Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Conflict That Still Casts Its Shadow over All Our Lives

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Conflict That Still Casts Its Shadow over All Our Lives

Article excerpt

THE FEAR AND THE FREEDOM: HOW THE SECOND WORLD WAR CHANGED US by Keith Lowe (Viking, PS25) ANDREW ROBERTS THE Second World War was the greatest war in history. It killed more than 50 million people, affected almost every country on the planet and extirpated the most evil dictator imaginable, so it is small wonder that its legacy should still be around threequarters of a century after its close. Yet this well-written, well-researched and riveting book shows to quite what an extent we are still living in the aftermath of the events of 1939-45, both for good and ill. And that its shadow shows no sign of lifting.

Few historians could be better placed to investigate this subject than Keith Lowe, whose previous books were about the carpet-bombing of Hamburg in 1943 and how Europe emerged from the immediate aftermath of the war. Those works gave him insights into the long-term effects of the struggle on world governments, borders and frontiers, the global economy, the survival and mutation of national identities, the development of science, art and architecture, the birth of African and Asian independence movements, the State of Israel and so on. Nineteen forty-five truly emerges as the Year Zero for almost everything we think of as the modern world.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, for example, are the victor nations of the Second World War, regardless of the fact that for decades Germany and Japan have had larger GDPs than Britain and France. The creation of the bodies such as the IMF and the World Bank, which still regulate much of the world's financial system, took place in a Washington suburb called Bretton Woods at the command of Harry Truman, who presided over the only country that had survived the devastation economically. Israel could never have come into being but for the Holocaust.

The nuclear threat that seemed to be receding after the end of the Cold War, but is now back in the shape of successful North Korean tests, was born in 1945. …

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