1945: Year Zero by John Lukacs

1945: Year Zero

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The author of The Last European War (1976) here tries to sketch the early emergency of the postwar world, a world in which Europe was eclipsed by the two superpowers. But the book is a disaster--ill-conceived from the start and embarrassingly subjective. The contention that 1945--when Lukacs escaped from Hungary--is the ""year zero"" of a new order in which the enlightened West faces off against the barbaric East ignores the ideological rift that characterized European politics between the wars, later to be projected on a world scale. Overall, Lukacs concentrates on five men--Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and Truman--in the conviction that history is reducible to the personalities and pragmatic decisions of political leaders. Hitler, to Lukacs, is ""an extreme nationalist rather than an extreme ideologist,"" notwithstanding Lukacs' belief that nationalism is the most dynamic ideology of our time. When he later claims that Hitler's ideology died with him, the confusion mounts. His prejudices lead him to repeatedly use such terms as ""mass,"" ""ocean,"" ""tide,"" and ""flood"" to describe those from ""the east,"" among whom are ""Mongol faces, with narrow eyes, incurious and hostile."" And he goes on to muse that perhaps the most significant event of 1945 was not Hiroshima or the division of Europe, but the beginnings of a thought in the head of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the ""Light from the East,"" which may one day lead to the destruction of Communism. Untenable on any basis.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday