Examing the Minds of Post-War Germans
To be a German citizen in 1945 must have been rough. There were so many things that could have been going through their minds. I do not even know how they managed to sleep at night. Between the human destruction of war, Germans were also plagued by their consciousness too.
Once again, Germans experienced the devastation that a war brings. Families had to cope with the loss of their loved ones and those surviving veterans were plagued with the haunting memories of fighting on the battlefield. I do not want to say that they were used to these emotions, but many Germans had suffered through this after World War I.
The Germans also faced much physcial destruction. As Brose notes, “The countryside was so disrupted and devastated by modern war that food would continue to be scarce for years”. (1) While World War I brought much destruction, World War II brought even more. Instead of fighting in the trenches, this war had tanks, planes, and powerful bombs that left the landscape into pure rubble. This left many Germans homeless and hungry, not knowing where to go next.
As if this was not enough to think about, the Germans also had some guilt in the back of their mind. Karl Jaspers distinguishes four types of German guilt, ” Criminal guilt, moral guilt, political guilt, and metaphysical guilt”. (2) These four guilt concepts cover all Germans, from those who actually committed the crimes to those who knew but chose to do nothing.
Add in the fact that they had no government now (which was a good thing) and the rest of the world did not look upon them too kindly, Germans were in quite a pickle. I think the worst thing to have would be the guilt factor. Hatred will be healed, the land will be restored and rebuilt, but that guilt is going to live with you for the rest of your life.
1. Brose, Eric Dorn. A History of Europe in the Twentieth Century. (p. 267), 2005.
2. Brose, 274-275.
3. Sanders, Walter. “Ruins of Berlin” Photograpg. 1948. http://www.bbc.com/travel/slideshow/20120104-vintage-berlin-after-world-war-ii