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The Economy of Ethnic Cleansing
The Transformation of the German-Czech Borderlands after World War II

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  • Date Published: October 2017
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9781108174008

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About the Authors
  • In the wake of World War II the Sudetenland became the scene of ethnic cleansing, witnessing not only the expulsion of nearly three million German speakers, but also the influx of nearly two million resettlers. Yet mob violence and nationalist hatred were not the driving forces of ethnic cleansing; instead, greed, the search for power and property, and the general dislocation of post-war Central and Eastern Europe facilitated these expulsions and the transformation of the German-Czech borderlands. These overlapping migrations produced conflict among Czechs, hardship for Germans, and facilitated the Communist Party's rise to power. Drawing on a wide range of materials from local and central archives, as well as expellee accounts, David Gerlach demonstrates how the lure of property and social mobility, as well as economic necessities, shaped the course and consequences of ethnic cleansing.

    • Demonstrates how the search for material gain and social mobility, rather than simply violence and nationalism, shaped the postwar German expulsions
    • Discusses how the immediate post-war period was chaotic and supported Communist policies
    • Offers a new examination of migration in the context of ethnic cleansing or forced migration, studying the relationship between the two and their overlapping migration patterns
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    • Winner, 2018 Radomír Luža Prize, The American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance and Marshall Plan Center for European Studies, University of New Orleans

    Reviews & endorsements

    'The Economy of Ethnic Cleansing is timely and essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of forced migration in the modern world. Economic considerations shaped every aspect of the creation of a nationally-homogenous Czechoslovakia at the end of the Second World War. The need for labor determined who would stay and who would go; Czechs raced to claim German homes, businesses, and property; and the expulsions formed a key part of the transition to a Socialist economy. This deeply researched and highly original work will change the way we understand the violent aftermath of the Second World War.' Tara Zahra, author of The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World

    'The Economy of Ethnic Cleansing stands out among histories of postwar forced migration in Europe thanks to its compelling, fine-grain narrative of how ethnic cleansing develops at the ground level. Through a series of gripping vignettes, Gerlach unravels both traditional and revisionary accounts of the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans and, in their place, demonstrates how competing actors with conflicting economic interests determined when, how, and to what extent the human and physical geography of the Czech borderlands was transformed in the postwar years. The book is an impressive accomplishment that should be on the reading list of anyone interested in the study of ethnic cleansing.' Benjamin Frommer, author of National Cleansing: Retribution against Nazi Collaborators in Postwar Czechoslovakia

    'A terrific study - carefully researched, thoughtfully argued, and highly readable. Through its innovative focus on the economics of ethnic cleansing this book adds significantly to our understanding of underlying motives, the process of expulsion and resettlement, and the long-term consequences. An important contribution to the historiography of ethnic cleansing.' Gregor Thum, author of Uprooted. How Breslau Became Wrocław During the Century of Expulsions

    '… provides an extremely well-researched guide to the ethnic cleansing of Sudeten Germans after WWII. Highly recommended.' B. Lieberman, Choice

    'This book should be essential reading for all students of the region as well as those studying ethnic cleansing and population transfers.' Cathie Carmichael, H-Net

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2017
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9781108174008
    • contains: 7 b/w illus. 3 maps
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    1. In the wake of war: expulsions, violence and borderland life
    2. National divisions: resettlement, local power and settler conflicts
    3. Persian rugs and well-appointed farms: the politics of expropriation
    4. German workers: Czech settlers and labor politics
    5. Consolidating borderland industries: from confiscation to nationalization
    6. borderlands transformed: diverse communities and the construction of socialism

  • Author

    David Wester Gerlach, Saint Peter's University, New Jersey
    David Wester Gerlach is Associate Professor at Saint Peter's University, New Jersey. His current research explores restitution, reparation, and other compensation programs stemming from World War II, alongside the study of forced migration. He was awarded a Richard M. Hunt Fellowship for the Study of German Politics, Society, and Culture by the American Council on Germany in 2017, the R. John Rath Prize for Best Article in the 2007 Austrian History Yearbook, and the 2006–7 Best Dissertation by the Austrian Cultural Forum.


    • Winner, 2018 Radomír Luža Prize, The American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance and Marshall Plan Center for European Studies, University of New Orleans

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