Stories about the heroics of World War II are deeply embedded in our popular culture. But the Hollywood storyline seldom reflects on the struggles of those left to survive amid the ruins of what was likely the most destructive war in human history.
In his new book “Year Zero: A History of 1945,” Ian Buruma examines the desperation and upheaval left in the wake of the war’s near complete rending of society’s fabric across large swaths of Europe and Asia.
“Year Zero,” details a scale of loss and transformation almost impossible to imagine. Great cities lay in ruins, their populations decimated, displaced and starving. Liberated victims meted out feverish revenge upon the followers and collaborators of the defeated totalitarian regimes. At the same time, the euphoria of liberation spawned frenzied revelry and long-term social expectations that often flew into the face of pre-war convention.
Ian Buruma is the Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College in New York State. In 2008, he was awarded the international Erasmus Prize for making “an especially important contribution to culture, society or social science in Europe.” Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines voted him as one of the Top 100 Public Intellectuals in 2008 and 2010.
“Year Zero” was named a New York Times “Notable Book of 2013” and was recognized as one of the best books of 2013 by the Los Angeles Times, the Economist, Amazon.com and the Daily Beast.