Savage Continent Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

Keith Lowe




Trade Paperback

496 Pages



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The end of World War II in Europe is remembered as a time when cheering crowds filled the streets, but the reality was quite different. Across Europe, landscapes had been ravaged, entire cities razed, and more than thirty million people had been killed in the war. The institutions that we now take for granted—such as police, media, transport, and local and national government—were either entirely absent or compromised. Crime rates soared, economies collapsed, and whole populations hovered on the brink of starvation. In Savage Continent, Keith Lowe describes a continent where individual Germans and collaborators were rounded up and summarily executed, where concentration camps were reopened, and violent anti-Semitism was reborn. In some of the monstrous acts of ethnic cleansing the world has ever seen, tens of millions were expelled from their ancestral homelands. Savage Continent is the story of post–World War II Europe, from the close of the war right to the establishment of an uneasy stability at the end of the 1940s. Based principally on primary sources from a dozen countries, Savage Continent is the chronicle of a world gone mad, the standard history of post–World War II Europe for years to come.


Praise for Savage Continent

"A superb and immensely important book."—The Washington Post

“Lowe’s work, thoroughly researched and written with scrupulous objectivity, promises to be the year’s best book on European history.”—Financial Times (London)

“Deeply harrowing. Moving, measured, and provocative. A compelling picture of a continent physically and morally brutalized by slaughter.”—The Sunday Times (London)

"Essential. A serious account of things we never knew and our fathers would rather forget. Lowe's transparent prose makes it difficult to look away from a catalog of horrors . . . You won't sleep afterwards. Such good history it keeps all the questions boiling in your mind."—The Scotsman

"Shocking, touching, very well written."—New Statesman

"Extraordinary, disturbing, and powerful."—Daily Mail

"Excellent . . . Lowe describes these events with admirable sensitivity."—The Independent

"Searingly superb, brilliantly organized, and scrupulously researched . . . a major new historical talent has arrived."—BBC History

"Horrifying. A complex story and Lowe tells it very well."—The Spectator

"No historian until now has attempted to write a comprehensive study of the chaos and vengeance that predominated in Europe from 1945 to 1949, a deficiency that Keith Lowe seeks to remedy in this impressive and heart-rending study."—Daily Express

"Vivid . . . Lowe has a good eye for revealing details."—The Daily Telegraph

“A graphic and chilling account of the murderous vengeance, terroristic reprisals, and ferocious ethnic cleansing that gripped Europe following—and often as a direct continuation of—the Second World War. Keith Lowe’s excellent book paints a little-known and frightening picture of a continent in the embrace of lawlessness, chaos, and unconstrained violence.”—Ian Kershaw, author of The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944–1945

Savage Continent is a powerful and disturbing book, painstakingly researched and written with both authority and an impressive historical sweep.”—James Holland, author of Italy’s Sorrow and The Battle of Britain

“A breathtaking, numbing account of the physical and moral desolation that plagued Europe in the late 1940s. Authoritative but never dry, stripping away soothing myths of national unity and victimhood, this is a painful but necessary historical task superbly done.”—Kirkus Reviews

In the Press

Nonfiction Review: Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe. St. Martin's, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-1-250-00020-0
Hitler's defeat did not end WWII, writes historian Lowe (Inferno: The Fiery Devastation of Hamburg, 1943) in this horrific account of years of violence and misery that immediately followed the war. Ci
“Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II” by Keith Lowe - The Washington Post
Keith Lowe on Europe in the aftermath of World War II
SAVAGE CONTINENT by Keith Lowe | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of SAVAGE CONTINENT Europe in the Aftermath of World War II. A breathtaking, numbing account of the physical and moral desolation that plagued Europe in the late 1940s.

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Savage Continent
PART IThe Legacy of WarI thought you'd be there waiting for me ... What greeted me instead was the lingering stench of ashes and the empty sockets of our ruined home.Samuel Puterman on his return to Warsaw, 19451;2
 We could see the physical destruction but the effect of vast economic disruption and political, social, and psychological destruction ... completely escaped us.Dean Acheson, US Under-Secretary of State, 19471Physical DestructionIn 1943 the travel book publisher Karl Baedeker produced a guide to the Generalgouvernement -- that part of central and
Read the full excerpt


  • Keith Lowe

  • Keith Lowe is the author of two novels and the critically acclaimed history Inferno: The Fiery Devastation of Hamburg, 1943.  He is widely recognized as an authority on the Second World War, and has often spoken on TV and radio, both in Britain and the United States. Most recently he was an historical consultant and one of the main speakers in the PBS documentary The Bombing of Germany which was also broadcast in Germany. His books have been translated into several languages, and he has also lectured in Britain, Canada and Germany.  He lives in North London with his wife and two kids.

  • Keith Lowe Liza Messing
    Keith Lowe