World War II (1939–45) created a colossal humanitarian crisis across the continent of Europe. Over 40 million people died, about half of them civilians. More than 60 million were displaced during or immediately after the war. Some of them, in concentration camps and slave labor factories, suffered appallingly. Many people had been bombed or shelled out of their homes, more than five million in Germany alone.

This crisis was compounded by food shortages, disease, economic collapse, the destruction of infrastructure and industrial capacity, and political uncertainty. The humanitarian problems were largely patched up in the short term through a remarkable feat of effort and improvisation, but it took years and the stimulus of the Marshall Plan (1947–52) for European societies and economies to recover.

Relief Agencies

The ...

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