Shattered Past: Reconstructing German Histories

Princeton University Press
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Broken glass, twisted beams, piles of debris--these are the early memories of the children who grew up amidst the ruins of the Third Reich. More than five decades later, German youth inhabit manicured suburbs and stroll along prosperous pedestrian malls. Shattered Past is a bold reconsideration of the perplexing pattern of Germany's twentieth-century history. Konrad Jarausch and Michael Geyer explore the staggering gap between the country's role in the terrors of war and its subsequent success as a democracy. They argue that the collapse of Communism, national reunification, and the postmodern shift call for a new reading of the country's turbulent development, one that no longer suggests continuity but rupture and conflict.

Comprising original essays, the book begins by reexamining the nationalist, socialist, and liberal master narratives that have dominated the presentation of German history but are now losing their hold. Treated next are major issues of recent debate that suggest how new kinds of German history might be written: annihilationist warfare, complicity with dictatorship, the taming of power, the impact of migration, the struggle over national identity, redefinitions of womanhood, and the development of consumption as well as popular culture. The concluding chapters reflect on the country's gradual transition from chaos to civility. This penetrating study will spark a fresh debate about the meaning of the German past during the last century.

There is no single master narrative, no Weltgeist, to be discovered. But there is a fascinating story to be told in many different ways.

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About the author

Konrad H. Jarausch is Lurcy Professor of European Civilization at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Director of the Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung in Potsdam, Germany. He is the author of Students, Society, and Politics in Imperial Germany (Princeton), The Unfree Professions, and The Rush to German Unity. Michael Geyer is Professor of History at the University of Chicago. Well known for his research in military history and in theoretical and methodological problems in European and world history, he is a co-editor of Resistance Against the Third Reich, 1933–1990. He has published widely on war and violence, twentieth-century German history, as well as the history of globalization and is, most recently, the editor of The Power of Intellectuals in Contemporary Germany.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 24, 2009
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Pages
400
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ISBN
9781400825271
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / General
History / Europe / Germany
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Konrad H. Jarausch
The bringing down of the Berlin Wall is one of the most vivid images and historic events of the late twentieth century. The reunification of Germany has transformed the face of Europe. In one stunning year, two separate states with clashing ideologies, hostile armies, competing economies, and incompatible social systems merged into one. The speed and extent of the reunification was so great that many people are still trying to understand the events. Initial elation has given way to the realities and problems posed in reuniting two such different systems. The Rush to German Unity presents a clear historical reconstruction of the confusing events. It focuses on the dramatic experiences of the East German people but also explores the decisions of the West German elite. Konrad H. Jarausch draws on the rich sources produced by the collapse of the GDR and on the public debate in the FRG. Beginning with vivid media images, the text probes the background of a problem, traces its treatment and resolution and then reflects on its implications. Combining an insider's insights with an outsider's detachment, the interpretation balances the celebratory and the catastrophic views. The unification process was democratic, peaceful and negotiated. But the merger was also bureaucratic, capitalistic and one-sided. Popular pressures and political manipulation combined to create a rush to unity that threatened to escape control. The revolution moved from a civic rising to a national movement and ended up as reconstruction from the outside. An ideal source for general readers and students, The Rush to German Unity explores whether solving the old German problem has merely created new difficulties.
Konrad H. Jarausch
Konrad H. Jarausch
The gripping stories of ordinary Germans who lived through World War II, the Holocaust, and Cold War partition—but also recovery, reunification, and rehabilitation

Broken Lives is a gripping account of the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of ordinary Germans who came of age under Hitler and whose lives were scarred and sometimes destroyed by what they saw and did.

Drawing on six dozen memoirs by the generation of Germans born in the 1920s, Konrad Jarausch chronicles the unforgettable stories of people who lived through the Third Reich, World War II, the Holocaust, and Cold War partition, but also participated in Germany's astonishing postwar recovery, reunification, and rehabilitation. Written decades after the events, these testimonies, many of them unpublished, look back on the mistakes of young people caught up in the Nazi movement. In many, early enthusiasm turns to deep disillusionment as the price of complicity with a brutal dictatorship--fighting at the front, aerial bombing at home, murder in the concentration camps—becomes clear.

Bringing together the voices of men and women, perpetrators and victims, Broken Lives reveals the intimate human details of historical events and offers new insights about persistent questions. Why did so many Germans support Hitler through years of wartime sacrifice and Nazi inhumanity? How did they finally distance themselves from this racist dictatorship and come to embrace human rights? Jarausch argues that this generation's focus on its own suffering, often maligned by historians, ultimately led to a more critical understanding of national identity—one that helped transform Germany from a military aggressor into a pillar of European democracy.

The result is a powerful account of the everyday experiences and troubling memories of average Germans who journeyed into, through, and out of the abyss of a dark century.

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