The national psyche is the principal protagonist in Harald Jähner’s subtle, perceptive and beautifully written Aftermath ... a revelatory, remarkably wide-ranging book crammed with material, much of which will, I imagine, be new to an international audience ... Mr. Jähner...[notes] how Germans 'saw themselves as . . . victims, and thus had the dubious good fortune of not having to think about the real ones.' Additionally, battling 'for survival under anarchic everyday conditions kept many' from reflecting on the past. And so did the 'feverish, manic industriousness' that went into reconstruction and later came to characterize what became known (exaggeratedly, in Mr. Jähner’s somewhat harsh view) as West Germany’s economic 'miracle.'
... important, exemplary ... admirably unsentimental ... This is the kind of book few writers possess the clarity of vision to write, about the relatively recent past of their own societies. Most of the Germans who survived the Second World War never witnessed the crimes committed in their name or the miseries they had inflicted on the world. The dead were out of sight, out of mind. German civilians in the heimat (homeland) just saw their own tragedies, and considered these monstrously undeserved. Jahner thinks otherwise.
... a scholarly masterpiece which is also a good read ... The material is as grim as can be imagined, and Jähner pulls no punches. But he doesn’t allow his story to degenerate into a catalogue of horrors. Instead, we are offered anecdotes and incidents, each memorable, many illustrated by newly discovered photographs, which build into a history which reads like a prelude to Waiting for Godot, that great work of 1949. In vignette after vignette, people remain people, however apocalyptic the events they have just participated in or witnessed or had visited upon them.