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The Bitter Taste of Victory: Life, Love, and Art in the Ruins of the Reich

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When Germany surrendered in May 1945 it was a nation reduced to rubble. Immediately, America, Britain, Soviet Russia, and France set about rebuilding in their zones of occupation. Most urgent were physical needs--food, water, and sanitation--but from the start the Allies were also anxious to indoctrinate the German people in the ideas of peace and civilization. Denazificati When Germany surrendered in May 1945 it was a nation reduced to rubble. Immediately, America, Britain, Soviet Russia, and France set about rebuilding in their zones of occupation. Most urgent were physical needs--food, water, and sanitation--but from the start the Allies were also anxious to indoctrinate the German people in the ideas of peace and civilization. Denazification and reeducation would be key to future peace, and the arts were crucial guides to alternative, less militaristic ways of life. In an extraordinary extension of diplomacy, over the next four years, many writers, artists, actors, and filmmakers were dispatched by Britain and America to help rebuild the country their governments had spent years bombing. Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Marlene Dietrich, George Orwell, Lee Miller, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Billy Wilder, and others undertook the challenge of reconfiguring German society. In the end, many of them became disillusioned by the contrast between the destruction they were witnessing and the cool politics of reconstruction. While they may have had less effect on Germany than Germany had on them, the experiences of these celebrated figures, never before told, offer an entirely fresh view of post-war Europe. The Bitter Taste of Victory is a brilliant and important addition to the literature of World War II.


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When Germany surrendered in May 1945 it was a nation reduced to rubble. Immediately, America, Britain, Soviet Russia, and France set about rebuilding in their zones of occupation. Most urgent were physical needs--food, water, and sanitation--but from the start the Allies were also anxious to indoctrinate the German people in the ideas of peace and civilization. Denazificati When Germany surrendered in May 1945 it was a nation reduced to rubble. Immediately, America, Britain, Soviet Russia, and France set about rebuilding in their zones of occupation. Most urgent were physical needs--food, water, and sanitation--but from the start the Allies were also anxious to indoctrinate the German people in the ideas of peace and civilization. Denazification and reeducation would be key to future peace, and the arts were crucial guides to alternative, less militaristic ways of life. In an extraordinary extension of diplomacy, over the next four years, many writers, artists, actors, and filmmakers were dispatched by Britain and America to help rebuild the country their governments had spent years bombing. Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Marlene Dietrich, George Orwell, Lee Miller, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Billy Wilder, and others undertook the challenge of reconfiguring German society. In the end, many of them became disillusioned by the contrast between the destruction they were witnessing and the cool politics of reconstruction. While they may have had less effect on Germany than Germany had on them, the experiences of these celebrated figures, never before told, offer an entirely fresh view of post-war Europe. The Bitter Taste of Victory is a brilliant and important addition to the literature of World War II.

30 review for The Bitter Taste of Victory: Life, Love, and Art in the Ruins of the Reich

