✍ The Politics of Retribution in Europe. World War II and Its Aftermath [2000]

por Teoría de la historia

heb04986.0001.001-lgIt has long been accepted that in the confusion and dislocations that characterized the end of World War II, the desire for instant gratification, for punishment of those alleged to be guilty of war crimes, the resultant pattern of post-war justice was both improvised and imperfect. Many of the guilty escaped, while many others became innocent victims of the desire for revenge. In that sense, neither the theme nor the contents of this volume are particularly original. However, while most of the contributions are detailed national case-studies which devote considerable attention to processes of justice, they are nevertheless placed within, and relate to, a broader canvas. The question of what kind of justice was administered in different countries is linked first to the difficult issue of what was meant by collaboration or resistance. The complexity of the relationship between these two opposites at both the individual and collective level makes it difficult to achieve a clear definition of either, and hence also of a proper tariff of guilt. The authors further argue that it is more fruitful to place the process of retribution in a broader context of past and future, whereby it became a process through which European governments and societies could, in attempting to emphasize their own moral stance, indulge in ‘historical renewal and collective amnesia’. In various general chapters the editors successfully impose upon the whole a comparative framework that draws attention both to a general European pattern and to marked East-West differences. The roots of the latter are held to lie not only in the war itself, but also in both pre-war and post-war domestic and international climates. The national chapters more or less faithfully conform to this formula. The outcome is a book of consistently high analytical quality, which possesses a degree of cohesion that is normally difficult to achieve in an edited collection. By pushing the European and national stories forward to the post-Cold War period, the volume offers much towards our understanding of the late twentieth century, especially of the hurdles to be faced in attempting to establish and consolidate democracy, by emphasizing, in the words of one of the editors, that long-cherished stereotypes do not accurately depict individual and collective worlds that together should more appropriately be portrayed as a ‘tangled web’ of positions, views and relationships.

[Derek W. URWIN. “The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and its Aftermath, ed. Istvan Deak, Jan T. Gross and Tony Judt, Princeton: Princeton U.P., 2000; pp. 337” (reseña), in The English Historical Review, vol. CXVI, nº 467, pp. 763-764]