Europe’s history in the twentieth century can conveniently be divided into a sad, hopeless story of economic and military disaster on the one hand and a triumphant one against political instability on the other. From the silence on the returning memories during the Cold War, one can infer its close connection to World War 2. The postwar period has just begun. World War 2, the most considerable dispute of world history, did not end in 1945. In this book, the usual emphasis on the Cold War to act as the primary historical framework for the understanding of the postwar period is changed. It doubts 1935’s claim to be a ‘zero hour’ and studies postwar life from various angles, including the political, economic, touristic, and consumerist.
‘Who could say to the anti-Nazis in Europe that the past they are fighting for is already weak and destroyed? Their aim is a new world!
Le Franc-tireur, 1 March 1944 (Stone, 2012).
‘We live on the border between two worlds. If we can manage to find an ethic that aims at human welfare at the expense of economical, racial, or national interest, then we might be able to rejuvenate our continent and give education and ease to people who long more for homes, work, and books than firearms and tanks.’
Anatol Girs (Stone, 2012).
‘You will probably stop believing in yourself and humanity when you see that survivors of the disaster and building the new in exactly the ways that led the old to fall.’
Gregor von Rezzori1
Primo Levi is one of the famous authors of the great testimonies of the catastrophe belonging to Europe. In fact, the origin of this appearance of the genre of this predefined testimony in the late 20th century cannot be imagined without him. Primo Levi’s fame is a result of writing one of the greatest statements of Europe’s disaster. In fact, the emergence of testimony in the late twentieth (p. 2) century as a genre was made possible by him. Levi also wrote many short stories for publication in Italian journals in the 1960s and 1970s. On the one hand, If This Is a Man and The Truce ended up defining the Holocaust and establishing Auschwitz as postwar Europe’s prime example of evil. On the other, ‘Gladiators’, which was first published in L’Automobile in 1976, seemingly summarizes many of the postwar periods’ defining qualities: technology, money, recreation, sport, and shifting gender relations; as well as mass consumption, alienation, ‘massification,’ and violence. All are exemplified in Levi’s story, in which the eponymous fighters. Levi’s story features all these, with the fighters—mostly convicts—from which the story gets its name, are pushed into space where, with only the help of a hammer, they have to save themselves from being run over by cars.2 A gladiator’s escape via a feat of athleticism invites the spectators’ applause, with the highest applause given to the gladiator who hammers a driver’s skull in. This level of violence is shocking, especially considering that it is surrounded by recreation and that representative symbol of postwar mass culture, the car. But the fact that Levi wrote it, with the dark prospect of Auschwitz always hovering in the background, ‘Gladiators’ also point to the fact that the apparently stable postwar European consumer society hides the fact that Europe’s darker history is hiding just below the surface. Compared to a novel like Georges Perec’s W or The Memory of Childhood (1975), in which a full society is designed along the rigid lines of sport—a story that illustrates the effort to make interwar and wartime society into grand barracks—Levi’s sees a society not perpetually mobilized, like one under fascism, yet ready and willing both to use and delight in violence.
The Italy of the 1970s, when Levi authored ‘Gladiators,’ was a society haunted by the memories of fascism. In its most dangerous display, the extreme-left Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse) looked to debunk the ‘objective’ fascism of the modern state by baiting it into suppressing itself, thereby orchestrating a shift towards the right. As with the Red Army Faction in West Germany, the Red Brigades were simultaneously but unintentionally performing the fascists’ duties for them; in fact, their unripe psychological tendencies towards violence made them, in spite of their proclaimed ideologies, inheritors of European fascism in a complicated way. In a time defined by both Eurocommunism and Eurosclerosis, the everyday disorder of postwar Italian politics meant that violence, corruption (including the schemes of the P2 masonic lodge), unreliability, and terrorism were existing with never before seen economic welfare in the new and peaceful context of the EEC.
