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For Their Own Good

For Their Own Good: Civilian Evacuations in Germany and France, 1939-1945

Julia S. Torrie
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    For Their Own Good
    Book Description:

    The early twentieth-century advent of aerial bombing made successful evacuations essential to any war effort, but ordinary people resented them deeply. Based on extensive archival research in Germany and France, this is the first broad, comparative study of civilian evacuations in Germany and France during World War II. The evidence uncovered exposes the complexities of an assumed monolithic and all-powerful Nazi state by showing that citizens' objections to evacuations, which were rooted in family concerns, forced changes in policy. Drawing attention to the interaction between the Germans and French throughout World War II, this book shows how policies in each country were shaped by events in the other. A truly cross-national comparison in a field dominated by accounts of one country or the other, this book provides a unique historical context for addressing current concerns about the impact of air raids and military occupations on civilians.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-816-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-ix)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. x-x)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    What are civilian evacuations? At their most basic, they are wartime measures that save lives by removing non-combatants from vulnerable areas. Although they are essentially positive endeavours with a laudable goal, they challenge nations’ transportation and accommodation capacities, and require governments to intrude into the lives of millions of civilians. In many ways, evacuations are huge social welfare programs, for governments must convince people to leave their homes, transfer them to safer areas, and look after their financial, physical, and psychological well-being. Those involved in evacuations dislike them, because they banish unhappy city-dwellers to rural backwaters, provoke homesickness and unease,...

  8. CHAPTER ONE Preparing for Air War
    (pp. 13-30)

    Writing in the 1920s about the possible impact of air power, Italian Giulio Douhet imagined scenes of unlimited carnage. Traditionally, home was a peaceful refuge, but airborne weaponry widened the battlefield and blurred the lines between home and front, combatant, and civilian. Since World War I had left contemporaries with little doubt that the next war would be in large part an air war, the interwar period was characterized by wide-ranging debate about the form of such a war and the anticipated gravity of its outcome. Contemporaries discussed military and strategic issues, such as how and when to use aircraft,...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Order or Chaos?
    (pp. 31-49)

    Having written these words in his diary, Propaganda Minister Goebbels went on to describe a scene taking place in the forest of Compiègne. In Maréchal Foch’s old railway car, where the Germans had signed the armistice that ended World War I, negotiations for a new armistice had begun. Goebbels could hardly contain his joy, for Germany had been vindicated, and the disgrace of Versailles reversed. On 22 June 1940, Goebbels did not yet know whether the French would accept the armistice, but they seemed to have little choice. The millions of displaced civilians in France, a disaster Goebbels thought “even...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Organizing Evacuations
    (pp. 50-72)

    The 1940 “exodus” made the risks of poor evacuation planning clear. Although the French had championed evacuations during the interwar period, their preparations were insufficient and misdirected, and the speed of theBlitzkriegadvance in any case rendered them futile. Initially, German observers thought this confirmed their own prewar position that civilians should not be evacuated. However, the war itself soon made it clear that the most vulnerable civilians—the infirm, the elderly, and children—simply had to be moved away from major cities. If the government failed to do this, people would leave of their own accord, with disastrous...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Our Stay Gives Us No Pleasure
    (pp. 73-93)

    “Dear Dr. Göbbels [sic], in my hour of need and my despair, trustingly I turn to you….” With these words, evacuee Toni G. began a six-page letter to the Reich Minister of Propaganda andGauleiterof Berlin. Frau G., a 28-year old widow with one child, had left Berlin in September 1943. Hoping that a two-week holiday in Bavaria would calm her nerves, raw from nightly bombardments, she found a tiny apartment in Lechbruck, Allgäu. Since she was happy there, she decided to stay on once the two weeks were up. At the end of May 1944, her Berlin apartment...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE If Only Family Unity Can Be Maintained
    (pp. 94-127)

    In mid February 1944, Heinrich Himmler hosted over 300 people at an unprecedented conference. NaziGauleitermet collectively with their state counterparts, theOberbürgermeister(regional mayors), to coordinate party and state responses to “the necessities of war.”¹ Evacuation measures were a key subject of discussion, and a Ministry of the Interior representative named Jacobi gave a surprising speech calling for flexibility. In contrast to earlier views that insisted family unity should be sacrificed to wartime necessity, Jacobi argued that, “Experience has shown that the most difficult circumstances on the Home Front may be more easily tolerated, if only family unity...

  13. CHAPTER SIX On the Basis of Selection
    (pp. 128-150)

    By the fall of 1943, civilians who refused to be evacuated, or who returned from the reception areas without permission, had caused a crisis so serious that Westfalen-Süd’s representative inGauSalzburg declared, “The evacuation measures will remain successful [only] if the evacuation of mother and child proceeds on the basis of selection.”¹ This remark implied that selective evacuations would be a new development, implemented at this critical juncture to filter evacuees. The comment suggested that state-funded evacuations had hitherto been available to everyone, but, in fact, selection had been in place from the outset.

    After the war, former evacuation...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN Responding to Chaos
    (pp. 151-166)

    As the war continued, conditions on the war and home fronts grew unpredictable and confused. German military retreats were paralleled by large-scale civilian evacuations, conceived preventatively at first, with the “exodus” of 1940 in mind. However, the increasingly desperate Axis position meant that formal attempts to direct civilians degenerated into stopgap measures that increased, rather than diminished, disorder and loss of life. By late 1944 and once the Reich lost supremacy over its own airspace, there was nowhere left to hide.

    The National Socialist regime was unwilling to admit the depth of the problem, however, and left evacuations to the...

  15. CHAPTER EIGHT Evacuation’s Aftermath
    (pp. 167-180)

    The chaos of the war’s final months kept evacuees pinned to their refuges, but as soon as the hostilities ended, they wanted nothing more than to reunite their families and rebuild their lives. More limited war damage meant French evacuees moved home more quickly than German, but housing and food shortages, as well as mangled transportation networks, were problematic in both countries. In Germany, destroying the vestiges of Nazism and caring for its victims took priority, and the division into four occupation zones further slowed evacuees’ return. In France, General de Gaulle’s postwar government punished egregious collaborators and used the...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 181-241)
    (pp. 242-243)
    (pp. 244-260)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 261-270)