Harald Jähner


A dance among the ruins: Harald Jähner’s major new portrait of Germany’s post-war society

Countless former soldiers drift through the towns and cities; countless children grow up without a father. The old order has been destroyed and although the streets seem eerily empty, the traditional annual street carnivals are soon back in full swing, jazz can be heard among the ruins, intellectuals rekindle a culture of discussion and debate.

Harald Jähner’s book is the first history of Germany’s national mentality in the immediate post-war period. It focusses on the German people in all their diversity: the “re-educators” Alfred Döblin and Rudolf Herrnstadt, who tried in two different zones of occupation to win the trust of their fellow Germans; Beate Uhse, owner of a mail order company for “marital hygiene”, who questioned the old moral code governing what was deemed proper; the many nameless black market traders, pockets stuffed with Lucky Strike cigarettes; stylish housewives sitting at kidney-shaped coffee tables that were to become emblematic for a freer and affordable world.

Using major political developments as a backdrop, this book weaves a series of life stories into a nuanced panorama that makes the monumental changes affecting the nation tangible for its readers. 1945 to 1955 was a raw, wild decade poised between two eras, portrayed here as a period that proved decisive for Germany’s future development – and one starkly different to how most Germans imagine it today.

Harald Jähner

Harald Jähner

Harald Jähner was born in 1953. He joined the Berliner Zeitung’s arts and reviews section in 1997, later becoming its editor until 2015. He had previously worked as a freelancer for the literary section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In 2011 he was made honorary professor of cultural journalism at Berlin’s University of the Arts.