Nils Petter Gleditsch
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Conflict statistics usually deal separately with state-based conflicts and such forms of one-sided violence as genocide, massacres, etc. But many (if not most) deaths from one-sided violence occur during war or in its wake. This book reviews the widespread violence that occurred towards the end of World War II and in its aftermath: Physical destruction, revenge killings, rape, anti-semitism, and ethnic cleansing. No country avoided the moral collapse of the post-war era, but the outcome was worse where the authorities not just condoned violence but positively encouraged it. The author marshals a great deal of new or forgotten information (who these days remembers the mutual ethnic cleansing between Poland and the Ukraine, involving several hundred thousand people in each direction?) and has a healthy skepticism towards biased statistics promoted by interested parties. He recognizes that the victims of post-war violence were frequently the earlier perpetrators of violence. German civilians were victims of massive rape, ethnic cleansing, and high death rates in prisoner-of-war camps, yet the atrocities rarely matched those that the German military and the SS had imposed. Western democracies do not escape harsh judgments in this book, but the violence was much more extensive in former enemy countries occupied by the Soviet Union. The author views the resurgence of nationalism in many parts of Europe with concern but strikes a hopeful note at the end with an observation on the relationship between Poland and Germany, that 'real hatred – the sort that used to be demanded by political commissars and war veterans – [...] is now regarded by most young people as little more than ancient history.'