In a radio interview on October 28, 1943, Dr. Vojta Benes, a former Czechoslovakian senator who had been living in America since escaping his homeland in 1939, is hopeful about lasting peace after the end of World War II.
Lessons from history: securing the future
When a country’s security is threatened, UN peacekeepers must intervene only after politicians have exhausted all possibilities for conflict prevention. This key conclusion emerged in the first debate in a new series of ‘Lessons from history’, held in Brussels by Friends of Europe on 19 March 2019. Featuring three peace and security experts, focused on UN operations in Africa, the event aimed to better prepare for future crises.
“We can learn lessons from UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, home to around half the UN’s work in that field,” said the moderator Jamie Shea, Senior Fellow, Friends of Europe and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General at NATO. He wanted to look at Rwanda and Liberia, respectively considered as a failure and success in UN peacekeeping. What more can the EU and NATO do to support peacekeeping on this continent and beyond?
All three panellists agreed that countries and peacekeepers must prioritise the prevention of conflicts, with intervention only a last resort. That is more important than ever, noted Alice Musabende – a survivor of the 1994 Rwanda genocide and now an academic at Cambridge University – because conflicts are increasingly complex and involve new peacekeepers such as China.
“Rwanda was the greatest failure in UN history, but it was not a UN failure, it was ours,” said Linda Melvern, Investigative Journalist and former consultant to the ‘Military One’ trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). She said some UN peacekeepers had tried their best to defend the Tutsi population during the genocide. However there was a shocking lack of accountability from UN member states and decision-makers for the UN’s withdrawal in April 1994 from most of its peacekeeping operation (UNAMIR) in the country. Even today, many of the peacekeepers involved have not been properly debriefed.
Rwanda did lead to the African Union (AU) taking more responsibility for intervening in the continent’s conflicts, added Ms Musabende. However, the AU is still under-resourced and mainly relies on funding from the EU, hence the importance of partnerships like this in peacekeeping. Rory Keane, Head of the UN Liaison Office for Peace and Security in Brussels (UNLOPS), noted that Rwanda and other conflicts had also led to reforms in the UN. These include better pre-deployment training for peacekeepers, plus a merger of the peace operations and political teams.
The 15-year UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia ended in March 2018 and is roundly considered a success story. For Mr Keane, it underlined the value of a long-term investment in peace, having an exit strategy (the UN lacked this in Libya, leading to chaos and instability) and linking UN operations with local structures. He also said women played a vital role in the peace process, backed later by a female UN peacekeeping force from India.
As for the EU, panellists praised its partnership with UN peacekeepers and its security capacity building, among other assets. According to Ms Musabende, Europeans and others must also stop “meddling in Africa and learn to listen more to what Africans themselves want in times of conflict.”
November 28, 2012
It was one of many ugly episodes in 1945. On a summer day in Horní Mo&scarontenice, a small town in central Czechoslovakia, 265 people, including 120 women and seventy-four children, were dragged from a train, shot in the neck, and buried in a mass grave that had been dug beside the local railway station. It was a common enough scene in Central and Eastern Europe during World War II, when Nazi extermination policies threatened entire ethnic groups. But despite the similarity of means and ends, the massacre in Horní Mo&scarontenice was different. For one thing, it occurred on June 18, after the war in Europe had officially ended. Moreover, the perpetrators were Czechoslovak troops, and their victims were Germans who had been a presence in the region for centuries.
Orderly and Humane
The Expulsion of the Germans After the Second World War.
By R.M. Douglas.
Buy this book
&ldquoBetter enjoy the war&mdashthe peace will be terrible&rdquo went a popular joke during the Third Reich. While, after 1945, almost all Germans presented themselves as the true victims of the Nazi regime, the peace was perhaps most brutal for the more than 12 million Volksdeutsche: German speakers living outside the borders of the Reich. The vast majority of the Volksdeutsche in Eastern Europe had greeted Hitler&rsquos conquests as a form of national &ldquoliberation.&rdquo They benefited materially from the plunder of their Jewish, Czech and Polish neighbors, and even if they sometimes resented their loss of autonomy (as when Germans from the Reich secured choice jobs and property during the Nazi occupation), they rarely protested. After the Nazi defeat, the Volksdeutsche fled or were expelled to the West, and were stripped of their citizenship, homes and property in what R.M. Douglas calls &ldquothe largest forced population transfer&mdashand perhaps the greatest single movement of peoples&mdashin human history.&rdquo Douglas amply demonstrates that these population transfers, which were to be carried out in an &ldquoorderly and humane&rdquo manner according to the language of the Allies&rsquo 1945 Potsdam Agreement, counted as neither. Instead, he writes, they were nothing less than a &ldquomassive state-sponsored carnival of violence, resulting in a death toll that on the most conservative of estimates must have reached six figures.&rdquo
Orderly and Humane is not, as it boasts, the first book &ldquoin any language to tell the full story&rdquo of the expulsions, nor is it &ldquobased mainly on archival records of the countries that carried out the forced migrations&rdquo&mdashprimarily Poland and Czechoslovakia, but also Yugoslavia, Romania and Hungary in smaller numbers. It is certainly not true, as Douglas claims, that the expulsions have &ldquolargely escaped the notice of historians today.&rdquo Douglas&rsquos own account is based largely on an excellent synthesis of the extensive existing scholarship on the topic by American, British, German, Polish and Czech scholars, along with untapped English and French language sources found in the archives of the British Foreign Office, the US National Archives and the International Red Cross in Geneva, complemented by a smattering of previously well-mined records in Czechoslovakia and Poland.
At the heart of this story are pressing and unresolved philosophical and political questions&mdashabout the validity of collective guilt and the extent to which one can justifiably respond to evil with evil. As Douglas points out, the behavior of the Volksdeutsche during the war was certainly no worse than that of the vast majority of Germans in the Third Reich, who did not lose their property, citizenship or livelihoods in the postwar period. Between the extreme poles of collaboration and resistance in occupied Eastern Europe, there were many shades of accommodation, acquiescence and complicity. Recent scholarship on the occupied East has revealed the extent to which ordinary Eastern Europeans welcomed, participated in and profited from the deportation of Jews during the war. Slovakia, a Nazi satellite state, was the first Axis partner to deport its Jews, with only a single member of the Slovak parliament dissenting from this policy Slovak troops participated in the 1939 invasion of Poland and the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. Yet relatively few Slovaks were punished for collaboration after the war.
Given Douglas&rsquos reliance on British and American sources, as well as his decision not to rely on testimony from the victims, whose accounts are still vulnerable to claims of bias and exaggeration, it is not surprising that his most original and valuable contribution here is his focus on the complicity and responsibility of the Allies. &ldquoWhile the expelling countries were undoubtedly guilty of wholesale violations of human rights, the Western democracies were equally implicated in the catastrophe that was unfolding before them,&rdquo he argues. Nor did the Allies support this massive experiment in demographic engineering out of naïveté. Douglas shows that instead they consciously rejected &ldquothe unanimous advice of experts who had predicted with great accuracy the state of affairs their policies would produce.&rdquo Through purges, trials and population transfers, the victors dispensed justice crudely and unevenly at the end of the war, as they sought to achieve particular political and economic outcomes. These included creating homogeneous nation-states in Eastern Europe in the name of peace and security, but also compensating the Soviet Union for its tremendous human and material sacrifices during the war.
