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Prisoners of History

What Monuments to World War II Tell Us About Our History and Ourselves

Keith Lowe

St. Martin's Press

Prisoners of History Download image

ISBN10: 1250235022
ISBN13: 9781250235022


368 Pages



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Keith Lowe, an award-winning author of books on WWII, saw monuments around the world taken down in political protest and began to wonder what monuments built to commemorate WWII say about us today. Focusing on these monuments, Prisoners of History looks at World War II and the way it still tangibly exists within our midst. He looks at all aspects of the war from the victors to the fallen, from the heroes to the villains, from the apocalypse to the rebuilding after devastation. He focuses on twenty-five monuments including The Motherland Calls in Russia, the US Marine Corps Memorial in the USA, Italy’s Shrine to the Fallen, China’s Nanjin Massacre Memorial, The A Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, the balcony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and The Liberation Route that runs from London to Berlin.

Unsurprisingly, he finds that different countries view the war differently. In monuments erected in the US, Lowe sees triumph and patriotic dedications to the heroes. In Europe, the monuments are melancholy, ambiguous and more often than not dedicated to the victims. In these differing international views of the war, Lowe sees the stone and metal expressions of sentiments that imprison us today with their unchangeable opinions. Published on the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, Prisoners of History is a 21st century view of a 20th century war that still haunts us today.


Praise for Prisoners of History

The well-balanced range here enables the retelling of some remarkable war stories, while also providing fascinating insights into the ways different nations have remembered or denied issues around national identity and the glory and horrors of war . . . this is some of the most thought-provoking writing about the Second World War.”Spectator Magazine

[An] inspired idea . . . Always thoughtful and evocative, sometimes controversial . . . Lowe’s sensitive, disturbing book should be compulsory reading for both statue builders and statue topplers.”The Sunday Times (UK)

In this timely book, which neatly combines history, art criticism, and travelogue . . . Lowe is a fine guide to these monuments because he feels the moral force—for good or bad—of each site he visits.”The Times (UK)

"[Lowe’s] examples might rightly raise some hackles . . . Insightful accounts of memorials where there is usually more than meets the eye."Kirkus Reviews

"Thought-provoking . . . a perceptive and persuasive call for remembering the tragedies and triumphs of the past."Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Keith Lowe

KEITH LOWE is the author of the critically-acclaimed Inferno: The Devastation of Hamburg 1943, and Savage Continent, an international bestseller and the winner of both the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History (2013), and Italy’s prestigious Cherasco History Prize (2015). He lectures on both sides of the Atlantic, appears on TV and radio in Europe and the US, and writes for a variety of magazines and newspapers around the world. He lives in north London with his wife and children.

Liza Messing

Keith Lowe

Official Links

Read Articles by the Author at the Guardian