• The Last Million

  • Europe's Displaced Persons from World War to Cold War
  • By: David Nasaw
  • Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
  • Length: 19 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (41 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

From best-selling author David Nasaw, a sweeping new history of the one million refugees left behind in Germany after WWII.

In May of 1945, German forces surrendered to the Allied powers, effectively putting an end to World War II in Europe. But the aftershocks of global military conflict did not cease with the German capitulation. Millions of lost and homeless concentration camp survivors, POWs, slave laborers, political prisoners, and Nazi collaborators in flight from the Red Army overwhelmed Germany, a nation in ruins. British and American soldiers gathered the malnourished and desperate refugees and attempted to repatriate them. But after exhaustive efforts, there remained more than a million displaced persons left behind in Germany: Jews, Poles, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern Europeans who refused to go home or had no homes to which to return. The Last Million would spend the next three to five years in displaced persons camps, temporary homelands in exile divided by nationality, with their own police forces, churches and synagogues, schools, newspapers, theaters, and infirmaries. The international community could not agree on the fate of the Last Million, and after a year of debate and inaction, the International Refugee Organization was created to resettle them in lands suffering from postwar labor shortages. But no nations were willing to accept the 200,000 to 250,000 Jewish men, women, and children who remained trapped in Germany. 

In 1948, the United States, among the last countries to accept refugees for resettlement, finally passed a displaced-persons bill. With Cold War fears supplanting memories of World War II atrocities, the bill granted the vast majority of visas to those who were reliably anti-Communist, including thousands of former Nazi collaborators and war criminals, while severely limiting the entry of Jews, who were suspected of being Communist sympathizers or agents because they had been recent residents of Soviet-dominated Poland. Only after the controversial partition of Palestine and Israel's declaration of independence were the remaining Jewish survivors able to leave their displaced-persons camps in Germany.

A masterwork from acclaimed historian David Nasaw, The Last Million tells the gripping yet until now largely hidden story of postwar displacement and statelessness. By 1952, the Last Million were scattered around the world. As they crossed from their broken past into an unknowable future, they carried with them their wounds, their fears, their hope, and their secrets. Here for the first time, Nasaw illuminates their incredible history and, with profound contemporary resonance, shows us that it is our history as well. 

©2020 David Nasaw (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Nasaw does a masterful job of bringing to light the lasting individual and global consequences of policies and attitudes surrounding the last million... A thought-provoking, highly recommended perspective on a complex and largely overlooked people and period of modern history.” (Library Journal, starred review)

“A richly detailed account of what happened to the one million Holocaust survivors, former slave laborers, and POWs who found themselves in Germany at the end of WWII ... Nasaw skillfully and movingly relates a multilayered story with implications for contemporary refugee crises. This meticulously researched history is a must-read.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"[M]asterful...A searching, vigorously written history of an unsettled time too little known to American readers." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

What listeners say about The Last Million

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NEVER- EVER-FORGET!

As a third generation American with a post graduate degree- I had no idea of the extent of the devastation and PTSD that existed. This very thorough work should be required reading-and education- in all High Schools throughout the USA!
May their memories indeed be a true Blessing! With the current rise of Anti-Semetic attacks-let us all pray this will NEVER happen AGAIN!

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Detailed But Riveting

This is a highly riveting but extremely detailed account of the last million refugees left in Europe. The details make you anxious to know what happens next. We follow the twists and turns leading to the immigration of most Jews to Israel; and we see how thousands of war criminals were able to immigrate to other countries leaving their criminal pasts behind them. The narrator added to the enjoyment of the book.

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Incredible perspective on the postwar era

My father was a Jewish survivor of forced labor who ended up in Feldafing for several years after the murder of virtually his entire family. He ultimately was able to emigrate to the US in 1948. This book gave me an understanding I never had of part of his life he rarely spoke about. I can’t express what this means to me. Mr. Nasaw thank you for writing this book and preserving this important history for us

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An Important History that Resonates Today

This history is so important that I wish everyone would know and understand the insights provided by David Nasaw. The book helped me reflect on the way our recent history shaped struggles and problems today. Today is born in our recent past.
The book is long, but it is full of primary sources, quotes and detailed research of records and political action as well as comments from those leaders who were positioned in power around the world.

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Must read for those who study the WW's in Europe

this is hard story to get your head around but one that must be understood. Nothing was or is black and white. 4 stars because Ford lost the 76 election not 72. You wonder about other editing errors.

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Well worth read to those interested in history.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. It appears to be well researched and written. It amazed me that after all the suffering the Jews went through in Europe that no country really wanted them. And many countries willingly took in former Nazi collaborators and murderers without really looking into their past thoroughly or just turning a blind eye. Other DP’s were taken advantage of with low paying jobs and back breaking work in their new host countries.

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Somber Aftermath

The Last Million is a mostly disheartening history of the treatment of the million or so displaced persons in Europe after World War II. The Jewish DPs wanted to leave Europe, hoping to reach Israel or any other country outside Europe that would take them. The non-Jewish DPs wanted to go anywhere but their homelands, where they were afraid of imprisonment (or worse) as Nazi collaborators (or worse). David Nasaw brings this little-known time to life, moving from the background of the DP situation to the populating of the DP camps to the ethnic conflicts that resulted in delays in resettlement. A good portion of the book tells of the political fights in the US, where Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups lobbied for increased immigration of their people while key conservatives in Congress worked to keep out those they feared might be Communists. While the story is disturbing, the history is lively, insightful and compelling. I am glad I listened.

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The Truth Never Dies

A sad yet vital part of world history that has been often denied, manipulated or rewritten. Here it’s told in an accurate, strait forward account, that many nations attempted to cover up, overlook or just ignore.