But for the victors&rsquo calculations to be understood entirely, we actually have to turn back the clock even further, to the end of World War I. Woodrow Wilson arguably bears as much responsibility as Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt and Czechoslovakia&rsquos president, Edvard Bene&scaron, for the postwar spree of ethnic cleansing. In 1918, the remnants of the multinational Habsburg and Ottoman empires were carved into sovereign nation-states, in accordance with the Wilsonian ideal of &ldquonational self-determination.&rdquo As Hannah Arendt perceptively argued, the world stood convinced in 1918 that &ldquotrue freedom, true emancipation, and true popular sovereignty could be attained only with full national emancipation, and that people without their own national government were deprived of human rights.&rdquo
The problem with this principle was that borders and nations were not neatly aligned in Eastern and Central Europe. Citizens of the Habsburg Empire&rsquos many linguistic, national and confessional groups were hopelessly intermingled. In many cases it was not even clear who belonged to what nation, because so many citizens of the empire were bilingual or indifferent to nationalism. Equally important, in spite of the rhetoric of national self-determination, the frontiers of the new successor states had been drawn with geopolitical imperatives in mind. Even though German speakers formed an absolute majority in the borderlands of Czechoslovakia (which would come to be known as the Sudetenland), and most wanted to join the Austrian rump state, the region was forcibly annexed to Czechoslovakia for the sake of the state&rsquos economic viability.
A new so-called &ldquominority problem&rdquo was born in interwar Eastern Europe, with German speakers and Jews ranking as the largest minority groups. While all of the successor states were forced to sign minority protection treaties (much against their will) and the League of Nations was charged with enforcing them, such treaties held little purchase on the ground. Czechoslovakia, which still enjoys a reputation as the most liberal, democratic and &ldquoWestern&rdquo state in interwar Eastern Europe (and styled itself the Switzerland of the East), launched a &ldquocolonization&rdquo scheme to populate the German territories with large Czech families. It also arbitrarily fired German civil servants, closed German schools and, in many cases, forcibly reclassified self-declared Germans as Czechoslovak citizens on the census in order to shrink the official size of the German minority.
The presumed link between democratization and nationalization in 1918 enabled Eastern European leaders to justify such policies in the name of democratic values. And if minority protections offered one potential &ldquosolution&rdquo to the &ldquominority problem,&rdquo the failure of these protections led many policy-makers to embrace the more radical alternative of forced population transfers. All told, between 1918 and 1948, millions of people were uprooted to create homogeneous nation-states: Greeks were swapped with Turks, Bulgarians with Greeks, Ukrainians with Poles, Hungarians with Slovaks. Certainly, population transfers were more &ldquohumane&rdquo than the wholesale extermination suffered by Armenians and Jews. But surely there are choices other than extermination and ethnic cleansing?
The existence of a large, disgruntled German minority in Eastern Europe ultimately provided Hitler with a welcome pretext to overrun the region in the name of &ldquoliberating&rdquo Germans in the East. The Nazi regime also justified its brutal campaign to &ldquoGermanize&rdquo occupied Eastern Europe as a way of exacting reparations for the decades of denationalization allegedly suffered by the Volksdeutsche between the wars. The Third Reich simultaneously launched an ambitious plan to bring Germans &ldquohome to the Reich,&rdquo by transplanting hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans from the USSR and Tyrol to its newly annexed Polish territory and assigning them to homes, businesses and farms recently expropriated from deported Poles and Jews.
Ironically, then, the postwar population transfers completed a process of segregation and ethnic cleansing that Hitler himself had begun. Planning for the so-called &ldquotransfer&rdquo of Germans from the East began well before World War II ended. Indeed, Czechoslovakia&rsquos President Bene&scaron actually offered Hitler a secret deal on September 15, 1938: 6,000 square kilometers of Czechoslovak territory in exchange for the forced transfer of up to 2 million Sudeten Germans to the Third Reich. Hitler never replied. Bene&scaron first publicly declared his support for the &ldquoprinciple of the transfer of populations&rdquo in September 1941, and then proceeded to lobby the Allies successfully for their approval of the expulsions throughout the war. The fate of more than 7 million Germans in Poland was meanwhile sealed by Stalin&rsquos territorial ambitions, approved by the Allies at Yalta and Potsdam when he gobbled up Poland&rsquos eastern territories, he compensated the Poles with a large chunk of eastern Germany. These territorial &ldquoadjustments&rdquo were to be accompanied by massive population transfers that would, once and for all, create homogeneous nation-states out of territories that had long been mosaics of overlapping linguistic and national groups.
One of Bene&scaron&rsquos first acts as president in 1945 was to issue decrees stripping Germans, Hungarians and collaborators of both their citizenship and their property. The anti-fascists among them could theoretically apply to have their citizenship reinstated, but very few were successful. There was a widespread consensus among the Czechoslovak population and officials that even anti-fascist Germans had to go, because their children would surely grow up to be traitors. Ludvík Svoboda, the Czechoslovak defense minister and future president, called for &ldquothe complete expulsion from Czechoslovakia of all Germans, even those so-called anti-fascists, to safeguard us from the formation of a new fifth column.&rdquo Jewish concentration camp survivors were expelled as well, based on the perverse argument that they had contributed to the &ldquoGermanization&rdquo of Czechoslovakia during the First Republic.
Yet neither Nazi race scientists nor their Czechoslovak counterparts after the war could easily distinguish between Germans and Czechs, or Germans and Poles. As George Kennan, the American diplomat, noted of one Bohemian town shortly after the Nazi occupation in 1939, &ldquoIt became difficult to tell where the Czech left off and the German began.&rdquo Legally, a person&rsquos declaration of nationality on the 1930 census was decisive in Czechoslovakia, but there were a multitude of problem cases. Several hundred thousand people, for example, had declared themselves German during the Nazi occupation, only to attempt to reclaim Czechoslovak nationality after the war. Thousands more were entwined with Germans in mixed marriages.
The so-called &ldquowild&rdquo or spontaneous expulsions in Czechoslovakia began almost immediately after liberation, in May to June of 1945. But there was nothing &ldquowild&rdquo about this first wave of what Czech officials referred to as národní ocista (&ldquonational cleansing&rdquo). These expulsions, which resulted in the removal of up to 2 million Germans from Eastern Europe, were planned and executed by troops, police and militia, under orders from the highest authorities, with the full knowledge and consent of the Allies. Eastern European and Allied observers alike remarked on the utter passivity of the victims, the majority of whom were women, children and the elderly (most German men had been drafted during the war and either killed or interned in POW camps). But the &ldquowild expulsions&rdquo were justified as self-defense on the basis of exaggerated or invented reports of ongoing resistance activity by Nazi &ldquoWerewolf&rdquo units. One of the most infamous postwar pogroms was sparked by the accidental explosion of an ammunition dump in Ústí nad Labem in northwestern Bohemia in July 1945. Most of the victims of the explosion were themselves German, but local workers, Czechoslovak Army units and Soviet troops wasted no time blaming Werewolf sabotage and taking revenge. Germans were beaten, shot and thrown into the Elbe River many observers recall a baby carriage being thrown into the river with a baby inside. The massacre resulted in at least 100 deaths.
