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

This is a long, detailed and quite interesting account of the first years of Germany following the defeat of the Nazi regime in 1945. But it is not comprehensive. There are many topics that Jähner has chosen to cover only briefly or superficially. We learn hardly anything about the emergence of new political parties, including revivals of pre-1933 parties like the Social Democrats. There is no mention at all, not even a sentence, about the re-emergence of free and independent trade unions. But there are other subjects where he goes into great depth, and has some insights. The final chapter, which shows how the modern Germany was born as a stable democracy precisely because it did not grapple honestly with its past is one that will be controversial. As the author puts it, “We may condemn post-war Germany for its unwillingness to face the truth, but we are surely obliged to agree that it accomplished an extraordinary feat of repression, a process from which later generations profited to a substantial degree.” Yes, read that sentence again. I don’t agree, and I believe instead that the unfinished anti-fascist revolution in Germany, though far better than what happened in Italy or Japan, is not something worthy of praise. Jähner forgives a certain degree of historical amnesia that I, for one, cannot stomach.