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Summer Learning Track: War’s End

Thousands of books have been written on World War II, but less attention has been paid to the messy aftermath, when war-ravaged Europe and Asia had to figure out how to rebuild and many US veterans returned home to an uncertain future. This was also the time of the Nuremberg Trials and, a few years on, the first stirrings of the Cold War with the Berlin Airlift.

A good place to start in looking at this turbulent period is Ian Buruma’s Year Zero: A History of 1945. Buruma writes vividly of the chaos of rebuilding in Europe and Asia, and he also presents the story of his father, a Dutch citizen sent by the Nazis to Berlin for forced labor who struggled to survive and make his way home after Germany’s surrender on 8 May 1945.

This summer, as we observe the 70th anniversaries of V-E Day and V-J Day, make it your Summer Learning Challenge to find out more about what happened after the war’s end. You can even watch a couple of movies as part of the challenge: Roberto Rossellini’s 1948 docudrama Germany Year Zero and the 1946 William Wyler classic The Best Years of Our Lives.


Amazon Says: In the momentous days from April 28 to May 2, 1945, the world witnessed the death of two Fascist dictators and the fall of Berlin. Mussolini's capture and execution by Italian more...
Amazon Says: In the momentous days from April 28 to May 2, 1945, the world witnessed the death of two Fascist dictators and the fall of Berlin. Mussolini's capture and execution by Italian partisans, the suicide of Adolf Hitler, and the fall of the German capital signaled the end of the four-year war in the European Theater. In Five Days That Shocked the World, Nicholas Best thrills readers with the first-person accounts of those who lived through this dramatic time.In this valuable work of history, the author's special achievement is weaving together the reports of famous and soon-to-be-famous individuals who experienced the war up close. We follow a young Walter Cronkite as he parachutes into Holland with a Canadian troop; photographer Lee Miller capturing the evidence of Nazi atrocities; the future Pope Benedict returning home and hoping not to get caught and shot after deserting his infantry unit; Audrey Hepburn no longer having to fear conscription into a Wehrmacht brothel; and even an SS doctor's descriptions of a decadent sex orgy in Hitler's bunker.In skillfully synthesizing these personal narratives, Best creates a compelling chronicle of the five earth-shaking days when Fascism lost it death grip on Europe. With this vivid and fast-paced narrative, the author reaffirms his reputation as an expert on the final days of great wars. less...
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Amazon Says: From the author of the best-selling One Minute to Midnight, a riveting account of the pivotal six-month period spanning the end of World War II, the dawn of the nuclear age, a more...
Amazon Says: From the author of the best-selling One Minute to Midnight, a riveting account of the pivotal six-month period spanning the end of World War II, the dawn of the nuclear age, and the beginning of the Cold War. When Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill met in Yalta in February 1945, Hitler’s armies were on the run and victory was imminent.  The Big Three wanted to draft a blueprint for a lasting peace—but instead set the stage for a forty-four-year division of Europe into Soviet and western spheres of influence. After fighting side by side for nearly four years, their political alliance was rapidly fracturing. By the time the leaders met again in Potsdam in July 1945, Russians and Americans were squabbling over the future of Germany and Churchill was warning about an “iron curtain” being drawn down over the Continent. These six months witnessed some of the most dramatic moments of the twentieth century: the cataclysmic battle for Berlin, the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the discovery of the Nazi concentration camps, Churchill’s electoral defeat, and the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. While their armies linked up in the heart of Europe, the political leaders maneuvered for leverage: Stalin using his nation’s wartime sacrifices to claim spoils, Churchill doing his best to halt Britain’s waning influence, FDR trying to charm Stalin, Truman determined to stand up to an increasingly assertive Soviet superpower. Six Months in 1945 brilliantly captures this momentous historical turning point, chronicling the geopolitical twists behind the descent of the iron curtain, while illuminating the aims and personalities of larger-than-life political giants. It is a vividly rendered story of individual and national interests in fierce competition at a seminal moment in history. less...
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Amazon Says: From one of our finest cultural historians, The Noir Forties is a vivid reexamination of America's postwar period, that “age of anxiety” characterized by the dissipation of more...
