on 2 December 2013
It is surprising how little has been written about the expulsion of millions of ethnic Germans from their ancestral homelands in central and eastern Europe in the years 1944-6. There have been some memoirs of former residents of East Prussia and Pomerania but nothing I know of in the way of a systematic and reasonably comprehensive treatment. The western victors in what I would regard as a morally justified war lost a lot of moral capital at the end in their dreadful treatment of Russian prisoners and, in the case of the Cossacks, their wives and children and we now have another catalogue of injustice and cruelty. If anyone thinks that forced population transfer is an acceptable answer to any problems faced by ethnically heterogeneous countries, they should read this. Millions were expelled from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia and points east and transported, or forced marched, in conditions reminiscent of those faced by the victims of the Nazis into an utterly devastated Germany. Douglas documents all this in a thorough, balanced and readable manner, making appropriate efforts to understand the reasoning behind the actions of the victors and the authorities in the newly-liberated lands but, equally appropriately, not hiding his revulsion. In the overwhelmingly vast literature on World War II, these events have been given far too little attention and this book fills an important gap. Thoroughly recommended.
on 23 August 2015
I do not read much non-fiction and academic historical books are often too hard on my brain. But I was interested in the story of the German expulsions- there is a lot of discussion about it in my birth country at the moment.
And wow, this book was a revelation.It made a very uncomfortable read.
I always believed the expulsion was a mistake. I do not believe in collective guilt, and I also regret the loss of the multicultural Czech/Jewish/German cultural flavour of Prague in the past.
But this book corrected some common misconceptions I had.
Misconception about the tolerant democratic " First republic" of Czechoslovakia between the wars, the story of Sudeten Germans, the scale of the atrocities performed in the expulsions.My mistaken belief that those atrocities were just the " wild expulsions" where in fact the state police and government were heavily involved. The illusion that the borders made after 1918 were fair without dispute.
My misinformation about the scale- almost 14 millions Germans were affected!According to the authors, the worst ethnic cleansing in history of mankind.
As often in politics, nobody behaved well. The Czech, Polish and other governments, the Allies. Of course, hindsight is easy.
But the injustice of those expulsions was in a way made worse by the long silence.
As if everybody felt that it served the Germans right after those undoubtedly worse atrocities of the war and the Holocaust. Germans wanting to report were in danger of being accused of revisionism and sympatising with the Nazis.
I am Jewish, and half of my family perished in the concentration camps. But I feel that revenge is not a good thing. I feel that you cannot criticise and condemn somebody if you do not behave much better.
This book is not only a very interesting although harrowing read, but somehow compensates a bit for the long silence.
In my opinion, and the authors, you cannot prevent future similar tragedies if you do not condemn and explain what happened in the past.
There were interesting minor points, too.
Points about people who were not strong or courageous enough to rebel against Nazi occupation, and ( quote of a Slovak dissident historian) Mlynarik" compensated for their own wartime inactivity by identifying themselves with the victors and by their ex-post 'heroic feat' directed against the defenseless".
And like always, most people kept quiet. That is understandable. But can they then really blame all those ordinary Germans who kept quiet when those Jewish people were deported and murdered?
Reading this book made me understand the recent history better.Some people still deny what happened. But are they really better than Holocaust deniers?
It was clear after reading the first few chapters that I was going to rate this important book with five stars, but that does not mean that it is an easy book to read. This work tells the story of Allied and Russian collusion with Poland and Czechoslovakia to expel millions of ethnic Germans from within their post WWII borders. In so doing they repeated many of the atrocities and inhumane behaviour that German leaders stood accused of at Nuremberg.
The first four chapters race along at quite a pace and contain some quite startling history of previous mass expulsions that have taken place around the world, virtually all with tragic results. However, when the author, Douglas, delves into the details of the early post war expulsions of ethnic Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia by militia and other para-military organisations, to details of the internment camps, the subsequent `organised' expulsions and the desperate plight of the children, the book becomes quite difficult to read. For, not only is the subject matter disturbing, but Douglas builds up his condemnatory case of the Allied, Russian, Polish and Czechoslovak governments by the re-telling of many detailed cases which can make very heavy and, at times, repetitive reading. I can understand the reasons for this, Douglas has undertaken an immense amount of research and his case is unassailable but he is well aware, that even today, there will are many who will seek to undermine his work. This level of detail and research is likely to make the book of appeal only to those seriously interested in modern European history and academics, it is probably not for the general reader.
