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The Temptation of Despair

The Temptation of Despair

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Temptation of Despair
    Book Description:

    In Germany the end of World War II calls forth images of obliterated cities, hungry refugees, and ghostly monuments to Nazi crimes. Drawing on diaries, photographs, essays, reports, fiction and film, Werner Sollors makes visceral the sorrow and anger, guilt and pride, despondency and resilience of a defeated people--and the paradoxes of occupation.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-41631-4
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Film Studies, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Introduction Before Success
    (pp. 1-19)

    The American occupation of Germany after World War II: these words evoke a mythic chapter in twentieth-century history on both sides of the Atlantic, bringing to mind haunting visual images of liberated concentration camps and ruined cities; the sounds of rattling tanks, heavy trucks, and bouncing jeeps racing through the German landscape, of politicians’ agitated, loudspeaker-amplified voices, and of swing music playing on tinny-sounding radios; the taste of cinnamon and spearmint chewing gum, sweet Hershey bars, and chlorine-saturated water; the scent of the stale air of abandoned bunkers, of pungent cigarettes, even more pungent cigarette butts, of acid-stock comic books...

  4. ONE March 29, 1945 Between the No Longer and the Not Yet Peace Breaks Out Gradually in Central Europe
    (pp. 21-55)

    When we speak of the end of World War II in Europe we tend to think of a fixed date, although people in different countries may be thinking of different dates.¹ On May 7, all German troops surrendered unconditionally, hence this day is celebrated as the end of the war in Commonwealth countries. Because the surrender took effect only on May 8 at 11:00 p.m. in Central Europe, this is the date remembered in Germany, Western Europe, and the United States. But since the late hour was already May 9, Moscow time, much of Eastern Europe considered this day the...

  5. TWO May 7, 1945 Malevolent Rectangles of Spectral Horror A Photographer and His Subject
    (pp. 57-83)

    A young boy, neatly dressed in shirt, patterned woolen sweater, kneelength shorts, light-colored socks, and leather shoes, walks toward the photographer along a curved sunlit road around midday. His short shadow is sharply outlined on the light ground. He seems to be moving at a brisk pace, for the blur that is his right hand indicates that it must be in motion. His head is turned to the left (his right), perhaps to evade the sunlight, as he squints a bit, but he seems to be looking straight at the camera, hence also at the viewer. He appears to be...

  6. THREE June 23, 1945 After Dachau Of Private Vengeance, Collective Guilt, Life in Ruins, Population Transfers, and Displaced Persons
    (pp. 85-151)

    Seeing concentration camps at the end of World War II could have a radicalizing, life-changing effect.¹ The journalist and novelist Martha Gellhorn’s response to Dachau is a case in point. The camp was liberated by the Americans on April 29, 1945, and she saw it a few days later. The essay she wrote forCollier’sabout her experience carried the title “Dachau: Experimental Murder” and was illustrated with a grim half-page panorama, in somber, apparently quickly sketched and photography-inspired black and gray tones: the reader sees the ground covered with the emaciated bodies of many, many prisoners and the obese...

  7. FOUR October 4, 1945 Dilemmas of Denazification Karl Loewenstein, Carl Schmitt, Military Occupation, and Militant Democracy
    (pp. 153-183)

    Why would one professor have another professor arrested, then have his library confiscated? The answer to this question will take us forward and backward in time, until we can return to the postwar moment. First, forward.

    In 1958 Karl Loewenstein, a professor at Amherst College, published his bookVerfassungslehre(Constitutional Theory), a work that has been reprinted several times. A reviewer of the book made an interesting point: “Loewenstein’sVerfassungslehreis diametrically opposed to that of an author who is not named in the text and with whom Loewenstein refuses to engage in a scholarly way in this context: the...

  8. FIVE January 8, 1946 Are You Occupied Territory? Black G.I.s in Fiction of the Occupation
    (pp. 185-219)

    The paradox did not go unnoticed: a racist dictatorship was conquered by a foreign army that had as one of its goals the eradication of racism among the defeated—while the victorious army itself was racially segregated. “How wrong was the Führer in his hatred of the Jews,” the African American journalist Roi Ottley, a war correspondent for the important Negro weeklyThe Pittsburgh Courier, reported Germans as asking, “when your white Americans encourage us to hate the blacks?” Hence Ottley pointed out in 1951 that Germans “recognize the indecent inconsistency in a Jim Crow army occupying the Third Reich...

  9. SIX April 24, 1946 The Race Problem in the House on Lilac Road Occupation Children and the Film Toxi
    (pp. 221-245)

    In the postwar years, illegitimate birth still carried a stigma for mother and child in Germany: only in the course of the 1960s did the legal and cultural landscape undergo a dramatic change in this matter.¹ Abortion (the choice Koeppen’s Carla and Habe’s Eva want to make) was illegal, expensive when it could be obtained, and dangerous when performed in secrecy. Getting married when one was pregnant (in what was called aNotheirat, an emergency marriage) often was the best possible course of action for a woman to avoid public and intrafamilial shame, even if the husband-to-be was not the...

  10. SEVEN August 20, 1948 / May 6, 1977 Heil, Johnny Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair; or, The Denazification of Erika von Schlütow
    (pp. 247-277)

    The Berlin entertainer Erika von Schlütow is a loose woman, compromised by her past. At 11:00 a.m., she is still in bed in her ruined apartment and lets her derrière cover the U.S. Army stencil on the blanket she has procured by fraternizing with Captain John Pringle. When John asks about her mismatched pajamas—“How the heck does anybody lose the top of the one and the bottom of the other?”—Erika wisecracks, “Johnny, you didn’t know the Nazi party,” as if it had been some kind of pajama party. In the Lorelei, the nightclub of ill repute where Erika...

  11. Coda Comic Relief?
    (pp. 279-288)

    Despair was more than just a temptation for many who lived through the 1940s in Central Europe, and traumatic memories would linger for de cades to come. Was there a postwar angel of hope and forgiveness who could help sinners, sufferers, witnesses, and observers of the period achieve triumph over despair? The stress of experiencing the world of the 1940s created the wish to somehow overcome the haunting remnants of Nazism and to leave the horrors of these experiences behind—even experiences that may have come indirectly, from seeing photographs and documentaries or from reading stories and hearing reports. Throughout...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 289-296)

    When I first turned toward the undertaking that has now resulted in this book, I expected to write an account of the American occupation of Germany and the dissemination of American culture in Western Europe after World War II. It was meant as a project that would be partly informed by, but not include specific references to, my own first encounters with America in postwar Germany: smiling black soldiers with their casual body poses; music on the radio; jeeps speeding by; and first experiences with chewing gum, a form of nonfood John Kouwenhoven once said could only have been invented...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 297-378)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 379-382)
  15. Index
    (pp. 383-390)