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Having previously enjoyed, “The Love Charm of Bombs,” by author Lara Feigel, about the lives, and loves, of various writers in Wartime London, I was keen to read her account of Germany between 1944 and 1949, through the eyes of a number of writers, film-makers, artists, actors and musicians. Feigel weaves the accounts of various characters – Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Marlene Dietrich, Thomas Mann and his children, Klaus and Erika, Lee Miller, Mervynn Peake, Stephen Spender, W.H. Auden, Having previously enjoyed, “The Love Charm of Bombs,” by author Lara Feigel, about the lives, and loves, of various writers in Wartime London, I was keen to read her account of Germany between 1944 and 1949, through the eyes of a number of writers, film-makers, artists, actors and musicians. Feigel weaves the accounts of various characters – Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Marlene Dietrich, Thomas Mann and his children, Klaus and Erika, Lee Miller, Mervynn Peake, Stephen Spender, W.H. Auden, Rebecca West, Jean-Paul Sarte and Simone de Beauvoir, Billy Wilder and more. We begin with the Battle of Germany in 1944-45. As Germany is left in rubble, the sympathy for those left struggling in the ruins is lost by the discovery of the concentration camps. Some of those heading for Germany had been personally forced to leave their own country, so the news of the fate they may have escaped may have been doubly shocking. Others, such as Marlene Dietrich, found that her own sister was involved running a cinema for the SS in a concentration camp – she helped save her, and her husband, from arrest, but never spoke to them again. Meanwhile, for others, such as Thomas Mann- who still saw himself as German – felt he shared guilt with his countrymen. Much of the beginning of this book concerns the ‘guilt’ of the Germans and how they were to be made to feel it. Yet, in the winter of 1945, most Germans were more involved with trying to survive than in having any higher feelings. There is a lot in this book about the Nuremberg trials; commented on by Evelyn Waugh (who visited), Orwell and Rebecca West, who was summoned to write a book about events. I found this a fascinating part of the book and want to read West’s book, written at such a heightened time of her own life. We then move into the post war, and finally, the Cold War period. It is fascinating to see how those mentioned in this book reacted to events. Erika Mann was infuriated with the Germans lack of responsibility, George Orwell felt that punishing an enemy brought no satisfaction and it was more important to feed the starving German people than punish defeated Nazi’s in war crimes. Perhaps strangely, Jewish publisher, Victor Gollancz, agreed and started the, “Save Europe Now,” campaign, wanting the former enemy to be treated with compassion. Certainly, despite the end of the war, Germany was still in ruins. Hunger, disease and homelessness were rife. As lines were drawn between the US and the Soviet Union, the Germans were able to move from former enemy to an ally and were given the victim status that many of the people felt necessary, in order to obtain help. This is both an historically interesting read, but also personally interesting, as the stories of all of those involved are weaved together. Overall, a good read, although the greater cast of characters, than those in the, “Love Charm of Bombs,” sometimes makes you feel less invested in the personal stories of those included.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Lara Feigel truly did the work on this topic, finding just about all anyone would need to know about the years following World War II in what was and would again become Germany. Anyone who wonders how the Allies handled their respective sectors of Berlin and how Russia went from friend to enemy will get the answers here. But Feigel also uncovered personal stories of famous people who had roles in the de-Nazification and reconstruction of the former Reich. The most famous are actress Marlene Diet Lara Feigel truly did the work on this topic, finding just about all anyone would need to know about the years following World War II in what was and would again become Germany. Anyone who wonders how the Allies handled their respective sectors of Berlin and how Russia went from friend to enemy will get the answers here. But Feigel also uncovered personal stories of famous people who had roles in the de-Nazification and reconstruction of the former Reich. The most famous are actress Marlene Dietrich and journalist Martha Gellhorn, both Americans (although Dietrich by naturalization) and both having an affair with one of the top army men in charge of post-war Berlin. A more poignant story comes from the family of writer Thomas Mann, an exiled German who plead with his former countrymen to see their complicity in the horrors of the Third Reich. His children each pursued their own course after the war and wrestled, in very different ways, with their German guilt. The complexity of the Mann story only emphasizes the superficiality of the Dietrich triangle, but the love stories are a bit of sexy relief from a heavy topic.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Lara Feigel examines the role played by novelists, playwrights, journalists and filmmakers in the cultural reconstruction of post-WWII Germany. The narrative moves from the devastated cities of 1944 in a country divided into zones by the victorious Allies through to the establishment of the Federal and Democratic Republics in 1949, before briefly considering in a final chapter how politics and culture influenced each other in the years that followed. By concentrating on the cultural regeneration Lara Feigel examines the role played by novelists, playwrights, journalists and filmmakers in the cultural reconstruction of post-WWII Germany. The narrative moves from the devastated cities of 1944 in a country divided into zones by the victorious Allies through to the establishment of the Federal and Democratic Republics in 1949, before briefly considering in a final chapter how politics and culture influenced each other in the years that followed. By concentrating on the cultural regeneration of Germany, and the renowned artists who participated in it, this book offers an interesting perspective on key historical events such as the Nuremberg trials and the Berlin airlift. Feigel shows how attitudes to the German people varied - W H Auden felt that the civilians struggling to survive in the devastated cities should be treated with compassion, while others such as Martha Gellhorn believed that all Germans shared responsibility for the concentration camps and should fully acknowledge their guilt before they could be helped to move forward. These two opposing views are fundamental to the book as they influence the occupiers' use of the arts to promote denazification and a peaceful way of life. The book is well-researched and very readable, although the chronological structure does lead to some repetition and flitting between topics. Some characters are treated in depth, particularly Klaus and Erika Mann, and the reader gains fascinating insights into their personal and professional lives. Others appear and disappear, for example the journalists who cover the Nuremberg trials. This is occasionally frustrating, but it demonstrates how complex and fragmentary the intellectual contributions were at this time. Overall, this is interesting and well written and would appeal to those interested in cultural history or in the specific period of the immediate aftermath of WWII.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Bitter Taste did not meet my expectations. The plot, following various artists around post war Germany, was disjointed. There was a lot of coverage of the Manns, Billy Wilder and Marlene Dietrich. Many, many others were included, but most were very unfamiliar to me, i.e. Gustaf Gründgrens. The author gathered the threads of a theme, art and culture under Occupation in postwar Germany as a means of returning Germany to the family of European nations. Worth reading, just not worth gushing over.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alberony Martínez

