Germany had become a nation of walkers. Men, women, children and the infirm all at some point in time and across the formerly spacious Reich left their homes, shoppes and places of worship toward the center or west of Germany. The sins committed by fathers and sons of Germany had come home, and many faced a fork in the road of their lives: Suicide and a quick death, or run, and stave off death at least for a little while. In After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation attempts to bring this dark and turbulent era of peace to light in hopes of putting a mirror to the faces of an overly righteous east and west.

While conventional knowledge of the Russian atrocities in Berlin and elsewhere was widely available and shared during the Cold War, less discussed, if known, was the atrocities committed by French, English and American soldiers against the occupied populous from the time of Germany’s surrender through the creation of the West German state in the late 1940s. To be sure, on scale alone, Russia’s crimes against the German people are of a magnitude unmatched elsewhere in continental history since perhaps the 30 Years War.

MacDonogh is adept at exploring and interweaving the Macro and the Mico scale of destruction that permeated not just from an economic perspective, but also the fraying of the cultural fabric of German society. For example, the assault of German women was also compounded by the fact that many women were later forced to commoditize their bodies in order to procure goods for their families that they needed to survive. This begrudged the German men, if any were left, and had an emasculating effect that likely put strains on thousands of post war marriages.

In addition, through utilizing personal narratives, MacDonogh is skillfully able to create a complex portrait of persons and places that provides a human face to the occupation while not neglecting the need to examine the topic in a broad, generally readable, manner.

                At the risk of stating the obvious, any academic student will quickly realize that it is inherently difficult to create a broad and stimulating historical examination of a period of time that occupies the better part of a decade and spans several countries and hundreds of historical actors. The author does his best, but by the time the reader reaches the occupation of Austria, the intellectual and emotional reserves are run thin. This is unfortunate, because the occupation of former Hapsburg lands is almost more interesting than the increasingly homogenized Germany. When occupying forces entered the west and east of the countries, respectively, they happened upon a country filled with deportees from the east as well as Slovenes, Croats, Italians as well as native Austrians.

In many cases, the German speaking evacuees had been forcibly put on trains or forced to walk the hundreds if not thousands of miles to the Austrian border while experiencing every conceivable type of deprivation and denigration. This presented a complex issue to the three occupying nations (UK, USA, USSR), who approached their occupying duty in Austria with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The English were bored, the Americans were confused, and the Russians mainly concerned with shipping everything of industrial or economic value back to the charred and destroyed areas in the east. This is in stark contrast to the attitudes of the occupiers of Germany proper, where the attitudes of the Big Three were almost uniformly punitive. It is a shame that Macdonogh does not spend more time on this analysis, as he becomes more involved in presenting an ever growing and wearying amount of evidence of Allied crimes.

Another particularly jarring moment is the oft overlooked (or purposefully hidden) role of the English troops in ‘repatriating’ Cossack troops who had fought under German flag against Bolshevik’s, but as Stalin made clear, they were still citizens of his Soviet Union and therefore his to deal with. This in effect was a mass deportation of men but also their women and children to the east and an almost certain death. A slightly moving if romanticized moment occurs when the German commander of the Cossacks, Helmut Von Pannwitz, chooses to go to Russia with the rest of the men under his command, though strictly speaking as a Wehrmacht officer in British custody he was not forced to go with them. Macdonogh masterfully shows the connections that people make during wartime that have long reverberating effects. Pannwitz was summarily shot in Moscow upon his arrival for crimes against the Slavs in Yugoslavia. The casualness with which death was meted out after the supposed peace is one of the great unmentioned themes of the Macdonogh’s work, and is the element that sticks with the reader the most after conclusion.

The race to the finish of a conflict often includes a frenzied period of violence in advance of the coming peace. Before the guns went silent on the eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month in the last Great War, the artillery from both sides rang constantly, hoping to add one more body to the enemy’s cemeteries and wastelands. In the second war, violence of that sort continued unabated long after the ink on the losers signed documents went dry. If anything, Macdonogh show readers that assault, looting and murder petered out only after the perpetrators appetite, whetted by 6 years of deprivation, had been satiated.

In the west, the narrative shown to school children and uninformed adults is one of monastically abstinent American and British soldiers entering a benighted Germany, grateful for their carpet bombings and ‘liberating’ them from their possessions and in some cases, lives. Instead, what Macdonogh shows is that brutality is not party to one nation or one side. Instead it is a crime that makes even victors become villains.

Recommended for readers familiar with Central European social history and revisionist narratives.

  After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation by Giles MacDonogh. Basic Books USA: 2007. 656 Pages.  Purchased copy.

