Year Zero : A history of 1945 - Ian Buruma

Without doubt the best book I’ve read this year.

The book is well researched and well presented and very informative. My only qualm about it is that it is a little ‘personalised’, but I think we can forgive the author that.

War is a nasty business and WWII possibly the nastiest that we have seen. Despite what many may think, the war didn’t end cleanly and we didn’t all resume our before the war work the next day. This book tells the reality, the things that weren’t printed in the papers at the time. Although the end of the war was foreseen, it appears that nobody actually thought about the consequences.

The book charts many of the issues after the war and if you ever want to understand why we’re never likely to see a united Europe look no further than these pages. But Europe isn’t alone; there were many grudges borne and revenge being sought throughout the world, then and now.

After the war, law and order all but collapsed. Those in power struggled to know what to do to regain some semblance of normality. Decisions had to be made, actions taken, many of which resulted in further massacres of people. The death toll during the war is only half the story; the death toll afterwards is far more telling.

There were millions of displaced people, they needed repatriating, and the world needed feeding. Sending displaced people home to lands short of food was often a necessity.

What of the collaborators? How were they to be handled? Justice was often swift and possibly unfair. Was it right to punish or execute people because they collaborated to survive, or to feed their families?

Then there was the enforcement of ‘democracies’ on the German and Japanese peoples; without actually understanding their cultures.

‘Blind eyes’ were turned to former enemies that were hiding out or fleeing, often because there was nowhere to hold them. Many minor Nazi’s were released in order to start restoring law and order in local administrative districts.

Then there were those from all sides that were hell-bent on revenge, at whatever cost...

The list goes on and the author takes a look at each in turn. The results of his investigations aren’t nice, they don’t make easy reading. Few nations, if any, come through shining of glory.

I would make politicians of all colours read this book; it might make them think twice before embarking on wars in future. But I’ll lay odds that many of the mistakes at the end of WWII are still being made today in the Middle East today.

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Five full anchors from me.