    “dado que las guerras empiezan en la mente de los hombres, es en la mente de los hombres donde deben construirse las defensas de la paz». ” En tiempo de guerra, asumir la derrota por el derrotado es un asunto lúdico, de ensueño esperanzador, de que aun se puede seguir, sin importar aquella última bala solitaria en la recamara para hacerle frente al enemigo, pero aun peor, escuchar el horroroso sonido de dos o tres adulones que le hacen el juego al fracasado para llevar a un estado critico a un pu “dado que las guerras empiezan en la mente de los hombres, es en la mente de los hombres donde deben construirse las defensas de la paz». ” En tiempo de guerra, asumir la derrota por el derrotado es un asunto lúdico, de ensueño esperanzador, de que aun se puede seguir, sin importar aquella última bala solitaria en la recamara para hacerle frente al enemigo, pero aun peor, escuchar el horroroso sonido de dos o tres adulones que le hacen el juego al fracasado para llevar a un estado critico a un pueblo agónico a su extinción, nada mas real que lo sucedido con Alemania y el monstruo que parió. El amargo sabor de la victoria es una muestra compleja vista a través de los escritores y artistas tras la derrota de Hitler y sus secuaces, y como es común en todo Estado el cual ha sido sometido a los contantes embaste de una guerra, estos protagonistas de libro, no iban a plasmar su experiencia bajo las circunstancias de bellas flores, sino en la afinidad de los escombros por la cual fue sumergida en un abismo de horror a Alemania. Ciudades reducidas a escombros, los que eran calles pintadas con cadáveres enterrados con bombas, los brotes de enfermedades que circulaban en los pocos vivos, las violaciones e inanición. Lee Miller, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, WH AUDEN, Billy Wilder, Marlene Dietrich entre otros pueblan este libro con sus experiencias de la posguerra. Pero cabe destacar el papel desempeñado por Thomas Mann, que aunque en la lejanía buscaba la reconstrucción de Alemania, pero aun mayor es la historia que hay detrás de sus hijos, que este libro describe, es para sacar aparte y leer la vida de esos personajes. “Teníamos un vocabulario para describir ciudades bombardeadas», dijo, pero ahora palabras como «dañadas, voladas, calcinadas, destruidas, rotas» y términos como «escombros, pared derruida, ladrillos, obra de albañilería, vigas dobladas, vigas caídas» se habían vuelto superfluos. No había «daños» porque la cosa dañada misma había desaparecido.” El fracaso de las potencias que se diputaron el papel alemán ante la creciente crisis Alemana, inspiro a la nueva idea de que los aliados estaban perdiendo la victoria, pues en la sombra al parecer Alemania, aunque estaba agonizando, aun había señales de vida de que comenzaban de que estaban ganando al paz, aunque en el bando contrario los conflictos no cesaban. El papel de la cultura, la participación de los alemanes, culpable o no, de todo lo sucedido, el relanzamiento de la vida social en la devastada Alemania con la puesta en escena de obras teatrales, la apertura del cine, entre otros temas son tratado en este libro. Leerlo me recordó mucho a otros títulos leído: Regreso a Berlín 1945 a 1947 de William Shirer. Soldados del Tercer Reich de Sönke Neitzel y Harald Welzer. Dresde 1945 Fuego y oscuridad de Sinclair McKay entre otros titulo. Aunque no todo es color rosa, el libro a veces se pierde en chismes de los periodistas y escritores, que pueden desviar del objetivo del libro.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Even before WW2 ended in Europe in May, 1945, much thought was given to post-war Germany by the Americans, British, and Soviets. Meetings at Tehren and Yalta, attended by all three powers, considered how Germany should be handled after 12 years of Nazi rule and seven years of war. Should the Morganthau Plan, which basically advocated taking away all industry from the country - after having it divided - to prevent the possibility of any future wars, be implemented? Or should a softer, less vindic Even before WW2 ended in Europe in May, 1945, much thought was given to post-war Germany by the Americans, British, and Soviets. Meetings at Tehren and Yalta, attended by all three powers, considered how Germany should be handled after 12 years of Nazi rule and seven years of war. Should the Morganthau Plan, which basically advocated taking away all industry from the country - after having it divided - to prevent the possibility of any future wars, be implemented? Or should a softer, less vindictive approach be made? Government officials, politicians, and military leaders remembered how the disastrous reparations payments to the Allies after WW1 helped drive the German Weimar Republic to ruin. In 1945, the country was divided into four zones - Soviet, British, American, and French (carved from parts of the British and American sections). The city of Berlin was also divided into four sectors. But along with looking at the post-war Germany with economic, political, and military considerations, there was also a look at societal problems. How did the Germans look at their wartime activities, i.e., who knew what and when did they know it? And what would happen in the post-war years? Lara Feigel, in her excellent book, "The Bitter Taste of Victory: Life, Love, and Art in the Ruins of the Reich", examines the years 1945-1949, as artists, writers, movie-makers were sent to Germany to try to influence post-war reconstruction. Some of these people were Germans who had fled the country during the Nazi years, either because they were Jewish or because they didn't agree with the Nazi line. They had gone to the United States, Switzerland, or England, sending themselves into an artistic exile.(As opposed to those artists who had gone into "internal exile") Now they were returning to see if they could help by making movies, writing music, producing plays, or writing novels as they tried to make sense of what had happened for 12 long years. Lara Feigel uses the Thomas Mann family as an example of artists who had left Germany before the war, settled mostly in the United States, and had mixed feelings as they, individually, considered returning to Germany after the war. Thomas, his daughter Erika, and three sons, Klaus, Golo, and Michael, had all produced works while living in exile. Feigel is quite detailed as she examines what motivated them to return and their thoughts about having done so. Other artists she looks at are Marlene Dietrich, Martha Gellhorn - who were in a romantic menage-a-trois with a US General - as well as photographer Lee Miller and producer Billy Wilder. Not all these people were exiled Germans; Gellhorn and Lee Miller were Americans. looking for a story and an adventure, both of which they found in post-war Germany. Feigel also looks at the Nuremberg War trials and the impact of them on average Germans. And these topics are only a few she writes about. Feigel, who is a Senior Lecturer at Kings College, London, bounces around a bit in her book. She's a smooth writer, though, and her book is quite interesting. For those who are interested in more on the subject of post-war Germany and the Nuremberg Trials, take a look at "East West Street: On The Origins of 'Genocide' and 'Crimes Against Humanity'", by international rights lawyer Phillipe Sands.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Gregory