During the &ldquowild&rdquo expulsions, lucky expellees were given a few hours&rsquo notice and taken on foot by force to the closest border with only the clothes on their back. The unlucky were interned in concentration and forced labor camps organized explicitly on the Nazi model. At least 180,000 ethnic Germans were interned in Czechoslovakia as of November 1945 another 170,000 were interned in Yugoslavia. The internees included many women, children and even several thousand German-speaking Jews. In many cases, former Nazi concentration camps and detention centers like Terezín/Theresienstadt were converted overnight into camps for ethnic Germans. At Linzervorstadt, a camp administered by a former Czech internee of Dachau, the motto &ldquoEye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth&rdquo replaced Arbeit macht frei on the camp gates. Inmates were stripped naked and shorn of their hair upon arrival at the camp, forced to run a gantlet while being beaten with rubber truncheons and then, during their stay in the camp, systematically flogged, tortured and made to stand at attention in all-night roll calls. Interned women throughout Czechoslovakia and Poland were subject to rampant sexual abuse, rape and torture. Germans were also forced to wear armbands or patches marked with the letter &ldquoN&rdquo for Nemec (German)&mdashcollective payback for the humiliation that the Nazis had inflicted on populations in the East. When they were finally transported west, the expellees traveled by cattle car, sometimes going with barely any food or water for up to two weeks. One victim recalled that each morning, &ldquoone or more dead bodies greeted us&hellipthey just had to be abandoned on the embankments.&rdquo
As Douglas demonstrates, German expellees did not fare much better during the supposedly &ldquoorganized&rdquo transfers supervised by the Allies under the terms of Potsdam. He describes a typical &ldquoorganized expulsion&rdquo from the Recovered Territories of Poland to Detmold in Westphalia in February 1946. Out of 1,507 expellees in the transport, 516 were children. Many were barefoot because the expellees had been allowed only ten minutes to prepare for their departure, insufficient time for parents to find their children&rsquos shoes. The Red Army had generously provisioned the travelers with a bit of coffee, a pound of bread and some sugar for a journey that lasted ten days.
Rations for Germans in liberated Czechoslovakia were officially set at the level allocated to Jewish concentration camp inmates during the war, but often sank even lower (even though the Czechs had enjoyed rations almost equal to those of the Germans during the war). This resulted in extremely high infant mortality rates. As of September 1945, some 10,000 children under the age of 14 were still interned in Czechoslovakia. An average of one child per day under the age of 3 died in the Nováky camp in Slovakia in July 1945 out of 110 children born in the Potulice camp in Poland between the beginning of 1945 and December 1946, only eleven survived to be expelled to Germany.
In a situation not unlike the earlier deportations of Jews by the Nazis, the pace of internment and expulsion was driven in part by a massive scramble for property, as Polish and Czech &ldquogold-diggers&rdquo and &ldquocarpetbaggers&rdquo from the interior rushed to seize the best land, homes, furniture and businesses of the expelled Germans. In both Poland and Czechoslovakia, Communists controlled the ministries of the interior and agriculture and had a strong presence on local government committees. This advantage enabled them to use the distribution of German property &ldquoto buy, if not the support, then at least the acquiescence of citizens in their continued rule,&rdquo Douglas argues. The Economist reported in July 1946: &ldquoA new Lumpenbourgeoisie has grown up mushroom-like during the war by looting the property first of murdered Jews and then of expelled Germans.&rdquo The Red Army, too, carried back east everything portable, from German machinery and livestock to axes and scythes, in an operation partly outlined by Potsdam and partly pure plunder.
The territories from which the Germans were expelled quickly gained a reputation as a lawless &ldquoWild West,&rdquo even as Communist authorities dreamed of transforming these borderlands into model socialist societies. Instead, the evacuated regions typically became socialist dystopias, eerie ghost towns and blighted landscapes renowned for environmental devastation rather than socialist modernity. The Czechoslovak government stripped the borderlands of raw materials in a program of rapid industrialization and left them in ruins. The massive influx of expellees into occupied Germany, which was experiencing one of the most severe housing crises in human history, caused further suffering. The Dachau concentration camp continued to house German expellees until 1965.
But while the vast majority of expellees were bitter and desperate to return home, and small numbers joined revanchist pressure groups, most made peace with their lot. Konrad Adenauer, the Christian Democratic chancellor of the Federal Republic, smartly raised a new tax to compensate expellees, created a new ministry to assist them and offered them social insurance. By the early 1950s, Germany was experiencing the so-called economic miracle that contributed considerably to expellee integration. And as the 1968 generation in West Germany began to interrogate the Nazi past and embrace Willy Brandt&rsquos conciliatory Ostpolitik, the expulsions became a taboo subject and expellee pressure groups more isolated and marginal.
It is difficult to imagine a German or Czech finding the public space in which to write this book, given the topic&rsquos ongoing political sensitivity in Central Europe. Even as histories of German &ldquovictimization&rdquo during and after World War II have multiplied in the last decade, such histories remain suspect among the many who see them, understandably enough, as an attempt to mitigate the Nazis&rsquo crimes against humanity. Douglas calls for both a historical and commemorative approach that does not relativize Nazi brutality or ignore the context in which the expulsions of the Volksdeutsche took place, but instead focuses &ldquosquarely on the human person, which both in 1939&ndash45 and 1945&ndash47 was reduced to an abstract category rather than recognized as an all too vulnerable individual.&rdquo This is a laudable goal, but it does not resolve the underlying tension between the project of commemoration, with its selective focus on victimization and memorialization, and the documentary and interpretive goals of historical scholarship.
Douglas also condemns the arguments that justify or normalize the expulsions, which still carry weight among some political scientists. The population transfers were not, he rightly argues, necessary or justifiable because of intense popular hatred of the Volksdeutsche&mdashin fact, spontaneous retaliation was uncommon, and occurred in Czechoslovakia and Poland mostly when responsible authorities either abetted or participated in the violence. Nor did population transfers prevent the outbreak of a Third World War instead, the Allied occupation of Germany did. And the punishment meted out to the expellees was not a just form of retaliation, because revenge does not equal justice. Douglas denounces the refusal of Czechoslovak officials to revoke the Bene&scaron decrees, as well as the ongoing lack of redress for the expellees themselves. As recently as 2002, Czech courts reaffirmed the validity of a 1946 law that retroactively legalized &ldquojust reprisals for actions of the [German] occupation forces and their accomplices&hellipeven when such acts may otherwise be punishable by law.&rdquo This statute continues to prevent the investigation or prosecution of any murder, rape or torture of Germans that took place in Czechoslovakia prior to October 28, 1945, when the first postwar Czechoslovak parliament was reconvened.
Orderly and Humane contributes to the ongoing reassessment of the immediate aftermath of World War II, highlighting the dark, violent side of liberation. Accounts of ethnic cleansing, anti-Semitic violence, rape and plunder that occurred after the Nazi defeat challenge our most cherished ideas about World War II as a &ldquogood war.&rdquo They also shatter any notion that 1945 was a Stunde Null, or &ldquozero hour,&rdquo a moment of spiritual conversion in which many Europeans were born again as believers in the creed of democracy and human rights. And they force us to re-examine the liminal years of 1945&ndash48 on their own terms, asking which aspects of Nazi ideology were actually discredited by the experience of the Nazi occupation, and which persisted beyond the Third Reich&rsquos defeat.
Knowledge of the wholesale massacre of European Jewry certainly did not discredit anti-Semitism in Europe (or the United States, for that matter). After the war, pogroms and plunder drove the vast majority of surviving Jews in Poland, Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia to flee to occupied Germany, of all places, and the protection of the Allies. Even Allied authorities saw Jewish survivors as undesirable immigrants, often offering asylum to Baltic and Ukrainian former SS members&mdashnow rehabilitated as victims of Communism&mdashrather than to Jews. Above all, the experience of Nazi occupation did not discredit nationalism or the policies of ethnic cleansing. Eastern Europeans and the Great Powers alike emerged from the war more confident than ever that reconstructing a peaceful Europe required purging states of their national minorities, strengthening their sovereignty and restoring the national honor that had been compromised by the Nazi occupation.
