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Publisher's Summary

From best-selling author David Nasaw, a sweeping new history of the one million refugees left behind in Germany after WWII.

In May of 1945, German forces surrendered to the Allied powers, effectively putting an end to World War II in Europe. But the aftershocks of global military conflict did not cease with the German capitulation. Millions of lost and homeless concentration camp survivors, POWs, slave laborers, political prisoners, and Nazi collaborators in flight from the Red Army overwhelmed Germany, a nation in ruins. British and American soldiers gathered the malnourished and desperate refugees and attempted to repatriate them. But after exhaustive efforts, there remained more than a million displaced persons left behind in Germany: Jews, Poles, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern Europeans who refused to go home or had no homes to which to return. The Last Million would spend the next three to five years in displaced persons camps, temporary homelands in exile divided by nationality, with their own police forces, churches and synagogues, schools, newspapers, theaters, and infirmaries. The international community could not agree on the fate of the Last Million, and after a year of debate and inaction, the International Refugee Organization was created to resettle them in lands suffering from postwar labor shortages. But no nations were willing to accept the 200,000 to 250,000 Jewish men, women, and children who remained trapped in Germany. 

In 1948, the United States, among the last countries to accept refugees for resettlement, finally passed a displaced-persons bill. With Cold War fears supplanting memories of World War II atrocities, the bill granted the vast majority of visas to those who were reliably anti-Communist, including thousands of former Nazi collaborators and war criminals, while severely limiting the entry of Jews, who were suspected of being Communist sympathizers or agents because they had been recent residents of Soviet-dominated Poland. Only after the controversial partition of Palestine and Israel's declaration of independence were the remaining Jewish survivors able to leave their displaced-persons camps in Germany.

A masterwork from acclaimed historian David Nasaw, The Last Million tells the gripping yet until now largely hidden story of postwar displacement and statelessness. By 1952, the Last Million were scattered around the world. As they crossed from their broken past into an unknowable future, they carried with them their wounds, their fears, their hope, and their secrets. Here for the first time, Nasaw illuminates their incredible history and, with profound contemporary resonance, shows us that it is our history as well. 

©2020 David Nasaw (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about The Last Million

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NEVER- EVER-FORGET!

As a third generation American with a post graduate degree- I had no idea of the extent of the devastation and PTSD that existed. This very thorough work should be required reading-and education- in all High Schools throughout the USA!
May their memories indeed be a true Blessing! With the current rise of Anti-Semetic attacks-let us all pray this will NEVER happen AGAIN!

6 people found this helpful

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Detailed But Riveting

This is a highly riveting but extremely detailed account of the last million refugees left in Europe. The details make you anxious to know what happens next. We follow the twists and turns leading to the immigration of most Jews to Israel; and we see how thousands of war criminals were able to immigrate to other countries leaving their criminal pasts behind them. The narrator added to the enjoyment of the book.

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Must read for those who study the WW's in Europe

this is hard story to get your head around but one that must be understood. Nothing was or is black and white. 4 stars because Ford lost the 76 election not 72. You wonder about other editing errors.

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Well worth read to those interested in history.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. It appears to be well researched and written. It amazed me that after all the suffering the Jews went through in Europe that no country really wanted them. And many countries willingly took in former Nazi collaborators and murderers without really looking into their past thoroughly or just turning a blind eye. Other DP’s were taken advantage of with low paying jobs and back breaking work in their new host countries.

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Somber Aftermath

The Last Million is a mostly disheartening history of the treatment of the million or so displaced persons in Europe after World War II. The Jewish DPs wanted to leave Europe, hoping to reach Israel or any other country outside Europe that would take them. The non-Jewish DPs wanted to go anywhere but their homelands, where they were afraid of imprisonment (or worse) as Nazi collaborators (or worse). David Nasaw brings this little-known time to life, moving from the background of the DP situation to the populating of the DP camps to the ethnic conflicts that resulted in delays in resettlement. A good portion of the book tells of the political fights in the US, where Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups lobbied for increased immigration of their people while key conservatives in Congress worked to keep out those they feared might be Communists. While the story is disturbing, the history is lively, insightful and compelling. I am glad I listened.

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The Truth Never Dies

A sad yet vital part of world history that has been often denied, manipulated or rewritten. Here it’s told in an accurate, strait forward account, that many nations attempted to cover up, overlook or just ignore.