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Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War.

Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War. R.M. Douglas. Yale University Press. [pounds sterling]28.00. xii + 486 pages. ISBN 978-0-300-16660-6. Recent years have seen historians take a fresh look at Germany after the collapse of the Nazi regime and at the plight of Germans in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Romania. An estimated 14,000,000 people were forcibly ejected between 1945 and 1947 and sent to Germany and an estimated 500,000 died. Prof. Douglas' aim is to survey all these expulsions while accepting that in the case of Yugoslavia much material is still unavailable. In some cases, e.g. Poland, the Germans were settlers moved in after 1939; in others, e.g. Bohemia, they had lived there for centuries. To the author these expulsions were not inevitable, necessary or justified. He has made little use of firsthand accounts because this would involve a nightmare of verification, now almost impossible. His aim is to present an over-all view and to do this he begins with the Sudetendeutschen in Czechoslovakia, the role of Beneg and expulsions during the war by both Hitler and Stalin. He goes on to examine the various schemes of expulsion, the methods of selection, international reactions (or lack thereof), the concentration camps--some ex-Nazi--into which expellees were placed, the horrible problem faced by people once they had reached Germany, and the legal aspects of the expulsions. He concludes that 'if these operations cannot be carried out under circumstances in which brutality, injustice and needless suffering are inevitable, they cannot be carried out at all'. The book's dispassionate approach is necessary for such a contentious and still divisive question and is a reminder to British and American politicians who never learn, that to mess in European affairs is a dangerous game for Europe is a very messy place. (A.C.T.)

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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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