Orderly and Humane The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War R. M. Douglas

Publication date:
23 Jul 2013
Yale University Press
512 pages: 235 x 156mm
12 b-w illus. + 1 map
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More than 12 million German-speaking civilians in Europe were driven from their homes in the wake of WWII, yet barely anyone noticed or remembers

Immediately after the Second World War, the victorious Allies authorized and helped to carry out the forced relocation of German speakers from their homes across central and southern Europe to Germany. The numbers were almost unimaginable—between 12,000,000 and 14,000,000 civilians, most of them women and children—and the losses horrifying—at least 500,000 people, and perhaps many more, died while detained in former concentration camps, while locked in trains en route, or after arriving in Germany exhausted, malnourished, and homeless. This book is the first in any language to tell the full story of this immense man-made catastrophe.

Based mainly on archival records of the countries that carried out the forced migrations and of the international humanitarian organizations that tried but failed to prevent the disastrous results, Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War is an authoritative and objective account. It examines an aspect of European history that few have wished to confront, exploring how the expulsions were conceived, planned, and executed and how their legacy reverberates throughout central Europe today. The book is an important study of the largest recorded episode of what we now call "ethnic cleansing," and it may also be the most significant untold story of the Second World War.

This is an important book, deserving of the widest readership."—Max Hastings, Sunday Times

"Douglas provides a fascinating glimpse of the backstage of the Nazi war effort, as hundreds of thousands were shifted from Poland and the Baltic states as part of a forced Germanisation policy that sheer lack of preparation doomed to failure."—Benedicte Williams, Budapest Times

"The expulsion of Germans is understandably a politically-charged topic. Until recently, it has been taboo to examine the depths of German suffering after 1945, because of the suffering they themselves had caused. Drawing on meticulous research, Douglas thoughtfully explains the context for this policy, before showing convincingly that its rationale was flawed."—Hester Vaizey, Independent

"Well-researched and dispassionately written. . . . Those who want to understand the tensions in modern Europe, not least in central Europe, ought to read this book."—Gisela Stuart, The Housing Magazine

"Douglas has produced a highly valuable and convincing account of the expulsion of Germans. . . "—Pertti Ahonen, Journal of Modern History

“A timely read” —Harvey Richardson, Methodist Recorder

Runner-up in the General Non-Fiction category at the 2013 Great Southeast Book Festival

Winner of the 2013 George Louis Beer Prize given by the American Historical Association

Won an honorable mention for the 2012 Association of American Publishers PROSE Awards in the European & World History Category

"Orderly and Humane is an outstanding and well-written work that fills a significant gap in books written in English about this large subject and the very period of its compass. It ought to be in every serious American library and should be required reading for scholars interested in the history of the end of the Second World War and the years thereafter in Europe."—John Lukacs, author of The Future of  History and Five Days in London, May 1940

"R.M. Douglas has written a fair-minded, deeply researched and courageous book that carefully demystifies the claims and accusations surrounding the awful history of the expulsion of the ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. A first-rate work, Orderly and Humane compels us to admit that the postwar expulsions were not simply a regrettable accident but a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing on a breathtaking scale that decisively shaped postwar Europe’s history."—William I. Hitchcock, author of The Bitter Road to Freedom: The Human Consequences of Allied Victory in World War II Europe

"The tragedy of the post-World War II ethnic German refugees and expellees has been told before but no account is based on so many original documents from so many countries as Douglas’s eminently readable work."—Istvan Deak, Columbia University