The foundations of 20th century international organizations comes from the ashes of two world wars. It can be easy to forget the scale of devastation, the sorrows of nations, and the brutality faced by large populations. This starting point is important in order to fully begin to comprehend why founders of the UN and European Community felt so compelled to chart a way forward.
A news book reviewed by Modris Eksteins in the WSJ considers a remarkable new book that tries to understand this epochal year:
Ian Buruma has tackled the impossible. How do you sum up, in language devoid of complexity or jargon, a global human experience that transcends the clichéd vernacular? If you write about 1945, the year the world’s hot war ended and the incipient cold war turned colder, you have to deal with a myriad of simply indescribable situations: among them genocide, carpet bombing, atomic annihilation and a flood-tide of desperation on a scale never imagined let alone described in any comprehensive fashion. “I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world,” Eisenhower wrote home to his wife in April. “The ruin is the symbol of our age,” insisted the German writer Hans Werner Richter.
Details – Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma, Penguin Press, 368 pages, $29.95