cover image The Last Million: Europe’s Displaced Persons from World War to Cold War

The Last Million: Europe’s Displaced Persons from World War to Cold War

David Nasaw. Penguin Press, $35 (672p) ISBN 978-1-59420-673-3

Historian Nasaw (The Patriarch) delivers a richly detailed account of what happened to the one million Holocaust survivors, former slave laborers, and POWs who found themselves in Germany at the end of WWII. He reveals the contempt some military occupation leaders, including Gen. George Patton, felt for these displaced persons, and expertly documents how a humanitarian approach to the crisis often yielded to narrow, long-term foreign policy goals and Cold War considerations. Nasaw details England’s hyperrestrictive policies on Jewish immigration to Palestine, and the nativist, anti-Semitic stances of U.S. lawmakers who were more focused on preventing communists from slipping into America under the 1948 Displaced Persons Act than they were on stopping Nazis from doing so. As a result, Nasaw writes, “untold numbers of anti-Semites, Nazi collaborators and war criminals acquired entrance to the United States.” Besides allowing enemy collaborators to enter the country, Nasaw contends, America’s incoherent policy also contributed to the last displaced persons not leaving Germany until 1957, a full 12 years after WWII ended. Nasaw skillfully and movingly relates a multilayered story with implications for contemporary refugee crises. This meticulously researched history is a must-read. (Sept.)