Book: Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945–1955

I finished the book “Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945–1955” recently. “Aftermath” is about history but also human nature, the good, the bad, and all the infuriatingly murky areas in between.

Publisher’s Summary:
“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.”


The question of how a society comes to terms with its actions and how it rebuilds when its very foundation has been left in ruins (socially, structurally, economically, totally) is one that I find parallels to in today’s world.

Are we in post-World War II Germany levels of tumult? Not even close. (At least not yet)
But we have work to do.

It will take a concerted effort to regain international trust and our own faith in democracy after the Trump years and through whoever rises to take his place. It will mean finding the courage to acknowledge our history of racism, oppression, hate, and violence when we are doing our best to erase it. It will take total commitment to address the surging human and economic cost of climate change when right now, the most common action is inaction. It will mean addressing the incentives and means for misinformation to flourish. AND perhaps most importantly, it means overcoming the mindset that says “we’re all in this together” while acting out “like hell, we’re all in this together” during times of crisis.

We may not be living through a post-World War age, but it will take a similar effort to rebuild (and, in most cases, build for the first time) the kind of society that thrives in the future.