Tue June 7, 2011
"The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War" (Encore presentation.)
By Rich Fisher
Tulsa, Oklahoma – (Note: This program first aired earlier this year.) On today's show, we speak by phone with Ben Shephard, an author, historian, and documentary filmmaker (who's made several films for the BBC and Channel Four). Shephard's new book, just out from Knopf, is "The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War." There have been hundreds of books about World War II over the years, but perhaps none has examined as fully as this one the experience of the millions of "displaced persons" who were sorely lacking --- at war's end, all over Europe --- not just a home but also, in a way, an identity. As noted in this "starred review" in Publishers Weekly: "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 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."