THE VANQUISHED by Robert Gerwarth


Why the First World War Failed to End
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The first study of the disorders that shook all the defeated states of Europe following World War I.

For the nations that lost the war, the fighting did not end with the armistice in November 1918. On the contrary, Gerwarth (Modern History/Univ. College, Dublin; Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich, 2011, etc.) asserts that between 1918 and 1923, postwar Europe was "the most violent place on the planet." Russia, of course, was swept up in its own revolution and civil war. While the victors connived in Paris to reorganize a continent previously dominated by land empires into one composed of nation-states, from the Baltic to the Caucasus, the territories of the collapsed Austro-Hungarian, German, and Ottoman empires were torn by civil wars and revolutions of their own and by interstate wars like the ill-advised Greek invasion of Turkey in 1919. As a result, writes Gerwarth, "none of the defeated states of the Great War managed to return to anything like pre-war levels of domestic stability and internal peace." Although the 1923 Conference of Lausanne ended the Greco-Turkish conflict and marked the exhaustion of this spasm of violence, the author contends that it laid the foundation for later ethnic cleansing because it "established the legal right of state governments to expel large parts of their citizens on the grounds of 'otherness.' It fatally undermined cultural, ethnic and religious plurality as an ideal.” In this extensively researched and crisply written account, Gerwarth explores the political and military upheavals throughout central Europe, including those in unfamiliar nations like Bulgaria and radically dismembered Hungary. The author’s consistent focus on national governments, paramilitary groups like the various German Freikorps, and statistical counts of victims of violence and famine at the expense of personal experiences of ordinary people caught up in the chaos sometimes renders the narrative a little dry, but it is certainly authoritative.

A thorough explanation for the rise of the nationalist and fascist groups who set the stage for World War II.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-374-28245-5
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2016


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