In his recent book Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, British historian Keith Lowe insists categorically that to regard postwar history as a history of reconstruction is extremely euphemistic. In no sense of the word did 1945 see the onset of an era in which “Europe rose like a phoenix from the ashes of destruction” (2012, p. XIV). The German version of this narrative referred to this period as the Stunde Null or “Zero Hour”, implying (in the German sense of the phrase) starting over again from scratch with a clean slate. But Lowe and other historians demonstrate that the history of Europe in the first postwar years was a period in which chaos and devastation had made large parts of the continent highly unstable, with renewed aggression threatening to break out at the slightest provocation. Lowe summarizes as follows:

What is implied in all the descriptions of this time, but never overtly stated, is that behind the physical devastation is something far worse. The “skeletons” of houses and framed pictures sticking out of the rubble of Warsaw are highly symbolic: hidden beneath the ruins, both literally and metaphorically, there was a separate human and moral disaster… . Whatever approach one takes, it is impossible to convey more than the merest glimpse of what such a catastrophe actually means.

(2012, p. 11ff)