Douglas concludes by calling the expulsions a &ldquotragic, unnecessary, and, we must resolve, never to be repeated episode in Europe&rsquos and the world&rsquos recent history.&rdquo But, of course, the tragedy of ethnic cleansing has been repeated many times over since 1945. To this day, the phrase &ldquonation building&rdquo is used interchangeably with &ldquostate building&rdquo in the Western press, conveying the impression that democratic states are built on the foundation of ethnically homogenous nations. While the Dayton Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia, did not explicitly endorse ethnic cleansing&mdashand, in fact, contained provisions to protect minority rights&mdashthey brokered a peace by allocating sovereign territories to Serbs, Croats and Muslims. This, in turn, ratified the ethnic cleansing that had already occurred, reinforcing the assumption that homogeneous nation-states are a precondition for stable democracies. That presumption continues to shape foreign policy, and to find support among serious scholars. In reality, the historical record has shown that national antagonism and violence are often the product, rather than the cause, of population transfers, and that ethnic cleansing is the prelude to a brutal peace.
In &ldquoThe Noble and the Base&rdquo (Dec. 3), John Connally examined Poland during the Holocaust.
Tara Zahra Tara Zahra is professor of history at the University of Chicago and Berthold Leibinger Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. Her most recent book is The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe&rsquos Families After World War II.
Opinion: Can the EU keep the peace in Europe? Not a chance
Chris Bickerton (Department of Politics and International Relations) discusses the role of the European Union.
The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 because of its “six decade-long contribution to peace and human rights in Europe”. In 2015, as the UK gears up towards its referendum on EU membership, we hear very often that the EU played a key role in building peace after World War II. For all its faults, the argument goes, the European Union is the best peace project Europe has.
There are three reasons why this is wrong. The first is that European integration contributed very little to the building of peace in post-war Europe. The second is that the EU’s record in keeping the peace on its external borders is poor. The third is that the Euro has aggravated conflicts between the members of the Eurozone: between north and south, creditor and debtor, exporter and importer.
It may seem crazy to suggest that the EU is not a peace project. This is, after all, its founding narrative. But history suggests otherwise for two reasons.
One is that in the late 1940s and 1950s there were many more powerful forces leading to peace in Europe. The shift from warfare to welfare states, made possible by the class compromise put in place after World War II, was crucial. European cooperation was really just an extension of that deeper change in European societies. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was intended to extend welfare provision to farmers.
Central to post-war peace in Europe was also the Cold War and the support given to Western Europe by the United States. Most important of all was the post-war boom. After the war, people wanted a better life and it was to their own governments that they turned.
Another reason is that the EU of today has little to do with European cooperation in the 1950s. Today’s EU has more recent roots. The Coal and Steel Community was a cartel intended to make European steel production more competitive and give the French access to West German coal. This initiative was quickly overcome by the economic success that raised demand for coal and steel. By 1957, it was quietly folded into the Treaty of Rome.
The aim of the Treaty of Rome was to soften the effects of economic success. Growing economies push up wages and prices, which makes imports cheaper and leads to repeated balance of payments problems. Look at Britain’s Stop-Go economic experience of the 1950s and 1960s. A common external tariff, which raised the prices of imports, was Western Europe’s answer to this problem.
Today’s EU has its roots in economic crisis, not in economic success. Its history takes us back to the 1970s and the end of the post-war consensus. Governments sought many ways to exit this crisis and eventually settled on European market integration (the Single European Act) plus fiscal consolidation through more robust external rules (the Maastricht Treaty). This takes us to the EU and the euro of today.
Peace in the Post-Cold War World
Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the world is a freer and more open place. From the former Soviet republics and the buffer countries of Central and Eastern Europe to Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Far East, the fall of the Soviet Union has led to a cascade of political and economic advances rarely before seen in human history.
According to Freedom House, there were 69 electoral democracies in 1990 today there are 115 -- an increase of more than 60 percent. In dozens of countries, centrally planned economies stifled innovation and entrepreneurship. Today, economic liberalization has, albeit imperfectly, created new opportunities and rising incomes that would have seemed unimaginable more than two decades ago. Yet beyond these advances, perhaps the most important development that came with the fall of the Soviet Union is frequently forgotten -- the world is today a demonstrably safer place.
To many observers, that might sound like heresy. The post-Soviet world, after all, has been marred by seemingly constant civil and global conflict -- the Gulf War in 1991, the ethnic cleansing and bloody civil war in the former Yugoslavia, the genocide in Rwanda, the unending fighting in the Congo, Sudan, and Somalia, the terrorist attacks on September 11 and the ongoing American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. American politicians repeatedly warn of the dangerous and unsafe world that we inhabit.
Moreover, didn't the Cold War prevent large-scale wars between great powers and keep ethnic and national tension suppressed? The threat of nuclear conflict certainly helped to prevent World War III, but it hardly stopped dozens of countries from waging horribly violent wars. On the Korean peninsula, in South-East Asia, across the Middle East, on the Indian subcontinent, and across sub-Saharan Africa, conflict was a relatively common state of affairs during the Cold War. Many of these conflicts were exacerbated by the machinations of the competing super powers. Would millions have died in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan if these three countries had not been considered the frontlines in the conflict between Cold War rivals?
In fact, the Soviet Union's demise sped up rather than slowed down the global movement toward a safer and more secure world. The reality is that today, wars are rarer than ever before. According to the 2009/2010 Human Security Report, state-based armed conflict declined by 40 percent from 1992 to 2003. And when wars occur, they are less deadly for both combatants and civilians. The average war so far in the 21st century kills 90 percent fewer people than the average conflict in the 1950s. The last ten years have seen fewer war deaths than any decade of the past century.
The world has not seen a major power conflict in more than six decades -- the longest period of sustained peace between great powers in centuries. Finally, insurgent groups, rather than governments, are the greatest cause of civilian deaths today -- a worrisome trend for sure, but one that stands in sharp contrast to much of the 20th century, in which nations devised new and ingenious methods for slaughtering millions of their own citizens.
But there is a larger reality of the post-Cold War world -- the threat of nuclear conflict has declined dramatically. From the late 1940s to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the potential for a devastating nuclear exchange that would destroy the globe and wipe out mankind was a distinct and real possibility.
As Micah Zenko, a Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told me, the period from roughly 1982 to 1984 was "the least safe time to live on earth. The number of deployed nuclear weapons was obscene overkill, and potential flashpoints for a U.S.-Soviet conflict were many." Nuclear weapons were far more widely-dispersed across the Soviet Union than they are today, and launch authority remained at shockingly low levels even into the 1980s. While the threat of nuclear war may have always been a low possibility, it was still real distorting and disrupting international affairs for much of the 20th century. While there remains the extremely slim risk of accidental launches or nuclear terrorism, ridding ourselves of this existential burden has been a boon rather than a detriment to the conduct of international affairs.
For all the challenges to global security we face today, they pale in comparison to the threat of superpower war and the proxy battles that defined the four decades of ideological and geopolitical conflict between East and West. The fall of Soviet Russia, for all of its many positive ramifications, helped to end the constant danger of a war that would truly and catastrophically "end all wars." A more complex but decidedly more secure and safer world has replaced it.
