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Year Zero: A History of 1945

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Many books have been written, and continue to be written, about the Second World War: military histories, histories of the Holocaust, the war in Asia, or collaboration and resistance in Europe. Few books have taken a close look at the immediate aftermath of the worldwide catastrophe. Drawing on hundreds of eyewitness accounts and personal stories, this sweeping book examines the seven months (in Europe) and four months (in Asia) that followed the surrender of the Axis powers, from the fate of Holocaust survivors liberated from the concentration camps, and the formation of the state of Israel, to the incipient civil war in China, and the allied occupation of Japan. It was a time when terrible revenge was taken on collaborators and their former masters; of ubiquitous black markets, war crime tribunals; and the servicing of millions of occupation troops, former foes in some places, liberators in others. But Year Zero is not just a story of vengeance. It was also a new beginning, of democratic restorations in Japan and West Germany, of social democracy in Britain and of a new world order under the United Nations. If construction follows destruction, Year Zero describes that extraordinary moment in between, when people faced the wreckage, full of despair, as well as great hope. An old world had been destroyed; a new one was yet to be built.
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This sweeping, boldly original book describes the violence, racketeering and retroactive justice as well as the hope and optimism that erupted at the end of the Second World War.

About the Author

Ian Buruma is Professor of Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College, in New York State. Murder in Amsterdam won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. He was awarded the Erasmus Prize in 2008.


A graphic account - well-researched, splendidly constructed and stylishly written - of the hinge year of the twentieth century, of its horrors, hopes, illusions and roots of troubles to come. Altogether compelling - a fine achievement. -- Ian Kershaw Year Zero - 1945 - is the founding moment of the modern era. Ian Buruma's history of that moment is vivid, compassionate and compelling. -- Michael Ignatieff A brilliant recreation of that decisive year of victory and defeat, chaos and humiliation, concentrating on peoples, not states... In the face of so much horror, it is an astounding effort at deep comprehension. A superb book, splendidly written. -- Fritz Stern Ian Buruma gives a heart-wrenching account of the horrors, the unimaginable cruelties, and the sheer stupidities of the last months of World War II, and the attempts to deal with them in the first months of peace. -- Brian Urquhart Year Zero is a searing indictment of war, yet not about the Second World War itself but about its aftermath, the trauma, the revenge, the regrets, the desire to forget, the need to remember... This is Ian Buruma at his best. -- Donald Sassoon

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