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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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DEFEAT AND VICTORY RECONSIDERED What Sad Experience Teaches The Experience with Soldiers: Good, Bad & Indifferent More pieces would multiply the mosaic, but not alter the clear picture that an imbalance of power, with organized soldiers with guns against disorganized civilians without them, is unlikely to produce positive results. Putting guns into the hands of young men and excuses into their heads for using them is a very dangerous practice. Power does corrupt, and the famous principle applies also to the young and inexperienced. Important similiarities and important differences were evident in soldiers' behavior. In general, the conquerors were arrogant and self-righteous, for they had won a great war over an enemy guilty of great crimes. Beyond the arrogance was, in different degrees, a hostility or a contempt, for the defeated men. After the exaggerated fear of the armed "German arrogance," followed an exaggerated scorn of the disarmed "German obsequiousness." The common wisdom became: "They are not Supermen after all." Some of this negativism had been etched by the acidic propaganda about the rat-like "German race," yet some soldiers came to recognize prisoners as "sad sacks" like themselves, involved in events over which they had no control.. An obvious exception was the soldiers' favorable view of German women, particularly the young, and, for different reasons, children. With most German men of military age dead or in prison, invaders met primarily women and children. Communication beyond basics and barter was limited because most troops would have agreed with the colonel in The...

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