Book Review: War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence in Europe after the Great War


by Robert Gerwarth & John Horne

New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xii, 242. Illus., maps, notes, index. $39.95. ISBN: 019968605X

Extra-Legal Militancy in Post-Great War Europe

Irish university professors Gerwarth and Horne have gathered thirteen essays on paramilitary or extra legal political violence across much of Europe in the aftermath of the political and geographic changes that came out of World War I. They open with an introduction that gives us an overview of these movements – the Freikorps in Germany, the Fasci di combattimento in Italy, the “Reds” and the “Whites” in Russia, Finland, Hungary, Austria, and other countries, and others, in – and how they influenced the rise of fascism, militarism, and even fostered the rise of the racist militia auxiliaries of the Nazis on the Eastern Front in the Second World War.

There then follow thirteen essays which cover various aspects of these paramilitary conflicts, some indistinguishable from outright war, some more like sporadic terrorism, and others essentially criminal political violence, These are organized into two groups.

“Revolution and Counter-Revolution” includes essays on revolutionary and counter-revolutionary violence in Russia, Italy, and Finland, plus two papers covering other nations in Europe where real revolutionary violence occurred or was perceived to be imminent, sparking violent reaction.

“Nations, Borderlands and Ethnic Violence” includes papers on nation building in Ukraine, the Baltic states, the Balkan states, the former Ottoman Empire, Poland, and Ireland.

Altogether the various papers in this volume cover events, occasionally redundantly, in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic states, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Finland, the Balkan states, Turkey, Poland, Ireland (from both the British and Irish perspectives), and France. The editors oddly omit Czechoslovakia, saying it “experienced little or no paramilitarism” (p. 16), a matter likely disputable by Sudetens, Magyars, Jews, and Carpatho-Rusyns.

Despite this, War in Peace offers a valuable look not only at some of the “supplementary” wars that followed the Great War, and also on the nature of paramilitary conflict, and the origins of fascism and collaborationism.

Note: War in Peace is also available in hardback, $125,00, ISBN 978-0-1-996-5491, and as an available as an e-book.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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