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4.4 out of 5 stars
16
The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 September 2017
Read any history of World War 2 and it'll probably finish up in the summer of 1945, maybe with VE Day, perhaps with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There might be an epilogue chapter, a wrapping up that encompasses Nuremberg, the Marshall Plan, the Iron Curtain and the Cold War. But what is rarely addressed is what this book is entirely concerned with - the sheer staggering scale of the numbers of dislocated and dispossessed people, the refugees, the homeless and the stateless, some innocent, some not, some Jewish but most not.

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...
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on 26 November 2012
This book is clearly the work of a scholar in this subject as the depth of knowledge and research is considerable. Many interesting details are contained here about a period of history that doesn't seem to get talked about and as a person born in the early fifties I have often wondered what it must have been like in the aftermath of the war for those so savagely displaced by it. This book more than satisfied my curiosity in that respect but the level of detail makes it a bit heavy-going at times and perhaps more of a book for the serious student rather than those with just a casual interest. Purely my opinion of course and certainly not intended as a criticism. I would urge you to read it and decide for yourself.
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on 15 April 2012
An absolute must read for anyone interested in post WW2 Europe and also for those who are interested in how paradigm shifts take place in historical perception transforming our past into something that it was not. If you are as I am old enough to remember going to the cinema and seeing the Pathe Pictorial News showing week after week items on Diplaced Persons(DPs) and DP Camps and if you ever wondered whatever happened to all those haggard looking people you will find out here.You will also find it instructive to read if you are interested in this period Prague My Long Journey Home by Charles Ota Heller which tells of one family's experience of displacement or uprooting.This is also on Kindle.
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on 21 June 2017
Good
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on 9 October 2014
very good
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on 20 April 2015
thoughtful book.
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on 19 March 2012
I really enjoyed this book. It is very thorough and well researched. I confess to being one of those people who often stops thinking about WW2 when the shooting stops, but Ben Shephard's book will pull people like me up short. The tangle of issues left behind by Nazi policies, shifting borders and the nascent Cold War were terrific and solving them a colossal task. Mr Shephard goes about explaining this very well and is not knocked off course by modern preconceptions and sensibilities. For example he explains that many people did not even consider the treatment of the Jews as something different from that of the greater mass of 'displaced persons' in the immeadiate aftermath of the war. In fact, it seems Europe's Jews were sometimes criticised at the time for seeking out 'special case' status. Also, certain nationalities of Europeans were much more favoured than others when it came to resettlement opportunities in the 'west'.

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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on 28 October 2010
This book was reviewed as being one that everyone should have in their library.Yes!
I am a pre-war baby and found it essential to understand more fully what my parents and family were discussing after 1945. The Tragedy of it all is so unbelievable that I would say it is essential reading for everyone who has a modicum of understanding about that war and its results from a "people" point-of-view.

The first chapter alone bring info. that was not generally known so this man really did his homework. Perhaps one day a proper parallel book will reveal after the 1st World War why my grandfather was murdered by the Bolsheviks for being a capitalist!
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on 20 July 2017
Arrived on time not yet red it
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on 10 July 2010
For anyone with an interest,in the Second World War and what resulted from it, this is a compelling read. The euphemism chosen to describe those who lost country, home, family was "Displaced Person". These unfortunates met with more trials and tribulations, before they regained a place in the real world. The book tells many of their stories, and the effects they had on the post war world.
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