We Were Victims Too: The Rediscovery of German Civilian Suffering in World War II

Since the end of World War II, the memory of Hitler’s crimes has followed Germans at every step. At the time of German unification in 1990, the Third Reich could be reduced to the most basic formula: Germans = perpetrators, Jews = victims.

Only with the publication in 2002 of Günter Grass’s novel Crabwalk was public attention focused on the fate of millions of Germans expelled from eastern Europe at the end of World War II. Within months, the appearance of another book, The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, by Jörg Friedrich, questioned the morality and strategic sense of Allied bombing raids that killed more than half a million civilians and razed dozens of cities.

What had changed in Germany to make this discussion possible? Will Germans now line up to take their place in the universal cult of victimhood?

My master’s thesis for Central European University’s nationalism studies program traces the origins of the recent recognition of German civilian suffering during World War II and examines the debates that accompanied it.

The thesis was published in 2009 and is available on Amazon.

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