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Brad DeLong explains:

Negative supply shocks and missed collective guesses on what the extent of the market will be in the future create overaccumulation and overproduction. Marx is very clear that the monetary crisis theorists–like John Stuart Mill–must be wrong, and that the system cannot run itself without crises.

DeLong notes that Marx takes the opposite view regarding the boom and bust that often occurs in capitalist environments. Either the system ought to be overthrown, or it needs to be born like a great labour because it is inherently good.

Despite the nearly 130 years since Marx’s words, it remains nearly impossible to find a thinker as complex and deep as Marx.

Matthew O’Brien wote a fantastic article at the Atlantic about the drummed up hysteria over hyper inflation.

Money quote:

Weimar Germany and Zimbabwe have both captured our popular imagination when it comes to money-printing ad absurdum, but post-war Hungary has both of them beat. By many, many orders of magnitude. Indeed, on an annual basis, Hungary’s peak inflation rate was over 10,000,000,000,000,000 times more severe than Weimar’s. Prices in Hungary doubled every 15 hours.

Credit: The Atlantic

The latest from The Institute of International Finance (IIF) argues that Europe would be cratered by a Greek default.

Money quote:

Here’s how the IIF breaks down the costs of a disorderly default: $498 billion to stabilize Portugal and Ireland, $459 billion to do the same for Spain and Italy, a $232 billion capital hit to the ECB, $209 billion to recapitalize European banks, and $96 billion in losses for Greek bondholders. The below chart breaks down how these figures fit into the overall picture.

Mark Thoma at the Economist’s View blog wrote a fun post trying to learn more about comparative economic systems. Comparative economics seems to be a function of macro econ that was more in vogue when there was a non-free market equivalent across the sea to contend with, (the USSR).

I find conversations concerning economic model comparisons a fun pastime. When I initially went to look for information from better writers than I, I jumped over to the website Marxists.org. As a History major in college I tended to use this site a lot for referencing social movements and to an extent, understanding the radical left’s positions in economic discourse. Of course, I am not strictly speaking a “Marxist”, but I think that Christopher Hitchens posited it best when earlier in the decade he was asked if he would still describe himself as a socialist. He replied that he was not a socialist, but still a marxist (lowercase intentional).

To students of Leftist history this sentence made sense. To view the history of the world through the lens of class struggle frames conversations about race, employment and even art in the most ochem’s razor of ways. At the bottom of those conversations are discourses about how we talk when we talk about the most base of all human endeavors since at least the spread of capital-the urge to attain more capital.

One the most interesting developments in the critique of state capitalism as it was practiced in the USSR was from Anton Pannekoek. Pannekoek theorized that the revolution in Russia had failed to augment the class struggle in a substantive way because in the Soviet system workers were on the dole from the state which was dictating the goals of production and demand. Essentially, the breaking of the small workers councils or, soviet’s, doomed the revolution and its proletariat because it had created a party apparatus in the role of private ownership in relation to wealth sharing.

Pannekoek:

It is to be expected that, as a result of great economic tension and conflict, the class struggle of the future proletariat will flare up into mass action; whether this mass action be the came of wage conflicts wars or economic crises, whether the shape it takes be that of mass strikes, street riots or armed struggle; the proletariat will establish council organizations – organs of self-determination and uniform execution of action

 

I would advise anybody with even a modicum of interest in economics to study both the Austrian School (Hayek etc) and economists from the European left. It makes for some fun discovery, and might help you think about economics and monetary policies in ways you hadn’t before.

 

 

Meg Greene, senior economist at Roubini Global explains the situation the Greeks are presently in.

Money quote
:

Is the Greek government likely to agree to transfer its fiscal sovereignty to Brussels? Some Greeks have argued that the population would be better off if Greece’s fiscal discipline were in the hands of Eurocrats rather than corrupt Greek politicians. I think it highly unlikely a bureaucrat chosen by the Eurogroup would have more success changing the political culture and Greek attitudes towards corruption, wasteful spending or tax evasion any better than the Greek government can. Regardless, the Greek government has so far indicated it is dead set against the idea. When asked about the German proposal, one Greek government source responded “there is no way we could accept such a thing.” The government released an official statement saying responsibility for fiscal policy rests solely with Greece.

Austrian avaialibilty to the internet is changing, says the Austrian Times.

Money quote:

Europe-wide investigations show that Austrians take last place when it comes to how long they surf the web for each day. The study, which was presented last year, reveals that Austrians go online 14 hours a month – which is half the European average. People living in the Netherlands are at the top with 35.2 monthly internet hours, followed by Britons (33.9 hours) and Turks (31.8), according to Austrian magazine profil.

When I lived in Salzburg  several years ago, I was aghast at the lack of connectivity to the internet, and the nonchalance with which many locals seemed to shrug off this lack of connectivity.