Make a Donation to the NBN

The NBN is run by volunteers, but the network has expenses. If you like what we do, consider making a contribution

R. M. DouglasOrderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War

Yale University Press, 2012

by marshall poe on February 14, 2013

R. M. Douglas

View on Amazon

I imagine everyone who listens to this podcast knows about the Nazi effort to remake Central and Eastern Europe by expelling and murdering massive numbers of Slavs, Jews, and Gypsies. The results, of course, were catastrophic. Fewer listeners are probably well informed about the Allied effort after the War to remake Central and Eastern Europe by expelling massive numbers of Germans. The results, as R. M. Douglas demonstrates in his well-researched, even-handed book Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War (Yale University Press, 2012), were catastrophic. As many as 14 million Germans were displaced and somewhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million parished. Of course the Nazi and Allied “ethnic cleansings” (if that’s the right word) were not equivalent, a point that Douglas goes to great pains to emphasis. But the one is well known and the other is not. Until now. I urge you to read this book and find out what happened in this largely forgotten (and very disturbing) episode in the history of the Second World War and its aftermath.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kenny February 20, 2013 at 12:19 am

This book explores another facet of the story of ethnic cleansing that Timothy Snyder describes in his The Reconstruction of Nations. (Snyder, if I remember, has also been on New Books in History). In that book Snyder describes how Poles were cleansed from the post-World War II boundaries of Ukraine, how Ukrainians were cleansed from post-War Poland as well as how the ethnic maps of Lithuania and Belarus were redrawn. I am really glad that we have such a compelling book-length treatment of what happened to the Germans of Eastern Europe.

I think a lot of people, particularly in the West, have a notion that there have always been nation states around the world just like France and England, in which a predominant ethnic group and language correlates with certain physical boundaries. It is works like those by Douglas and Snyder that show that this is certainly not true for Eastern Europe, and that violence was employed on an unprecedented scale during the 1940s to corral people into the boundaries of invented nation states (given their initial articulation in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I and then modified again after World War II).

Nathan February 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm

“Parished”? Heheh

Helen Gillespie May 14, 2013 at 7:43 am

Both sides of my family were part of the expulsion of Wolhynian Germans who had been resettled in the Warthegau region, then fled in Jan 1945 ahead of the Russian advance. They ended up in northern Germany where they were able to reconnect with many others. But some of my relatives and other friends/acquaintances succumbed enroute.
One of my Dad’s female cousins and my uncle (by marriage) were teens and taken to Russian occupied Poland – as slave labour. Thankfully, both returned, although Lydia did not return for many years. Helmut was taken to Mogalev with about 3000, interned in the labour camp there and put to work on minimum rations to clean up the much bombed city. Of the 3000, only about a tenth returned. Walking some 1000 km back to his Wartegau home, he luckily found his family who hadn’t been able to escape the Russians and held back. He was 17.
The Canadian Christian Council for the Resettlement of Refugees (CCCRR) helped my family resettle in Canada in 1950. (Files archived in Library and Archives Canada). The American equivalent (unknown) was formed later and many of my parents’ friends immigrated there. Another story mainly untold except by family tales.
The interview was wonderful and have shared with family and members of the Society of German Genealogy of Eastern Europe which has many members of German origin from this area.
Will try and get the book soonest.
Thanks again
Helen Gillespie

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: