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A Brutal Peace: On the Postwar Expulsions of Germans

Thank you for this thoughtful and well informed review. It is of interest because I spent several years as a correspondent in Prague, and I still follow events there regularly.

I first came across R.M. Douglas and his book in the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education, back in June:

I was shocked by what I read, for three main reasons:

1. Douglas’s claim that the treatment of the Sudeten Germans was an unreported (or even under-reported) event is simply ludicrous. Even before 1989 it was well covered in history classes, at least in Europe. And as I know because I was there, once Czechoslovakia had a free government, it was a major topic of debate.

2. The article by Douglas does not mention once the fact that President Vaclav Havel went out of his way, very soon after taking power, to make a full public apology for the expulsion—a very unpopular move with his public—on the grounds that it was wrong in principle to impose collective punishment, and had helped to set Czechoslovakia on the slippery slope towards totalitarianism.

3. The comments that appear under Douglas’s article—more than 300 of them—are full of the most foul historical revisionism, on the lines of: ‘this just proves that America is the worst country on earth, and always has been, and by the way the Nazis weren’t as bad as people say.’ I know that below-the-line is different from above-the-line, but I would say that leaving such noxious weeds to grow is very bad for the reputation management of both the Chronicle and of Douglas himself. It begs the question, does he distance himself from that interpretation? Douglas doesn’t go that far, but there is something in his tone and at times odd selection of facts that arguably lends itself to this kind of support.

It’s been bothering me ever since, and I am glad that your review has provided a chance to contribute this comment, in case it helps with discussion of the work, and the issue itself.

Susan Greenberg


Dec 4 2012 - 12:58am