The tempting story of Europe in the 20th century can be divided into two parts: starting with the bleak tale of war, poverty, and genocide, leading to the happy explanation of stability and the explicit boring normality over the exuberant politics and dangerous activism. It is not unwarranted when we stick to the 2oth century of Eric Hobsbawm’s 1914 to 1989 (Stone, 2012).
The Post World War II Boom: How America Got Into Gear
With the emergence of World War II, the United States of America’s economy was standing at the edge of an unknown future. With the call of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in late 1940 related to the U.S for serving as the “arsenal of the democracy,” the American Bizz stepped up their game to face the hardships and challenges.
Americans were ready to spend
Many economists predicted a new problem emerging in the form of inflation and unemployment by arguing that private ventures cannot generate the big amount required for capital to run the wartime industries. As per history, the pessimists were proven wrong, and the veterans who returned easily found jobs.
The Economic Impact of World War II
One of the deadliest military conflicts in history was World War 2. It continued from 1939 to 1945, and 30 countries were involved from across the globe. Around 70 million people died, which makes the 4 percent of the world’s total population. Half of them were civilians, and the remaining were soldiers. The Soviet Union has the biggest shot of the number of people that died, i.e., 20 million. Six million German army men killed 11 million army men and 7 million local people; also involves the 3.5 million of the prisoners of the war as dead on the German slave camp. The German army was ordered to kill all the communist leaders, Jews, and the Soviet local people; also, to snatch away their grain. The number of people that starved to death was more than 1 million during the two-year Siege of Leningrad.
Germans lost 9 million people within their state, where 5.3 were soldiers and 3.3 were inhabitants. Talking about Poland, they lost 16 percent or 5 million of their total population, where 240,000 were army men and 2.7 million were Jews. Yugoslavia lost 1 million people within their state, where 445,000 were soldiers and the remaining ones were the inhabitants. The United Kingdom lost 405,000 of its soldiers and 2000 inhabitants.
The total loss of Romania was 833000, out of which 300,000 were soldiers.
The total loss of Italy was 457,000, out of which 301,000 were soldiers.
The total loss of Romania was 580,000, out of which 300,000 were soldiers.
This war was between the Axis and the Allies power where the Soviet Union resided in the Axis power initially, later joined into the Allies in 1941 when the Germans invaded. France was the Allied power along with the United States of America and Britain. However, China and other combatants were involved with them too.
Whereas the Axis leaders were the Germans, Japan, and the Italians, along with Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Thailand. Many of them joined in after their military occupation or their defeat. To gain their lost territory, Finland allied with the Germans from the Soviet Union.
There were four major factors involved that were the cause of World War II.
- One of the biggest causes was Word War 1 and the after-effects that provoked some countries for this step. The Versailles came up with some harsh terms on the Germans, to which they printed money to come up with the high reparation payments by making hyperinflation. They seek some solution as they lost in buying the power.
- The second factor was the Great Depression, as it lessens the global trade by 25 percent, including unemployment that had reached 30 percent in that time. Therefore, they thought of communism as it was the only suitable option at that time. For blocking this threat from the east side, the Germans took the side of the Nazis where Hitler backed off and assumed power as a dictator implementing dictatorship.
- The third reason was the nationalism system in Germany, Japan, and Italy, where the tough economic situation made the people turn to fascist leaders. They used the tactic of nationalism for overriding the peoples’ interest in achieving their state’s return to glory.
- Lastly, protectionism- being an Island state, Japan required food and oil to feed their people. However, in 1930, different forms of protectionism asked Japan to think about military expansion.
World War II was the deadliest conflict internationally in the entire history that took the lives of 60 to 80 million people. Those 8 million people consisted of 6 million Jews who died in front of the Nazis during the Holocaust. 21 to 25 million of them were army men, and the 50 to 55 million were residents of every other state. Several million people got injured, and many lost their property and homes.
The basic legacy of the war was the rapid spread of communism into Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union with its obvious triumph in China along with the Soviet Union, which will be facing off against one another in the Cold War.