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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 FRENCH France: Loser Become Poor Victor Being Liberated is No Simple Matter The glorious scene of the eternal documentaries is the grand de Gaulle strid- ing at the head of a long column of solemnly happy followers through the Arch of Triumph, meaning that the tearful losers of 1940 films had become the smil- ing winners of 1944. Goodness had created Happiness. Just as the Allied sol- diers moved on to more fighting and dying, the world's attention left Paris and France behind. After the moment of lighted happiness for the cameras, France remained in war's shadows with serious problems in economic, political and psychological recovery from war and occupation. In many ways liberated France resembled conquered Gennany, although this did not increase sympathy for their fellow-sufferers. The wartime Free French image has long since been pockmarked in the postwar knowledge of the hostility of Roosevelt, who rejected de Gaulle's view of himself as Savior of France with a right to rule. Even his patron Churchill had become disenchanted. That de Gaulle thought his person shabbily treated made him behave even more insolently toward his Anglo-Saxon patrons. Although America outfitted and supplied his army, he was not cooperative; his demanded march of liberation through Paris was contrary to the logical plan of Eisenhower simply to by-pass the city. Neither subjugation nor liberation occurred in the bright and dark colors of documentaries, which suggest that everyone cried in 1940 and everyone laughed in 1944. The regime of Marshall Petain had...

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