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Europe After Hitler: 1945-1950

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After the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945, Europe faced devastation on several fronts. Whole cities had been ravaged. Millions of refugees were on the move across Europe. Food rationing continued for years. Greece and France were on the verge of civil war. Churchill failed to win the July 1945 election and a Labour government under Attlee was elected. Vigilante groups hunted former Nazi and Italian collaborators to dispense summary justice, while thousands were tried for crimes against humanity. The USSR established political and military control over the eastern bloc countries and the Cold War overshadowed not only Europe but the fragile world.


  • Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945, Penguin 2006
  • Keith Lowe, Savage Continent, Europe in the Aftermath of WWII, Picador, 2013


  • Impact of 6 years of World War II on each European nation, liberation of the death camps, occupation of Germany by the Allied forces, reconstruction and rebuilding of cities, communities and economies, 40 million refugees across Europe, including over one million children searching for lost parents
  • Nuremburg trials of Nazi leaders for crimes against humanity, both civil administration groups and vigilante groups dispensing (summary) justice to former collaborators, recruitment of Nazi scientists by Britain and USA
  • Marshall Plan supporting western Europe to recover economically, Soviet bloc rejection of the Marshall Plan and development of two armed camps and the Cold War, violence and civil disturbances in Greece, France and Yugoslavia, changes of governments and emergence of radical left and right political parties and groups
  • Significant events in the post war period including the Berlin Blockade, establishment of Israel, independence of India from Britain, atomic testing and the nuclear program

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss the significant impact of World War II on European nations
  2. Explain the main events in the 6 year period in Europe after World War II
  3. Discuss the contributions of key personnel to the post war reconstruction period, including Charles de Gaulle, Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin, Clement Attlee and General Eisenhower
  4. Consider the factors which contributed to the development of the Cold War from 1945-1950
  5. Consider the longer term impact of the post war period on European history to 1989 and the fall of Communism