The best books on the Allied Occupation of Germany

Who am I?

Surprisingly little has been written about the postwar Occupation of Germany by the US, UK, France, and USSR. Yet it was a crucial and colorful, one might say lurid, interval in recent history. Berlin, which is the setting of my novel, The Living and the Lost, was a latter day Wild West where drunken soldiers brawled; the desperate preyed on the unsuspecting; spies plied their trade; werewolves, as unrepentant Nazis were called, schemed to rise again; black markets peddled everything from drugs to sex; and forbidden fraternization between American G.Is and Frauleins was rampant. I did a great deal of research on the period and place. Here are five books that bring the world stunningly to life.


I wrote...

The Living and the Lost

By Ellen Feldman,

Book cover of The Living and the Lost

What is my book about?

Acclaimed by Publishers' Weekly as "exquisite…will stay with readers long after the final page is turned," The Living and the Lost is the story of Millie Mosbach and her brother David, who managed to escape to the States just before Kristallnacht, leaving their parents and little sister in Berlin. Now they are back in their former hometown, haunted by ghosts and hoping to find their family. Millie, works in the office responsible for rooting out the most dedicated Nazis from publishing. During the day, David labors trying to help displaced persons. His nightly activities are more radical, and dangerous. They and most of their German-born American colleagues suffer from conflicts of rage at the former enemy and guilt at their own good fortune, but Millie’s boss, Major Harry Sutton, seems strangely eager to be fair to the Germans. The Living and the Lost is a story of love, survival, and forgiveness of others and of self.

"A compelling novel…that resonates today with disturbing themes." - NPR The Living and the Lost, is a story of love, survival, and forgiveness of others and of self.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Last of the Conquerors

Ellen Feldman Why did I love this book?

The Last of the Conquerors by William Gardner Smith, a Black G.I. who served in Germany after the war, is a beautifully written, with a Hemingwayesque flair, look at the Occupation from someone who was there. This clear indictment of the segregated U.S. Army pretending to spread democracy and equality in a defeated nation that treats Blacks perhaps not well, but better than America does, is honest, painful, and especially relevant to our moment. An interesting footnote to the book is the difficulty of obtaining a copy these days. The one I read came from the New York Public Library, but a quick check of used books online reveals an old paperback that was originally 75 cents now selling for $35 and a hardcover for $475.

By William Gardner Smith, James Avati (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last of the Conquerors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Last of the Conquerors' handles the explosive theme of Negro GI's in Occupied Germany--their experiences with the men, women and girls of that defeated country. From inside Front Cover: "Now I know what it is to walk into any place, any place, without worrying about whether the serve colored. You ain't been here long enough to feel that like I do. You know what the hell I learned? That a nigger ain't no different from nobody else....They don't teach that stuff back in the land of the free." In Occupied Berlin, Negro soldiers were treated in a way that they…


Book cover of Out of the Shelter

Ellen Feldman Why did I love this book?

Out of Shelter, David Lodge's first novel, is a lighter take on the Occupation in its later years. This autobiographical coming-of-age story, which he had trouble getting published, is a tale of a young British boy’s summer-long visit to his sister who’s working for the Americans in Germany. His awakening from a cossetted English childhood of rigid rules and postwar scarcity to a wider world of less certain moralities and astonishing American abundance is at once touching, funny, and written with Lodge’s usual grace and wit.

By David Lodge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out of the Shelter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Traveling from England, where rationing is in effect, Timothy Young visits Heidelberg where his sister Kath, who works for the American army, enjoys a life of plenty.


Book cover of Deutschland - April 1945

Ellen Feldman Why did I love this book?

Deutschland by Margaret Bourke-White paints a raw and wrenching portrait of Germany in the immediate aftermath of the war. The photographs of the suffering and destruction are shocking. The first-hand observations are immediate, occasionally wry, and cover everything from the black market; the relative appeal of American, British, and French soldiers to German girls; and social dancing classes.

Book cover of In Search: An autobiography

Ellen Feldman Why did I love this book?

Meyer Levin’s memoir, In Search, ranges over the years before and after the occupation as well as the period itself. His observations are personal, often searing, and deeply affecting. He tells of Jewish G.I.s who, forbidden to fraternize with Germans, leave matzos on doorsteps of German Jewish organizations on the eve of Passover, of being snubbed by a German Jewish woman with whom he felt an instinctive connection but who found him socially inferior, and of his darkest thoughts about retribution and revenge. As the title of his memoir indicates, Levin was in search of the meaning of his Jewish identity. A few years later, his French wife gave him a copy of the French edition of The Diary of Anne Frank. Deeply moved, he was instrumental in its publication and success in the U.S.

By Meyer Levin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Search as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The acclaimed autobiography of the Chicago journalist and author hailed as “the most significant American Jewish writer” of the mid-twentieth century (Los Angeles Times).

Raised in the notorious Bloody Nineteenth Ward in Chicago, Meyer Levin landed a job at the Chicago Daily News at eighteen. He pursued reporting as a means to support his fiction writing, yet it was as a war correspondent that Levin found his voice. One of the first Americans to enter the concentration camps during World War II and record the horrors there, Levin also helped smuggle Jews from Poland to Palestine, capturing the events in…


Book cover of The Smoking Mountain: Stories of Post-War Germany

Ellen Feldman Why did I love this book?

Perhaps the most sweeping view of the Occupation can be found in The Smoking Mountain by Kay Boyle. An editor at the New Yorker asked Boyle, who was in Germany under the Occupation, for a fictional account. While most of the short stories, except for the first which is clearly reportorial, work as fiction, they are grounded in her experiences in a fraught world where victors and vanquished, Germans and Americans, military and civilians struggle to find a way to coexist. In Boyle’s gimlet eye, few come out blameless.

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Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

Book cover of Dinner with Churchill

Robin Hawdon Author Of Number Ten

New book alert!

Who am I?

My writing is eclectic and covers many topics. However, all my books tend to have a thriller element to them. Perhaps it's my career as an actor and playwright which has instilled the need to create suspense in all my writings. I sometimes feel that distinguished authors can get so carried away with their literary descriptions and philosophical insights that they forget to keep the story going! It is the need to know what happens next that keeps the reader turning the pages. Perhaps in achieving that some subtlety has to be sacrificed, but, hey, you don't read a political thriller to study the philosophical problems of governing nations!

Robin's book list on lone heroes and threats to national security

What is my book about?

This is a new novel by one of the UK's most prolific writers. It is based around an extraordinary true incident at the start of World War II when fierce political opponents Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain encountered each other at a famous dinner party. Seen from the perspective of Lucy Armitage, a young girl suddenly conscripted by a strange stroke of fate into Churchill's overworked but adoring team of secretaries.

As Churchill prepares to take over the leadership of the nation, Lucy finds herself increasingly involved in her famous employer's phenomenal work output and eccentric habits. When romance and the world of espionage impinge on her life, she becomes a vital part of the eternal struggle between good and evil regimes that still exists today.

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

What is this book about?

It is on historical record that, on the evening of October 13th 1939, six weeks after war had been declared on Hitler's Germany, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain, fierce and implacable opponents for years over the appeasement issue, met together with their two wives, Clementine and Anne, for a private dinner at Admiralty House, and event which caused ripples throughout Westminster.

Chamberlain was still Prime Minister, but had seen all his efforts to negotiate peace with Hitler shattered. Churchill had been recalled to the cabinet after ten years 'in the wilderness', his dire warnings of the Nazi threat vindicated.

Lucy…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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