Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich – A welcome translation

Book review: Harald Jähner’s book fills the yawning gap between a growing number of modern German history texts and the oversupply of Nazi studies

This area in front of the Reichstag in Berlin was shared by many families who hoped to grow enough vegetables  to fend off starvation.

This area in front of the Reichstag in Berlin was shared by many families who hoped to grow enough vegetables to fend off starvation.

When Pope Benedict visited Auschwitz in 2006, he delivered a speech, with death camp survivors present, that hit all the right notes. Until the Bavarian-born pontiff brought himself into the narrative, describing himself as “a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness”.

Joseph Ratzinger was a teenager in postwar Germany’s school of hard knocks, where no one discussed why voters elected “criminals” to power. The main moral dilemma was not why Germany murdered six million Jews, but the moral rights and wrongs of looting for food and coal. For many ordinary Germans, reflecting on the past meant pointing the finger of blame at true believers in the SS and Gestapo. Others suggested that Hitler had “abused the German capacity for enthusiasm”.

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