Europe in the Era of Two World Wars: From Militarism and Genocide to Civil Society, 1900-1950

Princeton University Press

How and why did Europe spawn dictatorships and violence in the first half of the twentieth century, and then, after 1945 in the west and after 1989 in the east, create successful civilian societies? In this book, Volker Berghahn explains the rise and fall of the men of violence whose wars and civil wars twice devastated large areas of the European continent and Russia--until, after World War II, Europe adopted a liberal capitalist model of society that had first emerged in the United States, and the beginnings of which the Europeans had experienced in the mid-1920s.

Berghahn begins by looking at how the violence perpetrated in Europe's colonial empires boomeranged into Europe, contributing to the millions of casualties on the battlefields of World War I. Next he considers the civil wars of the 1920s and the renewed rise of militarism and violence in the wake of the Great Crash of 1929. The second wave of even more massive violence crested in total war from 1939 to 1945 that killed more civilians than soldiers, and this time included the industrialized murder of millions of innocent men, women, and children in the Holocaust. However, as Berghahn concludes, the alternative vision of organizing a modern industrial society on a civilian basis--in which people peacefully consume mass-produced goods rather than being 'consumed' by mass-produced weapons--had never disappeared. With the United States emerging as the hegemonic power of the West, it was this model that finally prevailed in Western Europe after 1945 and after the end of the Cold War in Eastern Europe as well.

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About the author

Volker R. Berghahn is Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University. He is the author of numerous books on modern German and European history and on European-American relations in the twentieth century including, most recently, America and the Intellectual Cold Wars in Europe (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 18, 2009
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Pages
176
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ISBN
9780691141220
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / General
History / Modern / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In 1958, Shepard Stone, then directing the Ford Foundation's International Affairs program, suggested that his staff "measure" America's cultural impact in Europe. He wanted to determine whether efforts to improve opinions of American culture were yielding good returns. Taking Stone's career as a point of departure and frequent return, Volker Berghahn examines the triangular relationship between the producers of ideas and ideologies, corporate America, and Washington policymakers at a peculiar juncture of U.S. history. He also looks across the Atlantic, at the Western European intellectuals, politicians, and businessmen with whom these Americans were in frequent contact. While shattered materially and psychologically by World War II, educated Europeans did not shed their opinions about the inferiority, vulgarity, and commercialism of American culture. American elites--particularly the East Coast establishment--deeply resented this condescension. They believed that the United States had two culture wars to win: one against the Soviet Bloc as part of the larger struggle against communism and the other against deeply rooted negative views of America as a civilization. To triumph, they spent large sums of money on overt and covert activities, from tours of American orchestras to the often secret funding of European publications and intellectual congresses by the CIA.

At the center of these activities were the Ford Foundation, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and Washington's agents of cultural diplomacy. This was a world of Ivy League academics and East Coast intellectuals, of American philanthropic organizations and their backers in big business, of U.S. government agencies and their counterparts across the Atlantic. This book uses Shepard Stone as a window to this world in which the European-American relationship was hammered out in cultural terms--an arena where many of the twentieth century's major intellectual trends and conflicts unfolded.

How and why did Europe spawn dictatorships and violence in the first half of the twentieth century, and then, after 1945 in the west and after 1989 in the east, create successful civilian societies? In this book, Volker Berghahn explains the rise and fall of the men of violence whose wars and civil wars twice devastated large areas of the European continent and Russia--until, after World War II, Europe adopted a liberal capitalist model of society that had first emerged in the United States, and the beginnings of which the Europeans had experienced in the mid-1920s.

Berghahn begins by looking at how the violence perpetrated in Europe's colonial empires boomeranged into Europe, contributing to the millions of casualties on the battlefields of World War I. Next he considers the civil wars of the 1920s and the renewed rise of militarism and violence in the wake of the Great Crash of 1929. The second wave of even more massive violence crested in total war from 1939 to 1945 that killed more civilians than soldiers, and this time included the industrialized murder of millions of innocent men, women, and children in the Holocaust. However, as Berghahn concludes, the alternative vision of organizing a modern industrial society on a civilian basis--in which people peacefully consume mass-produced goods rather than being 'consumed' by mass-produced weapons--had never disappeared. With the United States emerging as the hegemonic power of the West, it was this model that finally prevailed in Western Europe after 1945 and after the end of the Cold War in Eastern Europe as well.

While America's relationship with Britain has often been deemed unique, especially during the two world wars when Germany was a common enemy, the American business sector actually had a greater affinity with Germany for most of the twentieth century. American Big Business in Britain and Germany examines the triangular relationship between the American, British, and German business communities and how the special relationship that Britain believed it had with the United States was supplanted by one between America and Germany.

Volker Berghahn begins with the pre-1914 period and moves through the 1920s, when American investments supported German reconstruction rather than British industry. The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 led to a reversal in German-American relations, forcing American corporations to consider cutting their losses or collaborating with a regime that was inexorably moving toward war. Although Britain hoped that the wartime economic alliance with the United States would continue after World War II, the American business community reconnected with West Germany to rebuild Europe’s economy. And while Britain thought they had established their special relationship with America once again in the 1980s and 90s, in actuality it was the Germans who, with American help, had acquired an informal economic empire on the European continent.

American Big Business in Britain and Germany uncovers the surprising and differing relationships of the American business community with two major European trading partners from 1900 through the twentieth century.

The moral and political role of German journalists before, during, and after the Nazi dictatorship

Journalists between Hitler and Adenauer takes an in-depth look at German journalism from the late Weimar period through the postwar decades. Illuminating the roles played by journalists in the media metropolis of Hamburg, Volker Berghahn focuses on the lives and work of three remarkable individuals: Marion Countess Dönhoff, distinguished editor of Die Zeit; Paul Sethe, “the grand old man of West German journalism”; and Hans Zehrer, editor in chief of Die Welt.

All born before 1914, Dönhoff, Sethe, and Zehrer witnessed the Weimar Republic’s end and opposed Hitler. When the latter seized power in 1933, they were, like their fellow Germans, confronted with the difficult choice of entering exile, becoming part of the active resistance, or joining the Nazi Party. Instead, they followed a fourth path—“inner emigration”—psychologically distancing themselves from the regime, their writing falling into a gray zone between grudging collaboration and active resistance. During the war, Dönhoff and Sethe had links to the 1944 conspiracy to kill Hitler, while Zehrer remained out of sight on a North Sea island. In the decades after 1945, all three became major figures in the West German media. Berghahn considers how these journalists and those who chose inner emigration interpreted Germany’s horrific past and how they helped to morally and politically shape the reconstruction of the country.

With fresh archival materials, Journalists between Hitler and Adenauer sheds essential light on the influential position of the German media in the mid-twentieth century and raises questions about modern journalism that remain topical today.

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