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A lesson about ourselves

To understand the aftermath of the Second World War, we must look beyond individuals to institutions

By Samuel Moyn   October 2013

Children playing among the ruins in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, in 1945. (© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos)

Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma (Atlantic, £14.99)

Ian Buruma’s sprightly new book is not literally a history of 1945. Instead “year zero” is a metaphor for the immediate response to peace, even if hostilities in Japan did not end until the last few months of 1945. Buruma, an insightful essayist who has written several books about Japan as well as his Dutch homeland, gives his book a refreshingly global perspective,…

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