Amazon Says: From one of our finest cultural historians, The Noir Forties is a vivid reexamination of America's postwar period, that “age of anxiety” characterized by the dissipation of victory dreams, the onset of the Red Scare, and a nascent resistance to the growing Cold War consensus. Richard Lingeman examines a brief but momentous and crowded time, the years between VJ Day and the beginning of the Korean War, describing how we got from there to here. It evokes the social and cultural milieu of the late forties, with the vicissitudes of the New Deal Left and Popular Front culture from the end of one hot war and the beginning of the cold one—and, longer term, of a cold war that preoccupied the United States for the next fifty years. It traces the attitudes, sentiments, hopes and fears, prejudices, behavior, and collective dreams and nightmares of the times, as reflected in the media, popular culture, political movements, opinion polls, and sociological and psychological studies of mass beliefs and behavior. less...
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Amazon Says: A trusted member of Hitler’s inner circle, Artur Axmann, the head of the Hitler Youth, witnessed the Führer commit suicide in Berlin—but he would not let the Reich die wi more...
Amazon Says: A trusted member of Hitler’s inner circle, Artur Axmann, the head of the Hitler Youth, witnessed the Führer commit suicide in Berlin—but he would not let the Reich die with its leader. Evading capture, and with access to remnants of the regime’s wealth, Axmann had enough followers to reestablish the Nazi party in the very heart of Allied-occupied Germany—and position himself to become dictator of the Fourth Reich. U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps Officer Jack Hunter was the perfect undercover operative. Fluent in German, he posed as a black marketeer to root out Nazi sympathizers and saboteurs after the war, and along with other CIC agents uncovered the extent of Axmann’s conspiracy. It threatened to bring the Nazis back into power—and the task fell to Hunter and his team to stop it. The Axmann Conspiracy is the previously untold true story of the Nazi threat that continued in the wake of World War II, the espionage that defeated it, and two fascinating men whose lives forever altered the course of history. INCLUDES PHOTOGRAPHS AND MAPS less...
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Amazon Says: "Robert Dallek brings to this majestic work a profound understanding of history, a deep engagement in foreign policy, and a lifetime of studying leadership. The story of what more...
Amazon Says: "Robert Dallek brings to this majestic work a profound understanding of history, a deep engagement in foreign policy, and a lifetime of studying leadership. The story of what went wrong during the postwar period…has never been more intelligently explored." —Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Team of RivalsRobert Dalleck follows his bestselling Nixon and Kissenger: Partners in Power and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 with this masterful account of the crucial period that shaped the postwar world. As the Obama Administration struggles to define its strategy for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Dallek's critical and compelling look at Truman, Churchill, Stalin, and other world leaders in the wake of World War II not only offers important historical perspective but provides timely insight on America's course into the future. less...
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Amazon Says: One of our most enduring national myths surrounds the men and women who fought in the so-called "Good War." The Greatest Generation, we're told by Tom Brokaw and others, fough more...
Amazon Says: One of our most enduring national myths surrounds the men and women who fought in the so-called "Good War." The Greatest Generation, we're told by Tom Brokaw and others, fought heroically, then returned to America happy, healthy and well-adjusted. They quickly and cheerfully went on with the business of rebuilding their lives. In this shocking and hauntingly beautiful book, historian Thomas Childers shatters that myth. He interweaves the intimate story of three families?including his own?with a decades' worth of research to paint an entirely new picture of the war's aftermath. Drawing on government documents, interviews, oral histories and diaries, he reveals that 10,000 veterans a month were being diagnosed with psycho-neurotic disorder (now known as PTSD). Alcoholism, homelessness, and unemployment were rampant, leading to a skyrocketing divorce rate. Many veterans bounced back, but their struggle has been lost in a wave of nostalgia that threatens to undermine a new generation of returning soldiers. Novelistic in its telling and impeccably researched, Childers's book is a stark reminder that the price of war is unimaginably high. The consequences are human, not just political, and the toll can stretch across generations. less...
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Amazon Says: Politicians of every stripe frequently invoke the Marshall Plan in support of programs aimed at using American wealth to extend the nation's power and influence, solve intract more...
Amazon Says: Politicians of every stripe frequently invoke the Marshall Plan in support of programs aimed at using American wealth to extend the nation's power and influence, solve intractable third-world economic problems, and combat world hunger and disease. Do any of these impassioned advocates understand why the Marshall Plan succeeded where so many subsequent aid plans have not? Historian Nicolaus Mills explores the Marshall Plan in all its dimensions to provide valuable lessons from the past about what America can and cannot do as a superpower. less...
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Amazon Says: Sixty years have passed since the Nuremberg trials of the major Nazi war criminals, but that event still stands as the foundation of international justice. Nuremberg not only more...
Amazon Says: Sixty years have passed since the Nuremberg trials of the major Nazi war criminals, but that event still stands as the foundation of international justice. Nuremberg not only ignited a revolution in international law but affected domestic law as well with its simple but profound priniciple that every individual accused of crime is entitled to a full and fair hearing.This book reveals how the precedents set at Nuremberg have affected human rights, race relations, medical practice, big business and even Germany's post-war development. It also examines the Nuremberg trials' influence on the modern war crimes trials of tyrants like Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. less...
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Amazon Says: Traces America's four-year diplomatic efforts to help rebuild post-World War II Europe, an endeavor that involved a thirteen-billion-dollar plan and was heavily influenced by more...
Amazon Says: Traces America's four-year diplomatic efforts to help rebuild post-World War II Europe, an endeavor that involved a thirteen-billion-dollar plan and was heavily influenced by political factors. By the author of The Invisible People. 40,000 first printing. less...
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Amazon Says: 1945 is a monumental, multi-dimensional history of the end of World War II. Dallas narrates in meticulous detail the conflicts, contradictions, motives, and counter-motives th more...
Amazon Says: 1945 is a monumental, multi-dimensional history of the end of World War II. Dallas narrates in meticulous detail the conflicts, contradictions, motives, and counter-motives that marked the end of the greatest military conflict in modern history and established lasting patterns of deceit, uncertainty, and distrust out of which the Cold War was born. Beginning with the siege of Berlin, Dallas describes in simple human terms the interactions of Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Hitler, Zhukov, Truman, de Gaulle, Macmillan, along with others relatively unknown, vividly portraying the interpenetration of the daily with the epochal, the obscure with the great political events taking place on the world stage. A grand narrative of diplomatic mistakes, military accidents, and the chaos inherent in human affairs,1945 draws the reader into a profound reflection on the basic shaping forces of history, the arbitrary ways we objectify its conflicts, and the subtle, almost invisible filaments that enmesh public events with private passions. less...
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Amazon Says: Japan's success in charting a new course in the years following World War II stems from the reforming impetus of General Headquarters/Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers ( more...
Amazon Says: Japan's success in charting a new course in the years following World War II stems from the reforming impetus of General Headquarters/Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP), headquarters of the American-led allied occupation that indirectly governed Japan for nearly seven years following World War II. Inside GHQ is the story of the reforms of the Occupation period and of the remarkable men and women, Japanese and American, who implemented them. Eiji Takemae introduces a wealth of new material on the wartime origins of Occupation policies, the British Commonwealth Force, the Kurils, Okinawa, the Korean minority, A-bomb survivors, war crimes, the Constitution, education, and health and welfare. Inside GHQ is the definitive account of the occupation - its strengths, shortcomings, and failures - and provides immense insight into the state of contemporary Japan. less...
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Amazon Says: As we near the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the Third Reich, its repressive regime and the catastrophic war it spawned continue to fascinate and horrify the publi more...
Amazon Says: As we near the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the Third Reich, its repressive regime and the catastrophic war it spawned continue to fascinate and horrify the public's imagination. Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945 fills a gap in the history of the Second World War, allowing us for the first time to witness the initial interrogations of the German high command in the summer of 1945 by the American, British, and Russian allies. It was in these crucial early interviews that the Allies first learned the true nature of the Third Reich and discovered the dimensions of the Nazis' Final Solution. Acclaimed British historian Richard Overy makes brilliant use of the interrogation transcripts to re-create a picture of Germany in its lowest hour, with snapshot portraits of Göring, Speer, von Ribbentrop, and Hess in their own words. Through Interrogations, the reader comes face-to-face with a regime in its death throes and with a world struggling to understand what had really been perpetrated within the gigantic fortress of Hitler's reich. less...
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