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The Long Road Home

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The epic story of the aftermath of World War Two and the repatriation of over fifteen million people across a devastated Europe.

About the Author

Ben Shephard read History at Oxford University. He was a Producer on the television series The World at War and The Nuclear Age and has made numerous historical and scientific documentaries for the BBC and Channel Four. He is the author of the critically acclaimed A War of Nerves- Soldiers and Psychiatrists 1914-1994 and After Daybreak- The Liberation of Belsen, 1945. He lives in Bristol.


In the vast literature on WWII, scholars have largely ignored the 10 million to 15 million displaced persons who confronted the Allies in 1945. British writer and documentarian Shephard (After Daybreak: The Liberation of Bergen-Belsen, 1945) tells a fascinating story of their ordeal. Although concentration camp victims made headlines, their numbers were hugely augmented by millions of foreign workers and slave laborers later joined by millions of destitute Germans expelled from former conquered nations. Aid planners expected a typhus epidemic, but generous use of DDT prevented this. They expected to repatriate everyone only to discover that many objected to returning to Soviet rule; Shephard describes American soldiers dragging terrified Russians and Ukrainians to assembly points. Despite relief efforts, in 1947 a million refugees lingered in dreary camps; Germany remained devastated. Matters only improved after the Marshall Plan's massive infusion of money and supplies, sold to a reluctant Congress as an anticommunist program. Shephard reveals that however well planned, post-WWII relief also produced shambles. His masterful account mixes history, colorful personalities, and moving individual stories. 8 pages of photos; 1 map. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Most books on postwar Europe are about the political and military division of the continent, without accounts of the social, cultural, and human turmoil. Shephard helps fill the gap with this study of what happened to the war's millions of displaced persons (DPs) and refugees. This is also a history of the official relief administration efforts as the Allied bureaucracy tried to bring order out of mass chaos and rebuild a devastated continent. Shephard intersperses descriptions of particular personal experiences to illustrate some of the conditions the DPs faced. Hanging over so many were memories of the aftermath of World War I, the challenge of what to do with Jewish refugees, and the looming start of what would become the Cold War. Shephard's book is a fine choice for general and scholarly audiences. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

"It's amazing, a really fine achievement and has a wonderful balance between argument and narration, where the individual stories draw the reader in to the moral and emotional complexities, while the sense of structure and proportion gives it a very strong sense of being in safe hands" -- Nick Stargardt, author of 'Witnesses of War' "Shephard does not seek to draw pat lessons or modern conclusions from any of this. He is content to tell us what happened next, in detail, and often vividly...a riveting and often entirely fresh story, shrewdly assembled, very well told." -- Peter Preston Guardian Review "Ben Shephard's account of his demanding and important subject is a triumph, his has unearthed new and moving testimony by former DPs and has burrowed into official and personal papers without ever letting his deep scholarship get in the way of the riveting story he has to tell...With a sureness of touch he interweaves the personal stories of those who were involved in the allied relief effort at all levels ...For anyone who is curious about the coalition of interests and beliefs which slide across this particularly American see-saw, reading Shepherd's brilliant book is a must" -- Nicholas Stargardt History Today "Ben Shephard's impressively readable account is replete with detailed personal testimony. It is a reminder not only of the real achievements of relief workers in the 1940s, but also of the continuing problem of refugees across the globe, many of whom - as in Iraq - have suffered the consequences of far less satisfactory programmes of relief and reconstruction" TLS "Excellent...his research is meticulous. He writes well with a keen eye for detail. His judgments are trenchant and he dishes out praise and blame with an even hand...What emerges most strikingly is the intricate mixture of motives behind the rescue of post-war Europe" Independent

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