Chronology of the post–World War II era Edit
The term "post-war" can have different meanings in different countries and refer to a period determined by local considerations based on the effect of the war there.
- culturally, is a term commonly used in the arts and architecture, as it is worldwide. It is primarily and especially before the ascendancy of Pop Art and overlapping "post-modernist" "1960s" movements. Its end is complex due to its archetypes of the 1950s contrasting with leading developments in avant-garde music genres and in pop art, becoming to some audiences mainstream, before 1960. Its movements such as continued functionalism and brutalism were overtaken by the, definitively raucous, counterculture of the 1960s, dominating as the decade wore on. Later resurgences to its stress on quite basic forms were common such as postmodernism and minimalism.
- politically and economically
- at its broadest, is the period from the election of Clement Attlee in 1945 to that of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the so-called post-war consensus.
- at its narrowest, usually with precise or contextual qualifiers, it is the war's direct aftermath this prompted social solidarity, unprecedented high capital, particularly inheritance taxation, internationalism, the granting of independence to the British Empire, the founding and endowing of the National Health Service all amid relative austerity particularly rationing. Hardships in capital taxation, and of rationing, faded due to global recovery, technological advances and consumerism enabled and encouraged from the late 1950s such as under the four-successive leader Conservative government, 1957–1964. These set a social norm for a majority of out-of-town journeys in private rather than public transport and private housing preferred over public housing, continued (with minor abatement) through alternating governments of the next two decades. 
Cold War era Edit
Considering the post-war era as equivalent to the Cold War era, post-war sometimes includes the 1980s, putting the end at 26 December 1991, with the Dissolution of the Soviet Union.   The 1990s and the 21st century are extremely rarely described as part of the post-war era.
- ^"AEC Lorries in the post war years 1945–1979 book | #248690820". Worthpoint.
- "The Post-War Years 1945 – 1960".
- ^The Post War Economy: 1945–1960
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 August 2011 . Retrieved 16 June 2011 . CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Unknown Forum". soapbox.websitetoolbox.com.
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Postwar Politics and the Cold War
The late summer of 1945 marked the height of American power. The country that had suffered from dust bowls, economic depression, and a devastating attack on its Pacific naval fleet in the last decade-and-a-half emerged as the dominant global actor. American soldiers had decisively defeated the seemingly invincible German and Japanese militaries. Thanks to generous government investments and the immigration across the Atlantic of some of Europe’s best minds, American science and technology had advanced beyond all peers. The shocking atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved this point. Above all, the United States had developed the capability to produce more military and civilian goods (aircraft, cars, radios, and guns, among many other items) than the rest of the world combined. American farmers also benefited from mass production and distribution, selling enough food at war’s end to feed populations around the globe. For American citizens who saved and sacrificed in the 1930s and early 1940s, the next decade promised unprecedented security and abundance. Happy days, it seemed, were here again.
Happiness was evident in the street parades, the family reunions, and the new births (“the baby boom”) that filled American society immediately after the war. Happiness, however, was also a fleeting emotion. The Americans celebrating their victory with loved ones also looked ominously toward a dangerous, complex, and potentially violent postwar world. In August 1946, only a year after the end of the war, journalist John Hersey published a searing account of the horrific suffering created by the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Originally appearing in the New Yorker magazine and later published as a bestselling book, Hersey’s descriptions warned readers that the greatest achievements of modern science promised more death and destruction, if not carefully controlled. Americans began to worry about the consequences of other countries, especially Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, acquiring and possibly using this horrific new technology. A future war would be even worse than what citizens had just witnessed.
The end of the Second World War had indeed left a lot of unfinished business. Hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union—commonly called a “Cold War”—quickly emerged from the fears of future military conflict in devastated and vulnerable areas. Allied armies had divided Europe into Eastern and Western halves, held largely by Soviet and American forces respectively. The United States controlled postwar Japan, but the Korean peninsula remained divided between Soviet (North) and American (South) zones of occupation. American forces also remained deployed widely in Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam), the Philippines, Indonesia, and other areas formerly held by the Japanese in war. These foreign commitments stretched American resources far, and they opened the country to many new conflicts.
Americans worried about postwar costs: How much would they have to pay to help rebuild allies, like Great Britain and France, and former enemies, especially Germany and Japan? Would these postwar projects undermine investments in the American economy at home? Americans also worried about new enemies: Would the Soviet Union and its communist allies in Europe and Asia take advantage of postwar weaknesses to spread their extremist ideology? Would Joseph Stalin establish a new empire in the territories formerly held by the Germans and the Japanese? The cold winter of 1945–1946 witnessed near-starvation conditions in the American-occupied parts of Western Germany and increased Communist aggression in Eastern Europe. The worst fears about postwar costs and conflicts had become a reality. There was no “peace dividend.”
President Harry Truman was an old-fashioned fiscal conservative. He supported President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal expansion of government programs during the Great Depression, but he also believed that the country could not continue to spend more money than it took in through taxes. Truman wanted to continue investments at home, control threats abroad, and limit spending on the military. He sought a “fair deal” for postwar Americans that included efforts to prevent any return of the twin evils of the 1930s: economic depression or the spread of fascism (including communist “red fascism”). For Truman this meant that American politics must be active and expansive, but also cautious and restrained. The United States had to hold the line on Communist expansion while bringing the troops home. The United States had to create new economic opportunities, especially for returning soldiers, while keeping budgets under control.
The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (also known as the “GI Bill”), signed into law by President Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, became the primary vehicle for federal aid to American war veterans. During Truman’s presidency, the broad application of its benefits provided a foundation for remarkable American growth. Eight million veterans received education assistance, more than two million of whom attended colleges and universities, paid directly by the government. More than two million veterans also bought new homes with discounted government loans provided by the GI Bill.
Higher education and home ownership became common routes for returning soldiers to move into the expanding American middle class. They were often the first people in their families to attain comfort and professional status on this scale. As part of the middle class, they read more, bought more, and saved more than their predecessors. They also paid more taxes, as a proportion of their annual income, than any previous generation of Americans. The GI Bill and the ethic of public service that carried forward from the Second World War made the years after 1945 a period of extraordinary growth in American national capabilities. Historians have looked back to this period as a peak in what they call “social capital” across the country.
This observation applies to women, African Americans, and other minorities. They continued to confront the ugly realities of racism, sexism, and ethnic prejudice in postwar America, but they also benefited from material opportunities unthinkable in earlier generations. Although the GI bill clearly favored white male veterans, it also contributed to higher levels of educational attainment and home ownership for other groups. President Truman furthered this process, pushing publicly for more fair and equal treatment of citizens. In December 1946 he appointed a new President’s Committee on Civil Rights, which in October 1947 published a landmark report: To Secure These Rights. The report condemned segregation and called on the Truman administration to do more to integrate different races in American society, especially in the US military.
Truman was reluctant to move fast on racial integration for fear of alienating white voters. He did, however, respond to the President’s Committee and the growing movement of organized African Americans demanding equal rights. Led by the venerable labor and civil rights organizer A. Philip Randolph, numerous African American groups around the country came together to demand more access to the middle-class values promised by the GI Bill. African Americans and other minorities had served in combat during the Second World War, they had “proven” their patriotism, and they now had a strong argument for equal citizenship.
