cover image Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany

Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany

Frederick Taylor, Bloomsbury Press, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-1-59691-536-7

The complex, often contradictory project of ruling and defanging a defeated Germany is probed in this evocative but scattershot history. Starting with the apocalyptic close of WWII in Germany, its cities bombed to rubble and its population subjected to mass rape and other atrocities—tongues were nailed to tables—by the Red Army, British historian Taylor (The Berlin Wall) surveys the occupation policies of the Allied victors. His lucid narrative shows a variegated picture: brutal in the Soviet zone, relatively humane in the American, British, and French sectors, but everywhere a landscape of hunger, cold, and—in German eyes—humiliation. Lengthy chapters on efforts to bring to account millions of ex–Nazi Party members shows these efforts to have been erratic, corrupt, and ineffective. Taylor makes excellent use of original sources to convey the occupation's psychological dimensions, but struggles with historical perspective. He overemphasizes sidelights, like the feeble Nazi Werwolf guerrilla resistance, but relegates crucial developments like currency reform and the resurrection of democratic politics to a sketchy epilogue. One gets the sense that it was the war itself that reconciled exhausted and disillusioned Germans to peace, and not the occupation, which emerges as a tense interlude between trauma and reconstruction. B&w inserts and maps. (May)