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REBUILDING A DIVIDED CONTINENT

The period after 1945: Europe is in ruins, disempowered and divided between two opposing global forces, the United States of America and the Soviet Union.

United by fear of Communism, some Western European countries began the path of co-operation at a supranational level in order to tame nationalism and dismantle the risk of war.

In Eastern Europe however, liberation for many meant the replacement of Nazi tyranny by Communist dictatorship under Soviet control.

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REBUILDING EUROPE

1945 - Europe is in ruins, its people lacking food, fuel and housing. Survival strategies are desperately needed, and war rationing continues so that at least basic needs are provided for. There are millions of refugees, exiles and displaced persons, all of them in search of shelter. Europe is largely dependent on the outside world for assistance.

COLD WAR

Between 1945 and 1949 a gulf opened between the former Allied powers on every international issue, with the USA, Great Britain and France on one side and the Soviet Union on the other.  The dropping of atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 proclaimed the USA as the new global power. In 1949, the Soviet Union would reach the same status by developing its own atomic bomb.

CREATING SOCIAL SECURITY

The 1950s and 60s saw living conditions improve substantially for most people across Europe. Economic growth and the introduction of the welfare state brought better housing, education, health care and social services.

In Western Europe public planning paralleled the reconstruction of the private sector. Within the Communist sphere, state run, planned economies, controlled all national resources, intervening at will to affect the daily life of citizens. The differences between market and state economies were unmistakable.

MILESTONES OF EUROPEAN INTEGRATION I

The Soviet Union’s control of Eastern Europe and its stand-off with the United States of America after World War II gave the world two new terms – the Iron Curtain and the Cold War. With American support, the conditions for closer cooperation in Western Europe grew.

MEMORY OF THE SHOAH

Silence, non-recognition, repression, such was the manner in which the Holocaust or as it is called in Hebrew; Shoah was treated in the post-war period.

Nations, desperate to redeem self-esteem, put to the side feelings of guilt and complicity. They wallowed in their own memories of suffering and hardship instead of taking into account their own collaboration with the Nazi regime.

Today however, the acknowledgement of this unparalleled crime against humanity is at the core of discussions about a European memory.