Surviving Hitler and Mussolini: Daily Life in Occupied Europe

Surviving Hitler and Mussolini: Daily Life in Occupied Europe

Surviving Hitler and Mussolini: Daily Life in Occupied Europe

Surviving Hitler and Mussolini: Daily Life in Occupied Europe

Synopsis

This book examines the social experience of occupation in German- and Italian-occupied Europe, and in particular the strategies ordinary people developed in order to survive. Survival included dealing with hunger, having to work for the enemy, women having relationships with soldiers, preservation of culture in a fascist environment, resistance, and the reaction of local communities to punishment of resistance. The book adopts a comparative approach from Denmark and the Netherlands to Poland and Greece, and offers a fresh perspective on the Second World War.

Excerpt

Is everyday life possible in a situation of total war, foreign occupation and subjection to a Nazi or Fascist political order? Europe, between 1939 and 1945, was in the grip of a war of ideology, extermination and genocide which resulted in as many casualties among civilians as among combatants. While combatants engaged in battles with immense fire-power from Stalingrad to Normandy, and over 3 million out of 5 million captured Russian soldiers died in German prisoner of war camps, civilians bore the brunt of bombing by Axis and Allied planes alike and the scorched-earth policy of both Soviets and Germans. Civilian populations were displaced in their millions, whether fleeing before invading armies, fearful of atrocities, evacuated from bombed cities, or moved by the Soviet authorities as unreliable ethnic minorities away from the front line. The economies and labour forces of occupied Europe were riveted to the needs of the German war machine, with over eight million people brought to work in Germany. In the absence of their menfolk, whether as soldiers or as deported workers, women were frequently the main breadwinners as well as heads of the family, and were liable to seduction or rape by invading or occupying forces. Occupying forces purged or exterminated target groups that were seen as a menace to their war effort, the Germans in occupied Poland getting rid first of intellectuals, then of Jews. In the heart of occupied Europe Nazi and fascist ideology was imposed by propaganda, schooling, youth movements and the persecution of churches. Food was generally in short supply, and famine stalked the land from Greece to Russia. Where civilians took up arms against the occupying forces as partisans or maquisards, regular armies having dwindled away, they found themselves fighting an unequal battle, sustaining heavy losses and subjected to torture to betray their comrades. Where resistance fighters struck, then the occupying forces resorted to collective reprisals against civilians suspected of harbouring them, from the execution of hostages to the torching of villages.

Estimates of casualties are contested, but it is clear that some parts of Europe suffered much more sharply than others from war and occupation. Stalin's admission of 7 million Soviet dead was revised up to 20 million by Khrushchev and to 27–28 million in 1990, or 16 per cent of the 1939 population. Poland lost 450,000 battle casualties but 6 million people altogether, among whom were 3 million Jews, or 19 per cent of her population. Germany itself lost between 4 and 7 million people, including 125,000 Jews, or between 6 and 10 per cent of her population. The Yugoslavs lost about 1.7 million people, most of them civilians, or 12 per cent of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.