The book gathers pace and ease of reading as the author deals with the resettlement of the ethnic Germans in the truncated post-war Germany, international law and modern memory. This most important book is well written, contains an astonishing level of research, but I suspect will only reach a limited readership because of its weighty, and in some quarters unwelcome, subject matter. Our present day political leaders would do well to study its pages and learn some important lessons.
on 7 August 2014
Insightful and disturbing analysis of the massed deportation of more than 10+ million ethnic Germans after the end of WW2. As many as 500k to 1.5 million people died in this process.Most were woman and children.Maybe 20% spoke no German so it was vengeful ethnic cleansing by the Allies with vitriolic Czechs,Poles ,Slovaks, Yugoslavs at the forefront .Ironically at the same time the ,senior, Nazis were, being tried at Nuremberg for similar crimes against humanity whilst these deportations endured, on a massive scale, for many years.The scale of these deportations were so enormous that perhaps 20% of the current population of Germany may be descended from expellees. It has often been said that the winners write the history of wars and this case is unusual as it seems that the countries involved in it has collective amnesia.But as the author often states that the excuse for this was that they were defeated Germans so it was acceptable for these atrocities to be carried out. Yet the same powers criticised, quite rightly, the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in the latter part of the 20th Century.Hypocrisy,it seems , is still alive and well. Read the book it is fascinating.
on 30 November 2013
A work of excellent scholarship on a long kept tragic secret of post war Europe. A fair account of a shocking truth.
on 22 August 2012
While this work purports to be a comprehensive description of the expulsions of all Germans from East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia, as well as from various East European countries, at the end of the Second World War, the author seems to be mainly interested in the expulsions of the Sudetendeutsche from Czechoslovakia, and this, in my opinion, rather unbalances his account.
One certainly does not need to have any sympathy for the appalling atrocities of the Nazis to be horrified by the extreme cruelty with which the expulsions were carried out - using, in fact, Nazi-style methods, and the author does not spare us any detail of this, particularly since most of the victims were women, children and the elderly, rather than active Nazis.
He does not, however, sufficiently express the huge injustice of the seizure of provinces which had been totally part of Germany for over 600 years. Whilst one may, to some extent, feel that the expulsion of the Sudetendeutsche may have had some justification, as they lived in Czechoslovakia, not Germany, and were, to a great degree, the cause of the war, the clearing of Germans from the 3 German provinces has no justification whatsoever.
Readers will also require to make some effort with this book, as the author makes few concessions to readability. His paragraphs are enormous, often taking up nearly a whole page, so that, when one reaches the end of a paragraph, one has lost the sense and has to re-read it.
on 27 January 2013
Just when we thought we knew everything about the Second World War and its aftermath along comes this book. The large amount of detail that some reviewers complained about are not superfluous. They provide convincing evidence for the author's main point - that the appalling treatment of expellees was not a result of a bottom-up rage from the people but rather a top-down policy. Very few people came out of it well. Let's hope we have the strength to speak against the prevailing wisdom if we are faced with similar challenges to our humanity. I could have done with a few maps to show the geography of it all.
on 10 October 2015
A very well written book, giving a very good pre war background, paving the way for a future event.... Rather disturbing, and a truly awful event , that we all have forgotten... Something I think that should be taught at school........ Never trust a politician !
on 31 August 2015
This is an eye opener. For many, the misery brought on by the war continued after the surrender of Germany. Women & children were particularly affected. Any politician or crazy religious leader contemplating war should be aware of this book.
on 18 December 2013
A fascinating account of a little-known story of the expulsion of ethnic Germans from other European Countries after WW2. Much cruelty and unpleasantness accompanied this, and little is taught about this aspect of the war.