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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 POLISH A Victor Exploited and Exploiting Traumatic Transfers of Land and People The major fact of Polish life was that the nation was being bodily pushed to the West. Poland had by its army in 1921 pushed itself east, beyond "the Curzon Line" thought by the Versailles Powers to be the proper ethnic line between Russians and Poles. In 1939 the USSR gained the Curzon boundary by a deal with Hitler and regained it by its army in 1944. In exchange for this land that Poland had taken from Russia, the Yalta Conference granted it "for admini- stration," eastern Germany up to the Oder-Neisse River. The resulting Poland was reduced in size from 388,634 to 311,730 square kilometers, but the ex- change was of poor land for excellent, improved farming land, plus vastly more coal and industry. In theory at least, Poland increased her capacity in heavy industry by 50 percent, coal capacity by 100 percent, iron and steel by 30 percent. The area had important works for locomotive and railway car manu- facture, foundries, metallurgic, textile and glass factories, a developed network of transportation, much superior to that of central Poland.l Yet a British soldier with the Resistance learned that frontiers were not as important to Poles as being free from Russia.2 Although the change much increased Poland's resources, its population was undoubtedly much reduced. The population core around Warsaw, 18.29 million in 1939, was down by 1945 to 14.47 million, primarily the loss of Jewish...

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