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The Many Faces of Defeat

The German People's Experience in 1945


Edward N. Peterson

This book examines the great variety of experiences of the German people at the end of World War II, beginning with the frightening bombings, the passage of armies, the imprisonment of soldiers and civilians, the troop occupation of each of five separate zones, plus Berlin and Königsberg, and their impact on the defeated. This experience ranged from a liberation from the SS, to an enormous relief that the war's killing was over, to the rapings of women, particularly in the east, to a massive looting and destruction, again worst in the east, and the expulsion of millions from their ancestral homes. The beginnings of recovery and self-government in the four zones, moving particularly quickly in the American zone. The fundamental result everywhere: Hunger.


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THE AMERICAN America as Victor Powerful but Distracted by Fears Far from the maddened crowds of war, in great contrast even to the other victors, America emerged from the war undamaged physically. The mood was of utmost confidence; after a decade's struggle with the Depression without a clear victory, the country had defeated not only her devilish enemies but had defeated the devilish Depression. America was Number One. The great victory had confirmed not only its strength but its values of freedom and democracy. "After all, we won the war, didn't we?" The contributions of the Allies were recognized, but the image persisted. America could do what it wanted to do. This time it should not "Lose the Peace," as it had after World War One. Victory also confirmed the national virtue. Journalists during the war had done their patriotic duty to prove virtue was triumphing, and who could doubt it after seeing the films of the death camps? Victory had come relatively easily, compared to the other powers. Physical suffering had been of men, enduring military restrictions and hardships, but taking few casualties compared to all other major participants. The anguish of apprehension was ended by the end of the war, and separation would end when "the boys" came home. There could not be a full return to Isolationism out of concern that Japan and Germany would "try it again," but foreign concerns fell far behind the domestic desire to finally get back to the destined Good Life delayed...

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