The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War Paperback – 7 Apr 2011
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"It's amazing, a really fine achievement and has a wonderful balance between argument and narration, where the individual stories draw the reader into the moral and emotional complexities, while the sense of structure and proportion gives it a very strong sense of being in safe hands" (Nick Stargardt, author of 'Witnesses of War')
"A thoughtful retelling of an important and timely story" (Alan Allport Literary Review)
"(Even today, thousands of people displaced by the Second World War remain unaccounted for)The Long Road Home speaks for them by proxy and with proper sympathy" (Ian Thompson Sunday Telegraph)
"[A] well researched and comprehensive account" (Caroline Moorehead Spectator)
"Excellent book... his research is meticulous" (Independent)
‘Excellent…his research is meticulous. He writes well with a keen eye for detail. His judgments are trenchant and he dishes out praise and blame with an even hand…What emerges most strikingly is the intricate mixture of motives behind the rescue of post-war Europe’
--Piers Brendon, Independent
‘To do the subject justice…requires an in-depth knowledge of a vast number of topics…It requires a feel for ethnic and religious sensitivities, as well as a profound compassion for the plight of millions of people affected by the war. Ben Shephard has these qualities in spades, accompanied by a rare gift for condensing huge amounts of primary research into manageable chapter…Difficult to seen how it could be bettered’. --Keith Lowe, Daily Telegraph
‘Deeply impressive…well-researched, well-written and often moving’ --Andrew Roberts, New Statesman
‘In this excellent history, Shephard unforgettably conveys the post-war refugee crisis and its aftermath. Even today, thousands of DPs remain unaccounted for or, in the Red Cross parlance, 'dispersed’. The Long Road Home speaks for them by proxy and with proper sympathy.’
--Ian Thomson, Sunday Telegraph
‘This enthralling story about how wars do not stutter out but take generations to fix …deals with big issues and human suffering on a scale which is different from the now well rehearsed and widely avilable accounts of the Holocaust…Ben Shephard’s uniformly excellent history shows that reconciliation and closure for war’s victims are possible, but they require imagination, planning, and endless hard work’
--Trevor Royle, Sunday Herald
‘Absorbing and deftly researched…a thoughtful retelling of an important and timely story’ --Alan Allport, Literary Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Determined not to repeat the mistakes of the First World War, when disease and famine had stalked a devastated Europe and in many ways contributed to the chaos and disruption that gave rise to Hitler, the Allied powers tried to cooperate in strategies to stabilise conditions and repatriate the many millions living in camps across Europe. A civilian agency was created, UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency), to take over responsibility for the DPs (displaced persons) from the military and bring some humanity and compassion to the treatment of these shocked and traumatised masses.
But what to do with them was a logistical challenge for the Allies every bit as daunting as the war itself. Saving only America, most of the Allied powers had difficulty feeding their own populations, let alone the DPs and the starving Germans; indeed, it was in this period that for the first time bread began to be rationed in Britain. Many of the DPs were ethnic Germans expelled from newly-Soviet Poland and Czechoslovakia; many others were citizens of those latter countries who refused to return to homelands under the communist boot. The vast majority of the Jews wanted only to emigrate to Palestine, and this the British government would not permit. Many others wished to emigrate to an America that did not want any immigrants at all. Other countries would take only DPs who could work, stepping in to industries desperate for labour in the push to get economies moving again - and yet few DPs were in a physical condition to labour in fields, mines or forests.
It was a logistical, administrative nightmare, and it largely on the logistics and administration that Ben Shephard focuses. Whilst there are voices of the DPs themselves in these pages, it is very much more a tale told from the perspective of the helpers, not the helped. There was never enough money, never enough personnel, or trucks, or blankets, or shoes, or food, never ever enough food for people who have starved near enough to death. And UNRRA was subject to the inherent poor organisation, petty bureaucracies, infighting, racketeering and corruption that plagues any altruistically-minded body set up in a hurry and staffed by well-meaning but inexperienced volunteers.
UNRRA did its best, but it could have done more, had it been properly staffed, funded and organised. But alas, altruism on the scale we are talking here is very rarely without an element of self-interest on the part of the governments funding it, and even the very best of humanistic endeavours can be overturned in a heartbeat by politicians concerned first and foremost with their own constituencies and parochial concerns. American senators and congressmen were particularly guilty of this, until they began to see an anti-communist benefit to it.
This is an excellent book, a real eye-opener, that ably fills in the gaps between the end of WW2 and the opening of the Cold War. It's also gives a fascinating insight into the role that the camps and the DPs played in the creation of the state of Israel, and also the creation of the concept of 'the Holocaust', which as Shephard points out, was not considered by contemporaries and those who survived it, as we ourselves see it now. One definitely worth a read for anyone interested in what comes after the cataclysm of war...
I found the final chapter on 'Legacies' very moving, especially so for having what had gone before so well explained.
Very thorough; very honest; very enjoyable. Great history writing.
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A book everyone should read.
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