As the November 1948 presidential election approached, Truman recognized that he had to secure African American votes for his reelection. Despite opposition from many military leaders, on July 26, 1948, the President signed Executive Order 9881, requiring “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” Truman also called for the creation of a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission (first created by President Roosevelt in 1941), the elimination of poll taxes that denied voting rights, and the passage of new anti-lynching legislation. Although congressional Democrats from the South stalled most of these initiatives, Truman sent a strong message about the legitimacy of minority claims to equal treatment.
The actual desegregation of the armed forces took more than five years to complete. It created a model for fair employment and access to middle-class status for minorities in the United States. It was the first major piece of successful civil rights law after the Second World War, and it empowered a new coalition of African American citizens demanding a voice in the nation’s politics, particularly within the Democratic Party. Truman’s narrow victory over his Republican opponent in 1948, Thomas Dewey, probably would not have been possible without the support of African American voters. Strom Thurmond, the Democratic governor of South Carolina, broke from Truman over the President’s support for early civil rights, creating the short-lived “Dixiecrat” Party.
Truman’s expansive vision of opportunity in American society went hand-in-hand with strong intolerance toward radicalism. The President sold his “fair deal” as a liberal alternative to the violence of fascism and Jim Crow on the political right, and the fanaticism of communism and socialism on the political left. Liberalism was about the proper middle way that protected individual rights, security, and prosperity from efforts by extremists to deny these values in the name of what many at the time called “false Gods.” The late 1940s and early 1950s witnessed what historians have called a “religious awakening” in American society, as figures like Truman, and his successor Dwight Eisenhower, emphasized the religious roots of their programs for expanded economic opportunity at home, and strict efforts to prevent the spread of godless communism.
Truman and his supporters labeled the President’s other opponent in 1948, former Vice President Henry Wallace, as a dangerous collaborator with communists. Wallace had strong New Deal credentials, dating back to his pioneering work as President Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture during the darkest days of the Depression. Wallace criticized the anti-radicalism inherent in Truman’s liberalism. He called for stronger action on civil rights and more open efforts to work with, not against, communist actors at home and abroad. Wallace’s vision echoed “social democracy” in Italy and France, where communists and socialists were part of multifaceted ruling coalitions, not the American tradition of two-party government.
Truman used his victory over Wallace in 1948 to solidify the anti-communist elements of his liberal agenda. In 1947 the President had already instituted a loyalty oath for all government employees, requiring them to condemn any efforts at radicalism or subversion. This program accompanied the announcement of what became known as the “Truman Doctrine” on March 12, 1947, when the President proclaimed that the United States would support anti-communist forces in Greece and Turkey, as well as other parts of the world. The United States would use economic and military aid to contain Soviet advances abroad, and it would use police power at home to isolate Soviet sympathizers. “Cold War liberalism,” as historians later called it, meant support for individual rights, national security, and broad prosperity through the expansion of a national middle class. Cold War liberalism opposed collectivism, atheism, and any other radical ideas that challenged assumptions about American progress within inherited constitutional institutions.
The paradox was that Truman’s efforts to reinforce constitutional institutions changed them in enduring ways. The politics of the late 1940s created a truly new form of American government. If the New Deal greatly expanded the role of federal agencies in managing the economy, Truman’s Cold War liberalism extended presidential power into many other areas. The most conspicuous example of this constitutional transformation is the National Security Act of 1947. This large and cumbersome piece of legislation, passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Truman on July 26, 1947, reorganized military and foreign policy authority in the United States, giving much more control to the president and his immediate advisors. The National Security Act created a unified Department of Defense, merging the War and Navy Departments that were separated in the Constitution, a design the Founding Fathers had included to ensure checks and balances and prevent concentrating too much power in a unified military. The Act also created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a permanent international spying agency, and the National Security Council, a permanent body to coordinate foreign-policy decision-making in the White House. These institutions marked the beginnings of what scholars would later call the “imperial presidency,” where issues of security and war-fighting were dominated by the White House. The Congress, and the public as a whole, became much more passive actors.
When the North Korean army attacked South Korea on June 25, 1950—a shock to everyone in Washington—the politics of the first five postwar years reached a natural climax. The United States was indeed richer and more powerful than any other country in the world. It had begun an extraordinary process of reconstructing Western Europe and Japan, its former adversaries, as democratic allies. Many trends appeared to favor the United States.
Other trends looked different. The Soviet Union had scored an apparent victory in October 1949 with the successful Communist revolution in China. A Communist-led coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948 and Soviet efforts to blockade Western access to West Berlin between June 1948 and May 1949 reinforced fears that Stalin and his allies were pushing for a more dominant global position. By the end of the 1940s Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union dominated foreign policy and domestic politics.
Less than a year later, the Communists launched a bold attack on their non-Communist neighbors in South Korea, and they appeared poised to extend their empire even further. For all its wealth and power, the United States and its allies were incredibly vulnerable. President Truman reacted, predictably, by sending American forces to East Asia to fight a new war against North Korea and, by the end of 1950, Chinese soldiers. At home, many prominent Americans became obsessed with alleged new signs of subversion—part of a self-destructive debate about “who lost China” to the Communists, and the beginnings of a period of public witch-hunts later dubbed “McCarthyism” for Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy’s notorious role.
Through this all, President Truman remained steadfast about protecting American power and wealth. He sought to expand opportunity for citizens at home, as he sought to defeat enemies abroad and at home. He increased the power of the presidency over foreign policy, military affairs, and the economy for the purpose of empowering individual rights. Truman deployed new financial and technological resources in strategic ways to stimulate growth and contain threats. His Cold War liberalism and his violent anti-communism became ideological cornerstones, supporting the next forty years of American politics. Truman’s successor in the White House, President Dwight Eisenhower, placed renewed emphasis on Communist containment, continuing many of the basic policies established in the late 1940s and early 1950s. American Cold War politics acquired lines of continuity that lasted for more than three decades.
Jeremi Suriholds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Global Leadership at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of five major books on contemporary politics and foreign policy, including American Foreign Relations since 1898 (2010) and Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama (2011).
The 5 Most Important Treaties in World History
These pieces of paper changed the destiny of nations forever.
Wherever there are states, there are treaties. Since ancient times, treaties have been a crucial tool of statecraft and diplomacy. As treaties are agreements between various states, often concluded at the end of a conflict, they profoundly reshape boundaries, economies, alliances and international relations. Here are five of the most important treaties in history.
Treaty of Tordesillas (1494)
The Treaty of Tordesillas, between Portugal and Spain (technically its component Kingdom of Castile), was negotiated by the Papacy and divided newly discovered lands outside of Europe between the two countries along a line of longitude through what is now eastern Brazil.
As a result, Spanish exploration and colonization mostly focused on the Americas, leading to Spanish control over much of Central and South America the still undiscovered Brazil fell to Portugal. Portugal was able to explore east, and under Vasco da Gama in 1498, it managed to establish that it was possible to sail from Europe to India.
Initially, the treaty was to Portugal’s advantage, as it grew rich off of the trade route between Europe and Asia. However, in the long run, Portugal was edged out of this trade by England and Holland. In terms of controlling land, it was much more difficult for tiny Portugal to seize and hold territory where organized states existed in Asia. Spain, on the other hand, acquired a huge and populous empire in Latin America, and later discovered enormous mineral wealth there.
Ultimately, of course, other powers chose to ignore the treaty, which excluded them, including England, the Netherlands and France.
The Peace of Westphalia (1648)
The Peace of Westphalia consisted of two related treaties, the Treaty of Münster and the Treaty of Osnabrück, signed at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, which was generally between Catholic and Protestant states, although countries like France played both sides for cynical gain. Although the Peace of Westphalia only originally impacted Western and Central Europe, it eventually had global consequences.
