is a story shadowed by silences; by absence."

    Articles, Primary Sources and other Resources
    - The Grand Illusion (1937 - From MIT OpenCourses)
    - The Grand Illusion Review- The New York Times - September 13, 1938
  2. Week 2 :: Chapter 1: The Legacy of War
    Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt


    Thought Questions
    - How did gender imbalance and role reversal effect the beginning of post war European recovery?
    - How was the experience of people west of Berlin and people east of Berlin different and similar?
    - Describe the compulsory (by law) and forced (left with no other choice) migration in Europe during 1938-1945
    - Describe the compulsory (by law) and forced (left with no other choice) migration in Europe during the immediate post war period
    - Compare and Contrast the population transfers during the war with the transfers after the war?
    - How were the post war population transfers different in the west and east?
    - How were the physical circumstances and experience of Jews in the post war period different from other displaced and persecuted persons?
    - How was the experience of Jews in the post war period different in the east and west?
    - Describe the evolution of World War II into civil war in Yugoslavia and Greece. What circumstances made them different from other eastern European nations?
    - Describe the evolution of the Holocaust into pogroms and ethnic cleansing in Soviet occupied Europe.

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "The human problem the war will leave behind it has not yet been imagined, much less faced by anybody. There has never been such destruction, such disintegration of the structure of life"
    - "At the conclusion of the First World War it was borders that were invented and adjusted, while people were on the whole left in place.6 After 1945 what happened was rather the opposite: with one major exception boundaries stayed broadly intact and people were moved instead."
    - "‘Flotsam and jetsam! Women who had lost husbands and children, men who had lost their wives; men and women who had lost their homes and children; families who had lost vast farms and estates, shops, distilleries, factories, flour-mills, mansions. There were also little children who were alone, carrying some small bundle, with a pathetic label attached to them. They had somehow got detached from their mothers, or their mothers had died and been buried by other displaced persons somewhere along the wayside.’"

    Resources
    For information regarding life in Germany in the immediate post war period, see:
    - Swansong 1945: A Collective Diary of the Last Days of the Third Reich by Walter Kempowski
    - West German Industry and the Challenge of the Nazi Past, 1945-1955 by S. Jonathan Wiesen
    For Information regarding life in Poland in the immediate Post war period, see:
    - Shattered Spaces by Michael Meng
    - Unfinished Utopia: Nowa Huta, Stalinism, and Polish Society, 1949–56 by Katherine Lebow
  3. Week 3 :: Chapter 2: Retribution
    Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt


    Thought Questions
    - Compare and Contrast the immediate post war purge of Nazis and Fascist collaborators in Eastern, Central and Western Europe
    - Compare and Contrast the post war treatment of Nazis and Fascist collaborators by the Anglo-Americans and the Soviets
    - What special circumstances impacted the treatment of Fascist collaborators in nations such as Italy and Hungary who allied with Nazi Germany?
    - What special circumstances impacted the treatment of Fascist collaborators in nations such France and Norway that were occupied and run by native Fascist governments
    - What special circumstances impacted the treatment of Fascist collaborators in nations such Poland and the Czech lands that were occupied and run by imposed Fascist governments
    - What special circumstances impacted the treatment of Fascist collaborators in Denmark, Russia (pre-Barbarosa)?
    - What special circumstances impacted the treatment of Fascists in Austria and Germany?

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "Without such collective amnesia, Europe’s astonishing post-war recovery would not have been possible. To be sure, much was put out of mind that would subsequently return in discomforting ways. But only much later would it become clear just how much post-war Europe rested on foundation myths that would fracture and shift with the passage of years."
    - "The local Communist leadership was under no illusions about what had taken place. As Walter Ulbricht, the future leader of the German Democratic Republic, put it in a speech to German Communist Party representatives in Berlin just six weeks after the defeat of his country, ‘The tragedy of the German people consists in the fact that they obeyed a band of criminals ... The German working class and the productive parts of the population failed before history.’ This was more than Adenauer or most West German politicians were willing to concede, at least in public."
    - "The real problem with any consistent programme aimed at rooting out Nazism from German life was that it was simply not practicable in the circumstances of 1945. In the words of General Lucius Clay, the American Military Commander, ‘our major administrative problem was to find reasonably competent Germans who had not been affiliated or associated in some way with the Nazi regime ... All too often, it seems that the only men with the qualifications ... are the career civil servants ... a great proportion of whom were more than nominal participants (by our definition) in the activities of the Nazi Party.’"
  4. Week 4 :: Chapter 3: The Rehabilitation of Europe
    Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt


    Thought Questions
    - What "opportunities" did World War II bring to divided Europe?
    - What role did the Nazi occupation resistance play in the immediate post war period of Western and Eastern Europe?
    - How did the expectations of the United States and the intentions of the Soviet Union effect the post war period in Europe?
    - What role did central planning take in Western Europe?
    - What role did imperial planning take in Eastern Europe?
    - How did World War II effect the role and public expectation of government in Western Europe?
    - What did Thomas Carlyle mean when writing: "if something be not done, something will do itself one day, and in a fashion that will please nobody."
    - What were the basic assumptions and expectations of the bourgeois (conservative) socialism in post war Western Europe? How did this build on the positive legacies of Bismarckian Germany and Wiemar Germany?
    - How did bourgeois (conservative) socialism evolve out of the post war condition?
    - How did agrarian reform unfold in post war Europe?
    - What were the European Christian Democratic and Social Democratic parties? What legacies did they carry from pre-World War and Interwar Europe?
    - In what ways were the neutral nations who did not directly participate in World War II change in post war Europe?
    - What role did the Marshall Aid Plan play in post war Western Europe?
    - Why were Greece and Turkey significant to post war Western Europe?
    - How successful was the economic recovery process in Western and Eastern Europe?

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "Out of this came the oddly optimistic mood upon which many observers remarked in the immediate aftermath of Liberation. In spite of the destitution all around - indeed, because of it something new and better was bound to emerge. ‘None of us’ wrote the editors of the Italian review Società in November 1945, ‘recognizes his own past. It seems incomprehensibleto us... Our life today is dominated by a sense of stupor and by an instinctive search for a direction. We are simply disarmed by the facts.’"
    - "if something be not done, something will do itself one day, and in a fashion that will please nobody."
  5. Week 5 :: Chapter 4: The Impossible Settlement
    Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt


    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "Nobody in the world can understand what Europeans feel about the Germans until one talks to Belgians, Frenchmen or Russians. To them the only good Germans are dead Germans."
    - "It should be brought home to the Germans that Germany’s ruthless warfare and the fanatical Nazi resistance has destroyed the German economy and made chaos and suffering inevitable and that the Germans cannot escape responsibility for what they have brought upon themselves. Germany will not be occupied for the purpose of liberation but as a defeated enemy nation’. Or, as Morgenthau himself put it, ‘It is of the utmost importance that every person in Germany should realize that this time Germany is a defeated nation."
    - "Some [in the Labour Party] thought we ought to concentrate all our efforts on building up a Third Force in Europe. Very nice, no doubt. But there wasn’t either a spiritual or a material basis for it at that time. What remained of Europe wasn’t strong enough to stand up to Russia by itself. You had to have a world force because you were up against a world force . . . Without the stopping power of the Americans, the Russians might easily have tried sweeping right forward. I don’t know whether they would, but it wasn’t a possibility you could just ignore."
    -  "The unconditional surrender of Germany . . . left us with the sole responsibility for a section of Germany which had never been economically self-supporting in modern times and the capacity of which for self-support had been catastrophically reduced by the circumstances of the war and the German defeat. At the moment we accepted that responsibility we had no program for the rehabilitation of the economy of our zone, preferring to leave all that to later settlement by international agreement."

    Thought Questions
    - What was the "Impossible Settlement"?
    - In what ways did Anglo-American relations with Stalin and the Russia Empire impact the course of World War II and effect the peace afterwards?
    - What was the role national planning and ownership played in European recovery in the period 1945– 51?
    - Compare and Contrast National planning and national ownership during 1933-1945 and 1945-1951
    - Describe the political positions and motivations of Christian Democratic parties in post war Western Europe?
    - Describe the political positions and motivations of Social Democratic parties in post war Western Europe?
    - Compare and contrast the political positions and motivations of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats
    - Describe the political positions and motivations of Communists and Social Democratic parties in post war Western Europe?
    - How did rightist and center-right parties fit into post war Western and Eastern Europe?
    - Describe the events that led to the division of Germany
    - What was the Marshall plan and how did it impact European recovery in the West and the East?
    - What impact did the Yalta agreement have on post war Europe?
    - How did the experience of the Russian revolution and civil war influence Stalin's view of Western Europe and the United States?
    - In what ways did the Western allies and Stalin attempt to avoid the major mistakes of the Versailles Treaty?
    - Who were George Kennan and William Averell Harriman and how did they impact the post war European recovery and development?
    - What was the Bretton Woods system, how did it attempt to prevent problems from the past and why was it controversial?
    - Compare and Contrast this statement about American intentions and attitudes after World War II with the American intentions and attitudes after World War I: If it is possible to speak of a coherent US strategy spanning the years 1944– 47 it would be this: reach a continental European settlement with Stalin; pressure Britain to abandon its overseas empire and embrace open trade and sterling convertibility; and withdraw from Europe with all due speed.
    - Compare and Contrast the motivations and intentions of Britain after World War I and after World War II
    - How was France and central player in the post war European balance of power and how did this impact the West and the Russian Empire?
    - What role did Berlin play in post war Europe?

    Primary Sources
    - The Long Telegram
    - Oral history transcript of interview with Averell Harriman

    Articles and Resources
    - Brief Biography: George Kennan
    - Brief Biography: William Averell Harriman
    - George F. Kennan’s Cold War
    - Brief Biography: Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin
    - Brief Biography: James Byrnes
  6. Week 6 :: Chapter 5: The Coming of the Cold War
    Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt


    Response / Thought Quotes
    - X

    Thought Questions
    - Describe the events the Eastern European nations experienced in the consolidation of Soviet power
    - How did the Soviet strategy work in Western Europe with Communists and Socialists?

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles and Resources
    - X

Cold War Reading List

  1. The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis
  2. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt
    (This book provides a different perspective from Gaddis)
  3. The Cold War: A World History by Odd Arne Westad
  4. Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World by Jeremy Friedman
  5. Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside by Alexander Avina
  6. Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum
  7. A Cold War Turning Point: Nixon and China, 1969-1972 by Chris Tudda
  8. All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer
  9. The Korean War by Max Hastings
  10. Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam 1945 - 2010 by James S. Olson and Randy W. Roberts
  11. The Cold War by John Lamberton Harper
  12. When The War Was Over: Cambodia And The Khmer Rouge Revolution by Elizabeth Becker
  13. Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary, and Eisenhower's Campaign for Peace by Alex von Tunzelmann
  14. Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe
  15. The End of the Cold War: 1985-1991 by Robert Service

After the first books listed above we will select the next books we read from the list here.

Provide us feedback and suggestions for our next book by clicking here.

For suggestions on how to meaningfully participate in our reading groups, please click here.