    This book is excellent in many ways, which I will explore in more detail in my blog. I have spent two months reading this book, being interrupted for many extended periods of time due to the holidays, my job, business with my kids, etc. However, I was so determined to finish it that I even ran out of renewals at the public library and will be paying some fines! It was worth it. I became interested in learning about life in Germany at the beginning of the end of World War II and the rest of that This book is excellent in many ways, which I will explore in more detail in my blog. I have spent two months reading this book, being interrupted for many extended periods of time due to the holidays, my job, business with my kids, etc. However, I was so determined to finish it that I even ran out of renewals at the public library and will be paying some fines! It was worth it. I became interested in learning about life in Germany at the beginning of the end of World War II and the rest of that decade. The ideas of de-natzification and inflicting punishment and how to rebuild culture are of course very relevant today. This book doesn't disappoint, although it is very academic in nature and I oftentimes got bogged down in names and councils and literary movements and philosophies (which is why it took me longer to finish). Very good.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adele Fasick

    The picture that British historian, Laura Feigel paints of the devastation in Berlin after WWII and the bitter feelings between Germans and Americans is more vivid in this book than in anything else I've read. Feigel describes the reactions of several well-known Americans who were sent to Germany as informal ambassadors to help with the peace process, including Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gelhorn, Marlene Dietrich, Erika Mann, Billy Wilder. Some were journalists, some were entertainers. Most had so The picture that British historian, Laura Feigel paints of the devastation in Berlin after WWII and the bitter feelings between Germans and Americans is more vivid in this book than in anything else I've read. Feigel describes the reactions of several well-known Americans who were sent to Germany as informal ambassadors to help with the peace process, including Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gelhorn, Marlene Dietrich, Erika Mann, Billy Wilder. Some were journalists, some were entertainers. Most had some connection with Germany and spoke German. Some had Jewish family members and friends who had suffered under Hitler. When we look back now, 75 years later, it appears as though the World War II peace process went smoothly and the postwar period ushered in years of peace and prosperity, but at the beginning this was far from certain. Cities were strewn with rubble. People were starving. The process of rebuilding a country and democratizing its citizens was inept and piecemeal. Allied leaders argued over what was the greatest threat--a resurgence of Germany or the rise of Russian communism. As the years from 1944-1949 dragged on, the occupation forces quarreled among themselves. The Russians antagonized both the U.S. and the British, while the French hung back. There is a long section on the Nuremberg trials, which do not appear to have been quite the triumph that they have been painted in American books and movies. In fact, Feigel is rather critical of the naiveté of the Americans, although the Brits don't come off too well either. The Cold War, embraced by Truman and the U.S. Congress, led to the final break among the Allied groups, to the Berlin airlift, and to the establishment finally of the two Germanys. The question of whether ordinary Germans felt remorse for the Nazi period, was not addressed until the late 1960s when a rebellious new generation finally talked about and denounced the Nazis and their treatment of Jews. I think this is the most impressive book I have read during 2016. Reading it should give us some idea of how long it will take to establish peace in the Middle East after the long series of wars we have been waging in that area. Victory may be neither quick nor sweet.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Liz Goodwin

    Lara Feigel's work of WWII history/literary-criticism, The Love-Charm of Bombs, made my personal Top 10 Books of 2015. Her latest, The Bitter Taste of Victory, has done it again - but a little bit differently. The first was tightly focused on five British novelists and their experiences of the heightened present-tenseness of the Blitz. Her new book is set in postwar Germany with a varied cast of German, British and American artists, writers, actors and film directors. Instead of the terrifying a Lara Feigel's work of WWII history/literary-criticism, The Love-Charm of Bombs, made my personal Top 10 Books of 2015. Her latest, The Bitter Taste of Victory, has done it again - but a little bit differently. The first was tightly focused on five British novelists and their experiences of the heightened present-tenseness of the Blitz. Her new book is set in postwar Germany with a varied cast of German, British and American artists, writers, actors and film directors. Instead of the terrifying and exhilarating Now of war, they are confronting the morally and politically complex Before and After: concentration campmps, massive bomb damage, the Nuremberg trials, defeated Germans, the Cold War. In both, Feigel writes in a clear, engaging style that conveys her own knowledge and insight. But she also has a rare talent for gleaning evocative quotes: she knows how to let her subjects explain the history they were actually living. (The artists she writes about were also celebrities of their era and Feigel has a great eye for steamy gossip items too!)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Tornello

