The Realities of Survival
In the middle of March 1945 the British deputy prime minister, Clement Attlee, returned from a tour of liberated Europe. The message he brought back was not comforting. The Economist noted how 'gradually realisation is spreading that the plight of Europe is grave beyond words, and that a new attitude to its problems is absolutely necessary'. In the same days the shrewd American journalist Anne O'Hare McCormick wrote in the New York Times:
The human problem the war will leave behind it has not yet been imagined, much less faced by anybody. There has never been such destruction, such disintegration of the structure of life. . . . The liberated cannot be fed or put on the way of recovery. The sharp increase in the death rate and tuberculosis rate in France during the first winter of liberation . . . is typical. In Italy the relief sent from the United States, though considerable, is only a drop in an ocean of need. In Belgium the situation is politically critical; in Holland it is worse. 1
American writers and commentators often supplied the most telling surveys of the life of the peoples of liberated Europe in the months after the end of the war. They were freer to travel than most and so made more effective comparisons; also they had a much clearer conception of ' Europe', of what the societies and cultures of the 'Old World' shared, than their national counterparts in England or France.
In a country such as Italy, where they had followed the armies much more closely then any other journalists, they had long predicted what was likely to happen when hostilities finally ended. There the length and destructiveness of the war, barely alleviated by a hapless Anglo-American military government regime, brought economic