In the 7/24/13 edition of Fresh Air, host Terry Gross interviews Keith Lowe, author of the book “Savage Continent,” about conditions in Europe in the aftermath of World War Two. My mother’s cousin was stationed in Germany after serving in the Pacific in World War Two and he told me stories about renting a whole house on an enlisted man’s pay because the Germans were so poor. An American friend who has lived in Germany for several years also related a conversation she had with an elderly German woman once who told her about difficulties she faced after the war. My friend, a longtime vegetarian, said that the woman evoked the experience of extreme hunger so vividly that her story even made meat seem appealing. These stories pale compared to Mr. Lowe’s description of the physical devastation caused by the war, as well as the tragic conditions people had to endure, including extreme poverty, widespread sexual violence against women, and persecution of ethnic minorities.
I found this interview particularly illuminating because my knowledge of the war focused almost exclusively on the conflict itself. Most of the books I have read or movies I have seen dealt the war, not its aftermath.
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