Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans: : The British Occupation of Germany, 1945-49
Daniel Cowling

Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans: : The British Occupation of Germany, 1945-49

As the Second World War came to an end, thousands of British men and women were tasked with building a democracy out of the ruins of Hitler’s Germany. From rebuilding bridges and schools in the British Zone to tracking down fugitives, their job was to leave no stone unturned in the fight against Nazism. But Britain’s fledgling force of civilian and military occupiers soon became entangled in the murky underworld of postwar Europe - rife with black marketeering, corruption, cover-ups, sex and scandal. In time, they also found themselves at the frontline of the Cold War, as irreconcilable tensions saw Europe divided between East and West. This is the extraordinary and untold story of Britain’s faltering attempt to ‘win the peace’ in a world defined by conflict.

Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans recounts the political and military history of the occupation alongside compelling, heartwarming, and, at times, scandalous tales of life amid the ruins of the Third Reich. For some British occupiers, aloofness and scepticism were the order of the day, even refusing handshakes with the local population. But others found themselves forming friendships and even lifelong relationships with former adversaries. Back in Britain, competing visions of how to ‘win the peace’ and whether or not, in the words of Noel Coward’s hit song, to be ‘beastly to the Germans’ led to divisive debates over the legacy of the Second World War and Britain’s role in Europe. These quarrels further intensified as hostility between the West and the Soviet Union came into focus. Meanwhile, salacious press reports of casual sex, widespread profiteering, drunken exuberance, and quasi-imperial excess sullied the reputation of Britain’s occupiers. By 1949, as the military occupation came to an end, many British onlookers expressed concern that Britain had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans explores, for the first time, the social, political, and military history of the British occupation through the eyes of those who were there. The result is a wholly new perspective on the interconnected histories of the Second World War, the Cold War, and Britain’s fraught relationship with the continent since 1945. It uncovers a vital and unexplored chapter in the story of Britain’s war and its aftermath, challenging traditional narratives of peace and conflict in postwar Europe.

Book Details:

  • Author: Daniel Cowling
  • On Submission
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Daniel Cowling

Daniel Cowling

Daniel Cowling grew up in Manchester before completing a degree in history at the University of Nottingham. He then went on to the University of Cambridge to study for an MPhil and, subsequently, a PhD. His doctoral thesis was on the history of the British occupation of Germany. In this time he also taught undergraduate students and presented papers at academic conferences.   Daniel specialises in modern European history, with a particular interest in the Anglo-German relationship. He has number of academic publications in this field, including an article in the Journal of Contempora...
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Book Reviews

  • "The British occupation of Germany after 1945 was sometimes shameful, sometimes heroic, but often just chaotic. Cowling’s brilliantly researched book reveals it all, and must surely become the standard work on the subject."
    Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent
  • "A gripping account of the post-war period detailing life in the British Zone. The Allies may have won the war but with Germany in ruins and millions homeless, hopeless and starving, would they win the peace?"
    Julia Boyd, author of A Village in the Third Reich
  • "  An endlessly wonderful evocation of the post-War years when we tried, despite the chaos of the times, understandably bitter feelings, and ruinous expense, to create a new, democratic Germany, even as our Empire crumbled around us. It may not have been our finest hour - yet, to the infinite benefit of Europe, we really did win the peace. A clear, grand idea mixed with unforgettable new details make this unputdownable."
    James Hawkes, author of The Shortest History of Germany
  • "An excellent, vivid, readable social history of the British and their Zone in post-war Germany."
    Giles MacDonogh, author of After the Reich
  • "Meticulously researched and skilfully written, Daniel Cowling's narrative evokes a shattered post-war world in which British men and women were given the herculean task of rebuilding a democratic Germany. As they sought to round-up ex-Nazis, racketeers and corrupt officials, some found themselves drawn to an underworld rife with crime, drunkenness and sex. A ground-breaking account of a little-known period."
    Giles Milton, author of Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare
  • "The real strength of the book however is in the tiny details that Cowling’s painstaking research uncovers. "
    Daily Mail