THE EFFECTS OF WORLD WAR II ON SOCIAL STRUCTURE
World War II marked the end of an epoch--and not only for the history of eastern Europe. The hitherto unimagined dimensions of destructive power, discovered by small groups of scientists, affected the total political composition of the world. Changes in the hierarchy of states, the division of most of the world into two spheres of domination, the rapid decline of old empires combined with the growth of young nations and the appearance of new states, and a new and significant role for international organizations had a manifold influence on social stratification in all European countries. But the changes that occurred elsewhere were incomparable to the great upheaval that took place in eastern Europe; first in the course of wartime events, and, later, in the wake of imported, though in some places partially native, social revolutions.
The impact of World War II in eastern Europe--in terms of the magnitude, time, and degree of disaster--varied from country to country. Twice, the territory of one of these countries was the battlefront for combating armies. This was Poland. Therefore, the largest part of this chapter is concerned with what happened to Poland during World War II. The three other countries under