    This book offered a unique look into the cultural life of Germany immediately following WWII. It mostly focused on the experiences of American, British, or exiled German writers who visited Germany after the war. I had never really thought much about what life was like for Germans in the immediate aftermath of the war. I wish that there had been some pictures in this book, but I received an Advance Reading Copy, so perhaps this will be different in the final book. I received this book in a Goodre This book offered a unique look into the cultural life of Germany immediately following WWII. It mostly focused on the experiences of American, British, or exiled German writers who visited Germany after the war. I had never really thought much about what life was like for Germans in the immediate aftermath of the war. I wish that there had been some pictures in this book, but I received an Advance Reading Copy, so perhaps this will be different in the final book. I received this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Yay!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Overwhelming Challenges as Victors Occupy Germany 1945-1949 As with most wars, American and British World War II leaders concentrated on victory and little thought was given to postwar conditions and treatment of the defeated. In addition, the failure at the end of World War I to achieve a durable peace weighed on decision makers who were uncertain whether it was possible to achieve political rehabilitation of the German people and to build a postwar German society acceptable to the rest of Europ Overwhelming Challenges as Victors Occupy Germany 1945-1949 As with most wars, American and British World War II leaders concentrated on victory and little thought was given to postwar conditions and treatment of the defeated. In addition, the failure at the end of World War I to achieve a durable peace weighed on decision makers who were uncertain whether it was possible to achieve political rehabilitation of the German people and to build a postwar German society acceptable to the rest of Europe. Author Lara Feigel uses contemporary letters and diaries as well as the memoirs of the first intellectuals, artists, and filmmakers to capture the sights and smells that greeted the Allies as they entered Berlin and other major German cities. We learn also of their shock as they encountered the unimaginable horrors of the concentration camps. Finally, the author explores how the victors’ attitudes toward the German people changed between 1945 and 1949. Several of these observers were Germans who had fled the Nazis and who were dispatched by Britain and America to rebuild the country from which they had fled, including Marlene Dietrich and film director Billy Wilder. Among the intellectuals, Thomas Mann and his two children struggled philosophically to define the troubled German psyche and to debate whether it was subject to being transformed. Many well-known Brits and Americans were eager to see a defeated nation first hand and rushed in right behind the armies. These included Ernest Hemingway, journalist Martha Gellhorn, fashion model and photographer Lee Miller, and British intellectuals W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, George Orwell, and Rebecca West. Orwell’s impression was that the Germans were more ashamed of losing the war than of the atrocities being committed in their name. Miller was put off by the Germans’ “false obsequiousness,” which nevertheless seems understandable as starving people tried to obtain food or favor from the occupiers. And people were dying. In Berlin during the last phase of the war 250 people a day were dying of disease or starvation. Less than two months after German surrender, this rose to 1,000 deaths a day. Moreover, death by starvation continued through 1946 and 1947. While official rations in the British zone were 1550 calories a day, transportation and other difficulties meant that thousands were living on 400 to 1,000 calories a day. At 400 calories, this was less than half the ration in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. But Britain itself was still on food rationing and it was politically difficult to ask the British to cut their rations to feed starving Germans. Moreover, while the Americans were able to do better, Feigel provides no data on rations in the Soviet zone. The Allies expected to have to provide food and shelter for 58,000 Displaced Persons. Instead there were two million by mid-May 1945. These poor people from many nations, who were victims not perpetrators, were seen as “less than human,” and Feigel suggests they suffered more than the Germans. But the book does not provide statistics on rations for these victims and in a regrettable lapse the subject is given only passing reference by the author. Feigel does a good job tracing the arc of cultural outreach to the defeated Germans and the debate over whether it was possible to transform German character. At first, the Americans were reluctant to provide any “entertainment” to the people they had just defeated at great cost. In one instance, in a ham-handed effort at “re-education,” Germans were told that an American Western movie was playing and they filled a theater only to be shown a film on the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. By contrast, the Soviets moved much faster in organizing concerts and theater in their zone of occupation. They quickly commandeered major cultural institutions and provided extra food rations to artists. Feigel suggests that this was because the Soviets felt that they had succeeded in a total restructuring of the values of their own society and saw no reason why this kind of conversion couldn’t be centrally directed and achieved in Germany. As the Soviets and the Americans began to draw up cold war lines, the emphasis on de-Nazification in the Western sectors became less of a priority. Feigel argues that the nation had not been fundamentally de-Nazified, democratized or re-educated through Western efforts. Many German institutions began to be run by the same faces that had been in positions of responsibility before the war. Germans could avoid acknowledging guilt and Germans continued to see themselves as victims despite re-education efforts by outsiders. Initiatives to transform German thinking had largely failed. It took the passing of the generation who grew up under Hitler, and the transition to a new generation of young Germans, to succeed in truly transforming German attitudes, she says. Overall this book does an excellent job not only of capturing the physical conditions in a society destroyed by total war, but also of demonstrating the challenges of restructuring and transforming attitudes in a society that brought death and suffering down upon itself. On the evidence of American entanglement in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, this task has not become any easier, the influence of outsiders has not become more effective, and few lessons have been learned from the postwar German experience.

