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Returning POWs and the Legacies of Defeat in Postwar Germany
Frank Biess

Paperback | 2009 | $39.95 | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780691143149
384 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 15 halftones.
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This book focuses on one of the most visible and important consequences of total defeat in postwar Germany: the return to East and West Germany of the two million German soldiers and POWs who spent an extended period in Soviet captivity. These former prisoners made up a unique segment of German society. They were both soldiers in the war of racial annihilation on the Eastern front and then suffered extensive hardship and deprivation themselves as prisoners of war. The book examines the lingering consequences of the soldiers' return and explores returnees' own responses to a radically changed and divided homeland.

Historian Frank Biess traces the origins of the postwar period to the last years of the war, when ordinary Germans began to face the prospect of impending defeat. He then demonstrates parallel East and West German efforts to overcome the German loss by transforming returning POWs into ideal post-totalitarian or antifascist citizens. By exploring returnees' troubled adjustment to the more private spheres of the workplace and the family, the book stresses the limitations of these East and West German attempts to move beyond the war.

Based on a wide array of primary and secondary sources, Homecomings combines the political history of reconstruction with the social history of returnees and the cultural history of war memories and gender identities. It unearths important structural and functional similarities between German postwar societies, which remained infused with the aftereffects of unprecedented violence, loss, and mass death long after the war was over.


"With Homecomings, Biess has enriched our understanding of the formative post-war years in both East and West Germany. It is a masterful piece of scholarship--and beautifully written."--Bill Niven, Institute of Historical Research

"This impressive book on the return of German prisoners of war and their reception in society in both East and West Germany over the 1945-55 decade fills an important gap in post-WW II German history."--Choice

"Frank Biess, with methodological sophistication, analytical skill, and stylistic felicity, succeeds brilliantly in analyzing the return of German prisoners of war (POWs) to the two German states from Soviet captivity."--Günter Bischof, International History Review

"Homecomings is a tour de force. It represents the best of recent historiographical trends and is the result of wide-ranging and creative use of archival resources."--Robert D. Billinger, Jr., German Studies Review

"Frank Biess excellent book shows why it is important to understand not only what post-war Germans remembered about World War II but also how these memories affected their behavior. What distinguishes Biess' book . . . is his insistence that German representations of the Nazi past deeply affected social relations, shaped social policies, and produced important material consequences for millions of Germans. It is an impressively rich synthesis of cultural and social history."--David F. Crew, Central European History

"Biess's study is based on extensive primary research, and he negotiates his varied secondary sources with an impressive intellectual ease. . . . This book is highly recommended to those interested in postwar Germany in particular or in sociocultural responses to the aftermath of war in general."--Timothy Vogt, Journal of Modern History


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File created: 7/11/2017

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