Revealing, often in spite of itself, this study, originally published last year, deserves a wider readership, and might get it thanks to this recently issued paperback edition. A lot is wrong with the book: in an ostensibly objective examination of five cases of ethnic cleansing in twentieth-century Europe, Naimark inserts his indignant demand that in future cases "the international community" (whatever that is) must "act promptly and decisively." He ought to separate his history from his policy advocacy: such sloganeering in what should be a dispassionate analysis leads him to ignore all the hard questions that would perforce confront those policymakers whom Naimark rather jejunely expects to "act." (These questions are, of course, all the harder after last September 11, when it became clear that at least some of America's national-security resources must be devoted to countering real and present dangers.) But Naimark's book is significant because it contains the most easily accessible detailed account of the worst instance of ethnic cleansing in postwar Europe: the expulsion of about 11.5 million ethnic Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia after World War II, which claimed the lives of as many as 2.5 million. In his thorough case study Naimark unwittingly demolishes much of his book's overarching thesis. He subscribes to what could be called the Very Bad Man theory of ethnic cleansing, embraced by human-rights activists and many academics, which holds that only the unsophisticated would consider ethnic cleansing the product of what he derisively caricatures as "ancient hatreds." Rather, Naimark asserts, it is "ignited by the warped ambitions of modern politicians." But, as Naimark points out, the campaigns of ethnic cleansing in Czechoslovakia and Poland were presided over by democratic regimes (in Czechoslovakia the mild-mannered, impeccably liberal Edvard Benes was the head of state), supported by all the major political parties, and even endorsed by the United States and Britain. In his introduction Naimark singles Poland out as one of the "few success stories" in formerly communist Europe, and he would presumably include the Czech Republic as another. But he ignores an obvious if unsettling question: Are those states today stable, prosperous, and democratic largely because of their brutal removal of their former German minorities?
by Pam Cook
A recent addition to the BFI Film Classics series, in which landmark works of cinema are treated to graceful and precise analyses (such as the one Salman Rushdie gave The Wizard of Oz), this elegant exegesis of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1945 movie I Know Where I'm Going! illuminates one of the most shimmeringly intense films ever made. Starring Wendy Hiller, who managed to be simultaneously winsome and knowing, the movie itself is so haunting largely because of its oppositions. Jaunty yet deeply romantic, playful yet elegiac, it maintains an ironic tone (thanks in part to its many visual and auditory puns) even as it depicts its protagonist losing her jaded self to True Love. Above all, the film juxtaposes a simple romance with an exploration of the dark, even violent, nature of sexual desire. Cook puts the movie in a wide perspective—assessing the astonishing partnership of Powell and Pressburger (they shared directing, producing, and writing credits), the ways in which wartime attitudes toward marriage influenced the story, and the depopulation of Scotland's western islands, where the movie was set and largely filmed. Superbly selected still photos (the book's best attribute) inform Cook's discerning analysis of the movie's most striking feature: the cinematography of Erwin Hillier, which is—as suits a film dominated by juxtaposition—characterized by the interplay of light and shadow.
by Mark A. Noll