  12. 5 out of 5

    False

    This book crossed so many paths I've already been on: Rebecca West, the Tribunals of Nuremburg, Marlene Dietrich, Martha Gellhorn, the Berlin food airlift, Hollywood and German exiles, filming post WWII Germany and on and on. Thoroughly written, a combination of the best scholarship and the juiciest gossip. General Gavin got AROUND. Highly recommended. A unique angle and take on Germany pre and post WWII. How DID Goring get that cyanide tablet? This book crossed so many paths I've already been on: Rebecca West, the Tribunals of Nuremburg, Marlene Dietrich, Martha Gellhorn, the Berlin food airlift, Hollywood and German exiles, filming post WWII Germany and on and on. Thoroughly written, a combination of the best scholarship and the juiciest gossip. General Gavin got AROUND. Highly recommended. A unique angle and take on Germany pre and post WWII. How DID Goring get that cyanide tablet?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mirjam

    Zum Thema Entnazifizierung, Entnazifizieren, Entnazifiziertwerden, wie auch immer wir es nennen wollen.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tomi

    I won this book on Goodreads, and I really hate to give a bad review to a free book...but - the only reason I gave the book 2 stars is because I did learn something. Other than that, yuck. I'm still not sure what the author was trying to do - was it history? Literary criticism? Literary synopsis? (Apparently the question at the time was whether all Germans were guilty of war crimes or if there were "good" Germans and "bad" Germans. Was the question answered? No.) The book discusses an attempt by I won this book on Goodreads, and I really hate to give a bad review to a free book...but - the only reason I gave the book 2 stars is because I did learn something. Other than that, yuck. I'm still not sure what the author was trying to do - was it history? Literary criticism? Literary synopsis? (Apparently the question at the time was whether all Germans were guilty of war crimes or if there were "good" Germans and "bad" Germans. Was the question answered? No.) The book discusses an attempt by the Western Allies after WWII to try to prevent another war by changing the German culture. To do this, they sent writers and filmmakers to Occupied Germany. I can't believe anybody thought this was actually possible. And the people they sent - Sartre? Thomas Mann? Do ordinary people actually read their writings? At a time when the Germans were starving, I can't imagine anyone hurrying out to attend a lecture by a nihilist author. One thing I learned - and I wish I hadn't - is that many of the literati at this time were perverted. Thomas Mann had a "sexual attraction" to one of his young sons, for example. I felt that the author was trying to make me feel sorry for some of the writers as they toured the bombed-out German cities...and then returned to their luxurious lives while Germans starved and refugees wandered Europe. Nope. I realize that the copy I received is an ARC. I do hope that a good proofreader checks it thoroughly before going to press, because there were a number of mistakes. The author has a rather pretentious style, but I'm still sure that some of the words she used are not words at all.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    For those, like me, who are interested in the last year of the war and it's immediate aftermath, this is a book which is definitely worth reading. Taking the viewpoint of the writers who were in Germany (and especially Berlin) at the end of the war is an interesting slant and it works. Feigel has, I think, an enthusiam for Thomas Mann and his children which she over-does towards the end of the book; you might term her chapter on the Berlin Air Lift period as The Mann Family with food parcels. Fo For those, like me, who are interested in the last year of the war and it's immediate aftermath, this is a book which is definitely worth reading. Taking the viewpoint of the writers who were in Germany (and especially Berlin) at the end of the war is an interesting slant and it works. Feigel has, I think, an enthusiam for Thomas Mann and his children which she over-does towards the end of the book; you might term her chapter on the Berlin Air Lift period as The Mann Family with food parcels. For me this rather weakens the second half of the book where there is a smaller ranger of characters, perhaps because there were fewer of them by that stage, and she could have stopped sooner. That's the reason I only went for 4 stars rather than 5. But carrying on to the establishment of the new German governments does make sense for the story, and then she comes back with a great coda chapter pointing towards the 60s and Bader-Meinhoff, and confronting the fact that there could have been a very different German, and possibly European, history. I could have given that Coda another half star if it had let me! Definitely worth a read, if German in the second half of the 40s interests you :-)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Book was a little too gossipy in parts. Some interesting perspectives on the International Military Tribunal, which I found quite valuable. But did not care about the love affairs of the Generals, reporters.....so I put it down. Maybe for another who likes that stuff. Just not for me - there's the makings of a very good book and I don't dislike it - like I said - I don't care who was sleeping with who in occupied Germany. Book was a little too gossipy in parts. Some interesting perspectives on the International Military Tribunal, which I found quite valuable. But did not care about the love affairs of the Generals, reporters.....so I put it down. Maybe for another who likes that stuff. Just not for me - there's the makings of a very good book and I don't dislike it - like I said - I don't care who was sleeping with who in occupied Germany.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Van Dæmon