This was because it established some of the most important principles of the international system. The key characteristics of the nation-state were laid out in the treaties signed at the Peace of Westphalia. The treaties established the idea of territorial sovereignty, with each state solely responsible for law and order, taxes and control over the populations in their territories. Additionally, the right of every state to order its own internal religious and political arrangements was recognized. These are now considered global norms.
The Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris (1783), which is the oldest treaty signed by the United States still in effect, ended the American Revolution and established the United States—for that reason alone, it is one of the most consequential treaties in world history. The Treaty of Paris didn’t just establish the United States it did so on highly favorable terms.
The American negotiating team, led by John Jay, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams played their hand astoundingly well. America’s allies, France and Spain, did not want the United States to make a separate peace however, as fighting continued to rage in the Caribbean and Gibraltar, this is exactly what the Americans sought, as they felt they would get a better deal by directly dealing with London. The French had hoped that America would be a small and weak state between the Atlantic and Appalachians, with the British keeping the lands north of the Ohio River and the Spanish controlling a buffer state to the south. Instead, the British decided that a strong and economically successful America was in their interests and against French interests and were convinced to give the new state all the land up to the Mississippi river as well as fishing rights in Canada. This enabled the United States to later expand westward and become a major continental power.
The Congress of Vienna (1814–15)
The Congress of Vienna occurred at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and dramatically reshaped Europe. Several treaties were signed at the Congress, the most important of which was the 1814 Treaty of Paris (there are a lot of “Treaties of Paris”).
The Congress of Vienna was especially noteworthy because of how successful it was. While some later historians have criticized it as being “reactionary,” it prevented the outbreak of a major European war for a hundred years. How did it accomplish this?
First, all parties, including defeated France, were part of the negotiations. This was due to the informal format of the Congress, which allowed various parties, often led by brilliant diplomats such as Talleyrand (France) and Metternich (Austria) to sit down and hash out their positions, until a compromise was reached. While this did not make everyone happy, it ensured that nobody was totally unhappy and involved convoluted horse-trading. For example, Sweden lost Finland to Russia, but gained Norway from Denmark. Denmark, in turn, gained Swedish Pomerania and the Duchy of Lauenburg from Hanover it gave the first to Prussia and kept the second. In compensation Hanover was given East Frisia from Prussia.
Second, the Congress and the resulting treaties limited the level of punitiveness imposed on the losing parties. France lost the territory acquired by Napoleon but kept its prewar boundaries it was more often than not treated by the other powers as a fellow victim of Napoleon. Countries that sided with France, like Saxony were allowed to retain their independence, despite calls to the contrary. Unlike the aftermath of World War I, no attempts were made to abolish entire countries or change their internal political arrangements. All this contributed to enormous stability. The only unfortunate thing was that, because of all the horse-trading at the conference, an independent Poland was not reestablished.
Treaty of Versailles (1919)
The Treaty of Versailles was signed between the Western allies and Germany at the end of World War I. The manner in which it was handled stood in stark contrast with the inclusive way in which post-Napoleonic Europe was organized—terms were dictated, not negotiated. In addition to the Treaty of Versailles, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and the remnant of the Ottoman Empire also signed misconceived treaties.
Germany, of course, was given the short end of the stick, and was punished with the loss of territory and crippling reparations, largely at the urging of a vengeful France. While this was a bad idea, if the allies were going to go down this path, they should have gone ever further and broken up Germany, rather than let Europe’s most populous nation fester in anger.
President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points also lead to the creation of various new, small, weak nation-states which could hardly defend themselves in the long run against predatory powers like the Soviet Union and Germany. Interference in the internal political structures of defeated powers like Germany also created the conditions for trouble, and ultimately lead to World War II.
The related treaties of Sèvres and Lausanne divvied up the Ottoman Empire, with unpleasant consequences for the Middle East: Armenians and Kurds lost out, and most of the Arabs found themselves under French and British colonial rule in artificial states like Syria and Iraq, the consequences of which are abundantly evident today.
Akhilesh Pillalamarri is an international relations analyst, editor and writer, who contributes to the Diplomat and the National Interest. He received his Master of Arts in Security Studies from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where he concentrated in international security. You can follow him at his Twitter handle @akhipill.
Image: Political situation after the Congress of Vienna in June 1815. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/Alexander Altenhof
Post-War: Chaos and Challenges
After the German surrender in May 1945, World War II ended in Europe. Its most immediate legacies were death, devastation, and misery. The scale and speed of the conflict had been unprecedented: the war ended up killing at least 19 million non-combatant civilians in Europe. 1 Of those, 6 million were Jews, a full two-thirds of the pre-war Jewish population of Europe. For all those who remained, Jews and non-Jews, the end of the war did not bring an end to their problems. Historian Doris Bergen explains:
The arrival of allied forces and the collapse of Nazi Germany were not miracles that could undo or even stop the spirals of violence and misery unleashed by years of brutality . . . Whether they had been victims, perpetrators, or bystanders in Nazi barbarity—and many Europeans had reason to count themselves in more than one of those categories—people faced the challenge of building lives for themselves and what was left of their families and communities with scarce resources and restricted freedom, and in a climate of distrust and grief. 2
The victorious Allies were faced with difficult decisions. How would they treat Germany and other defeated Axis powers? What would they do about the millions of people displaced by the war who were now homeless and often starving? Would it be possible to rebuild peace and stability in Europe? In August 1945, the Allies issued a communiqué that said:
It is not the intention of the Allies to destroy or enslave the German people. It is the intention of the Allies that the German people be given the opportunity to prepare for the eventual reconstruction of their life on a democratic and peaceful basis. If their own efforts are steadily directed to this end, it will be possible for them in due course to take their place among the free and peaceful people of the world. 3
The Allies were determined to destroy what remained of the Nazi Party and to hold its leaders accountable for their crimes (see Chapter 10, Judgment and Justice). Germany would be disarmed, its boundaries redrawn, and the country divided into four “zones of occupation.” Each zone would be governed by one of the Allied powers: the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. At meetings between Allied leaders in 1945, they expressed a desire to restore democracy in Germany. 4 But the work of reconstruction in Europe would only become more complicated as the democratic western Allies and the communist Soviet Union competed for influence on the continent and their rivalries later hardened into what became known as the Cold War.
As the Allies made their plans, more than 10 million Europeans were on the move. Doris Bergen writes, “World War II sparked the movement of the largest number of people in the shortest period of time that the world had ever known. Refugees, fugitives, displaced persons, deportees, and expellees jammed the roadways and waterways of Europe and spilled over into Central Asia and the Americas.” 5
As soon as the war ended, the Allies tried to send all of those displaced persons (DPs) home as quickly as possible. Each of the Allied nations took responsibility for displaced persons in their own sector of Germany. Until transportation became available, they set up emergency centers to provide food, shelter, and medical care for the refugees. The project was extraordinarily successful: millions of people were home within weeks of the war’s end. Yet despite the Allies’ efforts, about 1.5 million DPs were still in emergency centers six months after the war.
How the Allies treated DPs depended on the DPs’ nationalities. Displaced persons from Allied nations received better treatment than those from Germany, Hungary, and other Axis nations. To many officials at the time, that policy seemed fair. To many Jews and other victims of the Nazis, it did not. It meant, for example, that German Jews recently liberated from concentration camps were treated as enemy aliens, not as survivors of an atrocity.
