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—and features over 40 eye-opening black-and-white photographs and posters from the period.
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.
Aftermath received wide acclaim and spent forty-eight weeks on the best-seller list in Germany when it was published there in 2019. It is the first history of Germany's national mentality in the immediate postwar years. Using major global political developments as a backdrop, Harald Jähner weaves a series of life stories into a nuanced panorama of a nation undergoing monumental change. Poised between two eras, this decade is portrayed by Jähner as a period that proved decisive for Germany's future—and one starkly different from how most of us imagine it today.
“Germans rebounded from shattering defeat with hard work, a pragmatic embrace of the new, and a willful forgetting of trauma and guilt, according to this penetrating history of the early postwar period. . . . Elegantly written and translated, Jähner’s analysis deploys emotionally resonant detail . . . to vividly recreate a vibrant, if morally haunted, historical watershed. This eye-opening study enthralls.” —Publishers Weekly

“In his engrossing first book, Jähner, the former editor of the Berlin Times, examines how and why Germany was capable of radically transforming from a sinister fascist mindset toward a modern democratic state. The author presents an expansive yet sharply probing overview of the period, reaching across political, social, and geographical spheres to draw a lucid portrait of a country reeling from the stark consequences of being on the losing side of a horrendous war. . . . An immediate and long-lasting bestseller when it was published in Germany in 2019 and the winner of the Leipzig Book Fair Prize, Jähner’s shrewdly balanced look at postwar Germany is sure to spark the interest of readers across the world. An absorbing and well-documented history of postwar Germany.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Magisterial, fascinating, humane—a brilliant book of the greatest importance and achievement.” —Philippe Sands, author of East West Street and The Ratline
“A fiercely compelling book that brings vivid illumination to an era of twilight and brutal ruins. Harald Jähner beautifully explores the hinterland of human nature in all its shades.” —Sinclair McKay, author of Dresden: The Fire and the Darkness

“Harald Jähner’s deeply researched, panoramic account of how Germany rebuilt and discovered itself from 1945 to 1955 is an eye-opening, thrilling read.” —Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader

“Exemplary [and] important. . . . This is the kind of book few writers possess the clarity of vision to write.” —Max Hastings, The Sunday Times (London)
“It is depressing to see how few countries encourage or even permit their citizens freely to chronicle and discuss their pasts, and how many instead forge fictional histories to support modern political purposes. In the U.S. and most of Europe, we take for granted a license to seek out truth. The Germans have an exemplary record, especially with regard to the mid-20th century, recently enhanced by Harald Jähner’s new book  Aftermath, on German life after 1945.” —Max Hastings,
“Harald Jähner’s magnificent book Aftermath (fluently translated by Shaun Whiteside) is part of this continuing process [of] Vergangenheitsbewältigung, roughly translated as ‘assessing the past.’ Drawing on the huge literature listed in the bibliography, it takes a lucid overview of the astonishing decade following the defeat of Nazism and the partition of Germany between the Western allies and Soviet Russia. Although it embraces subjects of explosive ideological controversy, the story is told with judicious impartial intelligence and a light touch: Jähner has no axe to grind and he casts his net wide, fully aware of the large patches of grey morality through which he is treading. There are great lessons in the nature of humanity to be learnt here.” —Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph (London)

“An extraordinary book of breathtaking scholarship. Jähner shines a light on a dark and almost forgotten period of history to find it pulsating with life.” —Jack Fairweather, author of The Volunteer
“Many consider the years before 1945 to be the most crucial in understanding Germany and the Germans. Wait until you have read this book.” —Norman Ohler, author of Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich

“What does total defeat mean? Germany 1945–55. Ten years of poverty, ruins, fear, violence, black markets, manic hard work, inventive sex—and always, always, silence about the murdered millions of the Third Reich. A fascinating read.” —Neil MacGregor, author of Germany: Memories of a Nation
“A fascinating account of a forgotten moment in Europe’s history, of utter desperation leading to tentative hope.” —Simon Jenkins, bestselling author of A Short History of Europe and A Short History of England

“Harald Jähner claims to have discovered a hole in the heart of modern German history. This book triumphantly proves him right. It is absolutely extraordinary. Every page stops you dead with insight and revelation.” —James Hawes, author of The Shortest History of Germany

“For those who want to understand the Germans, Aftermath is essential reading. . . . Anyone with even the slightest interest in history and the human condition should read this book.″ —Julia Boyd, author of Travelers in the Third Reich