    INtersting account of the role of (mostly non-German or expatriate) artists in post-war Germany. Reminded me of my doctoral supervisors who somehow got into Germany in to study theatre in the aftermath of Germany's defeat. Moving in parts, and the account of the Mann's family relationship is moving in parts. Really ***1/2 INtersting account of the role of (mostly non-German or expatriate) artists in post-war Germany. Reminded me of my doctoral supervisors who somehow got into Germany in to study theatre in the aftermath of Germany's defeat. Moving in parts, and the account of the Mann's family relationship is moving in parts. Really ***1/2

  18. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Review pending.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kendra Morgan

    Lots of information, much of it I didn't learn in school. It reads like a textbook, however. I had to push through to finish it. Lots of information, much of it I didn't learn in school. It reads like a textbook, however. I had to push through to finish it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lysergius

    A fascinating account of the Allies attempts to bring culture to a conquered Germany in 1945. Of the failure to de-Nazify the population and of the opportunities missed.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “The Bitter Taste of Victory: Life, love, and art in the ruins of the Third Reich,” by Lara Feigel (Bloomsbury, 2016). Feigel, a scholar of the 1930s and World War II, examines what happened in Germany from the end of the war through 1949-1950. Her argument is that a remarkable group of intellectuals---writers, poets, filmmakers, playwrights---were sent into the ruins hoping to create a better world, unified, open, generous and free, to completely reconfigure Germany. They were supported by the “The Bitter Taste of Victory: Life, love, and art in the ruins of the Third Reich,” by Lara Feigel (Bloomsbury, 2016). Feigel, a scholar of the 1930s and World War II, examines what happened in Germany from the end of the war through 1949-1950. Her argument is that a remarkable group of intellectuals---writers, poets, filmmakers, playwrights---were sent into the ruins hoping to create a better world, unified, open, generous and free, to completely reconfigure Germany. They were supported by the British and American governments, who thought that the spread of high culture would turn the Germans away from their belligerent, warlike nature to something more peaceful. Everyone was terrified of the possible resurgence of another armed Germany. For the first two years they thought they were getting somewhere. But: most Germans did not accept responsibility for what they had done and resented the Allies; the damage was so horrible, appalling, unimaginable they themselves grew depressed; and the Cold War began. The cast Feigel focuses on is extraordinary: Stephen Spender, W. H. Auden, Billy Wilder, Thomas Mann and his son Klaus and daughter, Erika; Martha Gellhorn; Marlene Deitrich; George Orwell; and others. They were horrified by what they encountered. The physical wreckage was beyond comprehension. The structure of the country had been destroyed. The people: none of them knew what Hitler was doing; they didn’t support the Nazis; they had suffered. The westerners did what they do: wrote poems, plays, novels, made movies, tried to create a united cultural world to supplant the German identity. Mann wrote “Doctor Faustus,” his brilliant, tragic portrayal of what happened to the German soul (all the while living in California); Billy Wilder flimed “A Foreign Affair” and later “One Two Three,” his comedies skewering the hypocrisies of all sides. The arts were reborn in Germany, especially Berlin, with astonishing swiftness, with a thriving theater and musical life. But the artists eventually were worn down by their failures to accomplish any significant change, to get the Germans to acknowledge what they had done, and to maintain the support of the West. Slowly, but with gathering speed, the Americans and Soviets faced one another with increasing acrimony. The anti-communists gained power in America, enough to drive the Manns out of their adopted homeland, and otherwise muzzle what had been a thriving intellectual conversation. The Nuremberg Trials were both an exercise in tedium and the foundation of the concept of crimes against humanity. Feigel tells the story with brio and candor. There was a lot of sex and drinking and partying. At one point, both Gellhorn and Dietrich carry on simultaneous affairs with Major Gen. James Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne. Gellhorn wrote that he showed her what fun sex could be, much more exciting than Hemingway. Erika Mann, otherwise a lesbian, had a long affair with Bruno Walter. The characters were fascinating: the Mann siblings, so alike they could have been twins, Rebecca West, so energetic she wore men out. Feigel places a bit more blame on the US for provoking the USSR than I think reasonable, but she is looking at things from a more limited perspective. Both the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift are presented as aggressions against the Russians, although she does acknowledge that the Reds were at least as bad. I may be misreading her about this, though. She reports that it was not until the next generation, when the postwar children began to see what the Nazis/Germans had done, especially after the Eichmann trial, that Germany finally acknowledged responsibility and guilt. In any case, a sobering, tragic story of opportunities lost. http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-bitt...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anne Bryson

