One of the many virtues of The Last Million is the author’s ability to make vivid sense of a bewildering moment. He clarifies without oversimplifying ... Nasaw demonstrates throughout an especially supple sense of scale. Much of what makes the book so absorbing and ultimately wrenching is his capacity to maneuver with skill between the nitty-grittiest of diplomatic (and congressional, military, personal) details and the so-called Big Picture. In cinematic terms, he’s adroit at surveying a vast landscape with a soaring crane shot, then zooming in sharply for a close-up of a single face as it crumples ... Among the longest festering of those crises is, of course, Palestine/Israel’s. Nasaw handles deftly the international aspects of this part of the story, in which the fate of that small, troubled piece of land became a ball kicked between England and the United States ... The author’s account of the facts on the ground in Palestine/Israel produces the book’s only slight wobble — an uncharacteristic loss of perspective ... But these amount to very small quibbles, and The Last Million is greater than they are. Nasaw takes pains to avoid facile comparisons between the history he recounts and the current global moment, with its — our — own seas of refugees. As his calmly passionate book makes plain, however, one would need to be willfully covering one’s eyes not to see how then bleeds into now.
... a characteristically thorough and impressively researched account ... While delving into the weeds of political compromise and legislation, Nasaw never loses sight of the hopes and struggles of the people at the center. Nasaw captures the stories of dozens of DPs and their families, and provides a vibrant account of the displaced persons camps' transformation into mini-nations with their own schools, houses of worship and complex politics ... showcases Nasaw's deft handling of complexity--not only the number of global controversies that the Displaced Persons issue fed into, but the morally complex issues of collaboration ... becomes an account of new beginnings, sometimes for people who didn't deserve them.
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.
Nasaw has done a real service in resurrecting this history, but what’s often missing are the personal narratives of the individuals who lived through this period. One has to turn to other forms — novels, plays, memoirs — to grasp the full human drama.
On July 23, 1945, less than three months after Germany’s surrender, Earl Harrison, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, sat down at Bergen-Belsen with a survivor named Yossel Rosensaft ... The State Department had sent him as a special emissary to investigate the conditions in the camps that were hastily being organized to shelter 'displaced persons,' or D.P.s, and to report back 'with particular reference to the Jewish refugees' ... What Nasaw calls 'the Last Million' were the 'non-repatriable' remnant who refused to leave or had nowhere to go ... There is something of a lacuna in Nasaw’s book where one might expect them to be, given that they were, by many definitions (although not necessarily the one used by the occupying forces) displaced persons, too. Nasaw notes the phenomenon, observes that many ethnic Germans had collaborated with the Nazis, and reports that there was 'little debate and no dissension' about the expulsion when it came up at Potsdam. Otherwise, the expellees remain at the margins of his story.