World War Two left Europe war torn and destitute. Over 30 million people had been “uprooted, transplanted, expelled, deported and dispersed…in the years 1939-43” (Judt, Postwar, p. 23). Many cities were completely destroyed including Minsk, Royan, Le Havre, Hamburg, Cologne, Warsaw, and thousands of others (p. 16-17). Industry and agriculture were hard hit, which contributed to the need for food rationing because there was not enough food to feed Europe. This war was without a doubt a total war, in the sense that nothing was sacred or safe from the war machine. An example of the effects of this total war can be seen in the number of civilian casualties: “The numbers of civilian dead exceeded military losses in the USSR, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway” (p. 18). Thus, this war wreaked havoc not only on the physical landscape of Europe, but also on the psyche of Europeans: Europe would never be the same. In order to deal with this intense trauma and its ensuing consequences, Europe repatriated millions of refugees and displaced persons, many Western European countries instituted social welfare programs, and some countries created myths about the war in order to help their countries heal.
[...] Before the war, France was seen as the major continental power: it had a powerful army, an imperial empire, and a long history of cultural supremacy in Europe. After about four years of German occupation and government collaboration with the Nazis under the Vichy regime, the pre-war image of France had been shattered. France was only invited to postwar meetings among the successful Allies because it was convenient for those leaders and because France was seen as a power of the order”. [...]
[...] Nazi teachers were removed, libraries restocked, newsprint and paper supplies taken under direct Allied control and assigned to new owners and editors with genuine anti-Nazi credentials” (p. 56). However, the people did not welcome these programs because many Germans saw themselves as victims of the war as well. They believed they had been victimized by the Nazis, by the Red Army, and finally by the other Allied nations. They had suffered through the war, through the bombings, and now they were facing food rationing and reconstruction. [...]
[...] This name was meant to revitalize the empire's pride by asserting the belief that the Soviet Union had valiantly defeated the Nazis. However, this name is also a myth, for it does not tell of the millions of women raped by the Red Army or of the thousands of towns destroyed in its wake. This version of the story paints a very neat picture of the Soviet victory, one that does not match up to the behavior of the soldiers or to the postwar reality. [...]
[...] However, France's record during the war was not clean. The Vichy government had been a puppet of the Nazis, and there were both strong resistance and strong collaboration movements. Thus even before the war was over, Nazi collaborators were hunted down, and “10,000 people were killed in ‘extra-judicial' proceedings, many of them by independent bands of armed resistance groups, who rounded up suspected collaborators, seized their property and in many cases shot them out of hand” (p. 42). Furthermore, French women suspected of horizontal collaboration, which meant sleeping with Germans in exchange for some sort of service, were publicly humiliated. [...]
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