Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955 by Harald Jähner

How does a nation recover from fascism and turn toward a free society once more? This internationally acclaimed revelatory history of the transformational decade that followed World War II illustrates how Germany raised itself out of the ashes of defeat and reckoned with the corruption of its soul and the horrors of the Holocaust.

The years 1945 to 1955 were a raw, wild decade that found many Germans politically, economically, and morally bankrupt. Victorious Allied forces occupied the four zones that make up present-day Germany. More than half the population was displaced; 10 million newly released forced laborers and several million prisoners of war returned to an uncertain existence. Cities lay in ruins – no mail, no trains, no traffic – with bodies yet to be found beneath the towering rubble.

Aftermath received wide acclaim and spent 48 weeks on the best seller list in Germany when it was published there in 2019. It is the first history of Germany’s national mentality in the immediate postwar years. Using major global political developments as a backdrop, Harald Jähner weaves a series of life stories into a nuanced panorama of a nation undergoing monumental change. Poised between two eras, this decade is portrayed by Jähner as a period that proved decisive for Germany’s future – and one starkly different from how most of us imagine it today.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich by Harald Jähner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an incredibly insightful, well-researched read.

“Today we know a great deal about the Holocaust. What we know less about is how life in Germany continued under the shadow it cast across the country’s future.” I’d recommend this book to anyone.

The Story
It takes a deep dive into the making of amends and rising again as a nation. Recognizing that the news of the end of war and the actual end nor attitudes toward it did not take place simultaneously or completely favorably. Drawing out the examples of apathy, mixed emotions and reactions, and rebellion amongst certain people.

Explored the outlook and toll on marriage and relationships with children, changes in the way of dress and entertainment.

The demise and birth of certain styles of fashion, art, and design.

Many fascinating film references as well as insight into media and journalistic slant.

Was interesting to read about how the mass amounts of rubble was cleared and repurposed, and how both the structure and interpersonal connections were rebuilt.

The Writing
Information dense.
Meticulously researched.

I thoroughly enjoyed the quotes and newspaper excerpts.

As grim as the stories that were told, there was an occasional tone of a sort of watered down, almost sanitized version of history that I didn’t quite come to full realization of until page 52, when I came across Jewish homeland reference in a passage, and I was wanting to ask myself, whose story was being told? Finding out then that there was a certain lack of cohesion, structure, and perspective in attempt to explain it all.

I suppose that was because it tried to tell many viewpoints and convincing of both individual and collective perspective on many opposing issues at the same time. With narrative input and sometimes over-explanation to almost convince the writer himself as thoughts could have been further developed and reconstructed as one step closer to a more full reading experience.

Where undertones of seeking understanding and rationalization of sense, purpose, and community could have been explored more without taking anything away from the realities, meaning, and deep sentiment that people would have felt when telling their story.

Nonetheless it was an excellent book and I will look forward to reading more from this author.

View all my reviews

Fireside Chat

Grab some coffee or tea and Join Our Conversation!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: