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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.

Aftermath received wide acclaim and spent 48 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.

©2022 Harald Jähner; Shaun Whiteside - translation (P)2022 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize • A Best Book of the Year: New Statesmen, Financial Times, The Times, The Telegraph, the Irish Independent

“[Jähner] does double duty in this fascinating book, elegantly marshaling a plethora of facts while also using his critical skills to wry effect, parsing a country’s stubborn inclination toward willful delusion. Even though Aftermath covers historical ground, its narrative is intimate, filled with first-person accounts from articles and diaries.”—Jennifer Szalai, New York Times 

“The national psyche is the principal protagonist in Harald Jähner’s subtle, perceptive and beautifully written Aftermath. Mr. Jähner, like Mr. Ullrich a German journalist and author, describes Germany’s first postwar decade, with more of an emphasis on its social and cultural landscape (particularly in its western segment) than the usual early Cold War tussles. Aftermath is a revelatory, remarkably wide-ranging book crammed with material, much of which will, I imagine, be new to an international audience.”—Andrew Stuttaford, The Wall Street Journal

“Harald Jähner’s highly readable account of how Germans went about leaving Nazism behind . . . is about the price and the accomplishment of a new beginning when the aggressive war the Germans had waged was reversed to utter defeat in 1945. . . . Jähner is counterintuitive but thoughtful.”—Peter Fritzsche, New York Times Book Review 

What listeners say about Aftermath

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Where are the photos?

I purchased this on a cold snowy day and spent the weekend binge listening. This is a period of history that interests me greatly and I found that the author touched on some good topics. However, it was just enough information to pique my interest to want to learn much more. Most of the chapters can be read/listened to at random. My favorites were chapters VI and VII on the economy which talked about currency reform, the Marshall Plan, the beginning of the Cold War, and the company town of Wolfsburg. These are subjects that I definitely want to read more about.

There was a brief chapter on American G.I.s, but very little info on how the Germans felt about the occupied Allied forces.

According to the publisher, there are more than 40 photos in the book. Surely, they could have found a way for Audible customers to download them as an attachment.

I don't read or speak German, but I found Shaun Whiteside's translation excellent in that it had a natural and engaging flow. Although he is Irish, the book sounds very American.

Also, props to Rob Shapiro for a great narration. He has a lovely voice and a natural delivery.

11 people found this helpful

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Filling in a gap in 20th century history

For me there was always a gap between the Germany described by William Shirer, and the modern German democracy I grew up hearing about. Jahner's book picks up the narrative where Cornelius Ryan's "The Last Battle" leaves off. His chapters are essays, each tackling a separate issue, beginning with the question "when does a war end?"--it's a liminal process, not a moment, though the completeness of the final surrender seemed to surprise everyone.

The essay approach gives the reader a wide sampling of events and trends in that transformative decade without an overload of names and dates (it is, as the subtitle indicates, a social history). Jahner addresses everything from removing rubble, to the role of the black market, to the relative roles of women and men after the war, to changes in tastes and attitudes towards art. He also addresses the ways in which denazification did and didn't work, and the utter failure of early attempts (when there were attempts made at all) to acknowledge the Holocaust.

5 people found this helpful

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Much better books out there

I don't care what some dumb poet had to say about something, or the authors opinion of what people were thinking when they were watching some artsy garbage movie, I just want the real history of what happened post-war, the day to day lives of real people, how things were rebuilt, etc. Instead with this book you got an author who is in love with their own writing giving loads of opinion on stuff that 99% of the people don't give 2 cents about.

There are MUCH better books out there, literally every single other post-WW2 book on Audible is better than this one, and I've read all of them.

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NOT FOR ME

Was hoping for more personal stories of "Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich." This read more like a verrrrrry long bibliography just quoting one reference after another; and there was no continuity, with references jumping from the forties to the sixties.

4 people found this helpful

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Beware of the German Pronunciation

One feels present in post-war Germany. Jähner‘s details are riveting and enlightening. The narrator’s voice is superb. However, the consistent mispronunciation of German words is terribly disturbing. As a teacher of German I give the narrator’s pronunciation a D-. I cannot recommend this Audible book to any person who speaks standard German. It distracts from the informative content!!

2 people found this helpful

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Much that was interesting, but …

Too many sweeping generalizations. And, taking post war art as an example, a failure to demonstrate that what occurred was a product of the war and its aftermath.

2 people found this helpful

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Social history, not a political one

I was (probably naively) hoping this would be more of a political and economic history of the immediate post war years. Instead the author focuses on the social history and how the everyday German got along after the war. It’s a good book, just not what I was looking or hoping for.

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DeNazification Amidst Chaotic Rubble

Even 76 years after Hitler’s demise- the world is still trying to comprehend the complacency of the German people and their execution of SIX million Jews, Gays and Political dissidents. The current rise of US and worldwide Anti-Semitism and the attacks against democracy lead by the despotic 45th American president, makes one wonder if any lesson was learned at all? Let us pray that we can learn from these past mistakes and this NEVER happens again!!!!

2 people found this helpful

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Good primary source materials, wandering narrative

As a World War II history nerd, Aftermath brought new and more existential dimensions to the days, weeks, and years immediately following Germany’s surrender. The research for this book must have been quite an undertaking given the number of individuals and sources cited. The first person accounts and periodicals of the time bring a granular human element to these large events. The narrative arc was unclear at points but the presentation will no doubt hold interest.

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boring and long

Much too broad in scope. it would have been better had it discussed only the 5 years or so after the war. but it went on into the '60s. I for one lost total interest.

1 person found this helpful