In February 1946, former American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited displaced-persons camps in Germany. In her weekly newspaper column, she described some of what she saw:
There is a feeling of desperation and sorrow in this camp which seems beyond expression. An old woman knelt on the ground, grasping my knees. I lifted her up, but could not speak. What could one say at the end of a life which had brought her such complete despair? 6
You can measure the extent of damage done to cities, you can restore water supplies, gas and electricity, and you can rebuild the buildings needed to establish a military government. But how to gauge what has happened to human beings—that is incalculable. 7
These survivors often had already lost during the war years not only their homes and belongings but also much of what gave them their identity—their families, their physical appearance, their liberties, and their hopes. Displaced-persons camps were overcrowded and heavily guarded. Some were located in what had been Nazi concentration camps. Allied soldiers who managed DP camps were often bewildered or angered by the way Jewish survivors acted. Why did they sometimes fight for a loaf of bread or hoard food even when plenty was available? Why did some refuse to take showers or undergo de-lousing when other DPs did so without a fuss? The soldiers did not understand what was different about the Jewish DPs and how these survivors had been shaped by their experiences in Nazi camps. After hearing reports of poor camp conditions, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied military commander in Germany, agreed to create separate camps for Jewish DPs and to let Jewish relief agencies enter the camps so that they could work directly with survivors.
Many Jewish survivors tried to return to their pre-war homes and found that they were not welcome. Historian Tony Judt writes,
After years of anti-Semitic propaganda, local populations everywhere were not only disposed to blame ‘Jews’ in the abstract for their own suffering but were distinctly sorry to see the return of men and women whose jobs, possessions and apartments they had purloined. In the 4th arrondissement of Paris, on April 19, 1945, hundreds of people demonstrated in protest when a returning Jewish deportee tried to claim his (occupied) apartment. Before it was dispersed, the demonstration degenerated into a near-riot, the crowd screaming [France for the French!]. 8
The difficulty, even danger, of staying in Europe convinced many Jewish survivors to emigrate abroad. When they were able to obtain visas, they went to the United States, Latin America, South Africa, and to Jewish communities in Palestine. (The state of Israel was not established until 1948.)
The millions of displaced people within Europe also included Germans who had been settlers in lands conquered by the Third Reich during the war. As Nazi Germany claimed “Lebensraum,” these settlers had taken over homes, land, and possessions from local people (see reading, Colonizing Poland in Chapter 8). After the war, millions of German settlers were forcibly, even violently, expelled and sent back to Germany. Other ethnic Germans, whose families had lived in border regions like the Sudetenland for generations, also fled or were expelled. Allied opinion was divided about these expulsions. Joseph Stalin of the USSR saw them as a form of justice for Germany’s crimes. Some British and American leaders were worried by the violence and the hardship caused by the expulsions, but they also feared that pent-up anger would lead to even greater violence against the settlers if they were not sent back to Germany. Leaders like Winston Churchill believed that the “mixture of populations” could cause “endless trouble.” 9 Eventually, the German populations in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia had been expelled and returned to occupied Germany.
1 Mearsheimer , John J. , ‘ Correspondence: Back to the Future, Part III ’, International Security , 15 , 3 ( Winter 1990 / 1991 ), p. 220 Google Scholar .
2 The term was popularized by Gaddis , John Lewis . See his ‘ The Long Peace: Elements of Stability in the Postwar International System ’, International Security , 10 , 4 ( Spring 1986 ), pp. 99 – 142 CrossRefGoogle Scholar , and The Long Peace: Inquiries Into the History of the Cold War ( New York , 1987 )Google Scholar . See also Kegley , Charles W. Jr . (ed.), The Long Post-War Peace: Contending Explanations and Projections ( New York , 1991 )Google Scholar .
3 The term bipolarity is sometimes used to describe the organization of most states into two hostile coalitions. This analysis, however, employ s the predominant definition, which is a condition in which military capability is distributed in such a way that two states are much more powerful than all the others. For further discussion of the different meanings tha t have been attached to the term, see Wagner , R. Harrison , ‘ What Was Bipolarity? ’ International Organization , 47 ( 1993 ), pp. 77 – 106 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .
4 In addition to Gaddis, The Long Peace, see Mearsheimer , John J. , ‘ Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War ’, International Security , 14 , 4 ( Summer 1990 ), pp. 5 – 56 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Waltz , Kenneth N. , Theory of International Politics ( Readin g MA , 1979 )Google Scholar , and ‘ The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Be Better ’, Adelphi Papers , no. 171 (London, 1981 )Google Scholar Saperstein , Alvin M. , ‘ The “Long Peace”—Result of a Bipolar Competitive World? ’ The Journal of Conflict Resolution , 35 ( 1991 ), pp. 68 – 79 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Jervis , Robert , ‘ The Political Effects of Nuclear Weapons: A Comment ’, International Security , 13 , 2 (Fall 1988 ), pp. 80 – 90 CrossRefGoogle Scholar , and The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution: Statecraft and the Prospect of Armageddon ( Ithaca NY , 1989 ), pp. 23 – 29 Google Scholar and Mueller , John , ‘ The Essential Irrelevance of Nuclear Weapons: Stability in the Postwar World ’, International Security , 13 , 2 (Fall 1988 ), pp. 55 – 79 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .
5 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization often figures in popular accounts of why war was avoided in Europe. No studies, however, have explicitly examined the alliance's institutional characteristics and how these may have contributed to peace.
6 Several scholars have analyzed the international institutions that have purportedly contributed to the stability of the postwar era by regulating relations between the two superpowers. See Gaddis , , The Long Peace , pp. 238 –43Google Scholar George , Alexander L. , ‘ US–Soviet Global Rivalry: Norms of Competition ’, Journal of Peace Research , 23 ( 1986 ), pp. 247 –62CrossRefGoogle Scholar George , , Farley , Philip J. , and Dallin , Alexander (eds.), U.S.–Soviet Security Cooperation: Achievements, Failures, Lessons ( New York , 1988 )Google Scholar Hoffmann , Stanley , ‘ Superpower Ethics ’, Ethics and International Affairs , 1 ( 1987 ), pp. 37 – 51 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Kanet , Roger E. and Kolodziej , Edward A. (eds.), The Cold War as Cooperation ( Baltimore , 1991 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Rittberger , Volker (ed.), International Regimes in East-West Politics ( London , 1990 )Google Scholar and even Mearsheimer , , ‘Back to the Future’, pp. 26 – 27 Google Scholar .
From the perspective of the present study, however, these analyses suffer from three significant limitations. First, many of the institutional rules they identify are extremely general and thus d o not bear directly on the problem of keeping the peace in Europe. Secondly, many of the rules cited, e.g., respect spheres of influence, avoid direct military confrontation, use nuclear weapons only as an ultimate resort, etc., amount to little more than what calculations of self-interest based on consideration of the structure of the international system alone would dictate. Thus compliance would not involve any sacrifice of self-interest, while breaking the rules would result in no greater sanctions than if they had not existed in the first place. Thirdly, in emphasizing institutional arrangements between the two superpowers, these studies overlook the many exclusively Western security institutions that helped to maintain stability in Europe.
7 See, for example, Mearsheimer , , ‘Back to the Future’, pp. 12 and 19Google Scholar . For an especially concise formulation of the deterrence paradigm, see Rhodes , Edward , Power and MADness: The Logic of Nuclear Coercion ( New York , 1989 ), pp. 47 –8Google Scholar .