    I read Lee Harpers "To set a Watchman" which explores the prejudice of the seemingly non prejudiced. I then read " The Little Red Chairs" by Edna O'Brien, a novel dealing with a charismatic psychopath whose activities have far reaching devastating effects. Then I read "The Bitter Taste Of Victory", a treatise on the aftermath of WW11 in Germany. I found the book to be both informative and interesting. Lara Feigal combines the personal through the work of film makers, writers and artists with the I read Lee Harpers "To set a Watchman" which explores the prejudice of the seemingly non prejudiced. I then read " The Little Red Chairs" by Edna O'Brien, a novel dealing with a charismatic psychopath whose activities have far reaching devastating effects. Then I read "The Bitter Taste Of Victory", a treatise on the aftermath of WW11 in Germany. I found the book to be both informative and interesting. Lara Feigal combines the personal through the work of film makers, writers and artists with the factual events. The result is an in depth view of the difficulties, the vacillation, the differences between the Allies and the changing of viewpoints. The personal reactions to the sufferings of the German people and the ambivalence towards them in the light of the concentration camps gives a sense of the difficulties in maintaining a hard line against the people. Having lived through these times, many experiences have been clarified for me. My Mother agreed to host a German girl who arrived in our town with a group of young Germans in 1951. Two of the group members became lifelong friends. I have visited Germany several times since, beginning in the early fifties when I thought crowded living conditions meant lots of other children to play with and going to school for half the day was enviable. We had bomb sites in Yorkshire, Cologne just had more of them. Over the years I came to see matters differently. Reading this book brought back many memories and revealed the complexity of the situation as well as a broader understanding of German characteristics. The three books highlight the consequences of scapegoating other people, the terrible damage that blindly following certain leaders can create and the difficulties involved in trying to deal with the aftermath.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    An interesting look at trying to use culture/propaganda to reform Germany after WWII. I liked that it was from the perspective of writers, journalists, and actors rather than the governmental or military point of view. You also got to see how the war and occupation affected people's relationships with each other, as well as some of the effects of the growth of the divide between the US and Russia and McCarthyism. An interesting look at trying to use culture/propaganda to reform Germany after WWII. I liked that it was from the perspective of writers, journalists, and actors rather than the governmental or military point of view. You also got to see how the war and occupation affected people's relationships with each other, as well as some of the effects of the growth of the divide between the US and Russia and McCarthyism.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dave Hoff

    A book covering the end of the war in Europe, 1945 til 1949 when a bit of Democratic rule happens. The Allied Occupation troops had to de-Nazify, de-mililitarise, de-centriatize, and democratize the German people. Were the villagers Nazi, Nein, next village, ja was repeated. Anti-Nazi by day, Nazi by night led to non-fraternization by GIs and Limies. Liberators or Occupiers, even the Brass confused. Add a bunch of avant-garde writers and artists with morals of an alley cat and the book is a 2 st A book covering the end of the war in Europe, 1945 til 1949 when a bit of Democratic rule happens. The Allied Occupation troops had to de-Nazify, de-mililitarise, de-centriatize, and democratize the German people. Were the villagers Nazi, Nein, next village, ja was repeated. Anti-Nazi by day, Nazi by night led to non-fraternization by GIs and Limies. Liberators or Occupiers, even the Brass confused. Add a bunch of avant-garde writers and artists with morals of an alley cat and the book is a 2 star at it's best. Marlene Dietrich comes thru best, with her front line morale boosting of our guys during and soon after the war. Billy Wilder for his hate for the Nazi and what they had done to a beautiful country. The Nuremberg trials and the Berlin Air Lift covered well.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Val

    I did not really get on with this at all, which is a shame as I enjoyed her The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War. I think the difference is that the writers in the London book were sharing the experiences of those around them, whereas in Germany they are outsiders and remain so. Perhaps the best part of the book is the chapter on the Nuremburg trials, because it has a bit more reportage and a bit less about the reporters personal problems. I did not really get on with this at all, which is a shame as I enjoyed her The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War. I think the difference is that the writers in the London book were sharing the experiences of those around them, whereas in Germany they are outsiders and remain so. Perhaps the best part of the book is the chapter on the Nuremburg trials, because it has a bit more reportage and a bit less about the reporters personal problems.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Ugh. I really thought this book would be more interesting given the subject matter. The author imbues all her personal feelings into the artists that tried to build a new Germany out of the ashes of the Second World War. She essentially speaks for authors like Mann and Brecht creating her own reality of what they must have thought during those years. Hemingway and Gellhorn are not spared her criticism either, and all in all, it becomes painful in a hurry.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rory Bergin

    A detailed look into the lives of many writers, actors and artists who visited Germany in the years immediately post WWII. Particularly relevant to UK readers who have forgotten what the European project was for and how it was born in the ruins of Europe confronted with an unrepentant Germany and a threatening Russia. 'Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose' A detailed look into the lives of many writers, actors and artists who visited Germany in the years immediately post WWII. Particularly relevant to UK readers who have forgotten what the European project was for and how it was born in the ruins of Europe confronted with an unrepentant Germany and a threatening Russia. 'Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose'

  28. 5 out of 5

    Willard Thompson

    Interesting Take On History The research here is quite amazingly in depth and detailed with a strong focus on writers and artists. At times the author detours into too much literary detail that slow down the narrative or brings it to a dead stop.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Beverly J. Harvey

    Interesting, but slow to get through.

  30. 4 out of 5

    KarnagesMistress

    I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. It is an Advance Reading Copy.

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