Out of the Darkness: The Germans, 1942-2022 (Hardcover)

Out of the Darkness: The Germans, 1942-2022 By Frank Trentmann Cover Image
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#1 Most Important Political Book of 2023, Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Germany)
A Best Book of 2023, The Telegraph (Great Britain)

A gripping and nuanced history of the German people from World War II to the war in Ukraine, including revealing new primary source material on Germany's transformation

In 1945, Germany lay in ruins, morally and materially. Its citizens stood condemned by history, responsible for a horrifying genocide and war of extermination. But by the end of Angela Merkel’s tenure as chancellor in 2021, Germany looked like the moral voice of Europe, welcoming more than one million refugees, holding together the tenuous threads of the European Union, and making military restraint the center of its foreign policy. At the same time, Germany's rigid fiscal discipline and energy deals with Vladimir Putin have cast a shadow over the present. Innumerable scholars have asked how Germany could have degenerated from a nation of scientists, poets, and philosophers into one responsible for genocide. This book raises another vital question: How did a nation whose past has been marked by mass murder, a people who cheered Adolf Hitler, reinvent themselves, and how much?

Trentmann tells this dramatic story of the German people from the middle of World War II through the Cold War and the division into East and West to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the struggle to find a place in the world today. This journey is marked by a series of extraordinary moral conflicts: admissions of guilt and shame vying with immediate economic concerns; restitution for some but not others; tolerance versus racism; compassion versus complicity. Through a range of voices—German soldiers and German Jews; displaced persons in limbo; East German women and shopkeepers angry about energy shortages; opponents and supporters of nuclear power; volunteers helping migrants and refugees, and right-wing populists attacking them—Trentmann paints a remarkable and surprising portrait spanning eighty years of the conflicted people at the center of Europe, showing how the Germans became who they are today.

About the Author

FRANK TRENTMANN, author of Empire of Things, is professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London, and at the University of Helsinki. Previously, he taught at Princeton University. He has been awarded the Whitfield Prize and a Humboldt Research Award, and he was a Moore Scholar at Caltech. Empire of Things was named the science book of the year by the Austrian government.  He grew up in Hamburg and lives in London.

Praise For…

#1 Political Book of 2023, Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Germany)
A Best Book of 2023, The Telegraph (United Kingdom)

#1 Best Non-Fiction Book December 2023 and January 2024 at Die Zeit, ZDF, Deutschlandfunk, and taz (Germany)
A New Yorker "Best Books of the Year We Have Read So Far"

“[A] rich, ambitious account of Germany’s improbable rise from a moral abyss to a prosperous democracy that is sometimes held up as a bulwark of stability and liberal values… [the book] remains fresh and surprising throughout, thanks in part to Trentmann’s knack for drawing on an astounding range of voices.” —Bryn Stole, The Washington Post

"Outstanding... A probing moral history."—Timothy Garton Ash, New York Review of Books

"Remarkably rich...Out of the Darkness usefully reveals the roots of [modern Germany's] ethical knots. Trentmann is still hopeful that Germans can untangle them."New York Times Book Review

"Never dull...the moral remaking of Germany is a complicated tale...[and] a tale that Mr. Trentmann is well placed to tell... [a] vast, engrossing history." —Ian Brunskill, The Wall Street Journal

"Trentmann draws from a wide range of sources, including amateur plays and essays by schoolchildren. These lend intimacy to his portrait of a citizenry engaged in the continuous process of formulating its own views of right and wrong as it debates issues from rearmament to environmentalism." —"The Best Books We've Read in 2024 So Far," The New Yorker

"A magisterial history of Germany over the last 80 years... penetrating... thougful... [With] [f]ascinating insights on how a country of poets, philosophers, and scientists emerged from totalitarianism and genocide."Kirkus Reviews

"Trentmann’s sweeping narrative is grounded in vivid snapshots...a penetrating and immersive look at a society attempting, if sometimes failing, to morally right itself." Publishers Weekly

"Masterly. Frank Trentmann's wide-ranging, deeply researched, nuanced evaluation of changing German mentalities and moral challenges since the Nazi era is a tour de force."—Ian Kershaw, author of Hitler

"In this magisterial book, Frank Trentmann charts how the Germans responded to the moral responsibilities that they faced as perpetrators of a war of annihilation and of the mass murder of the European Jews. Discussing transformations in East and West Germany, Trentmann highlights the trade-offs between moral reorientation and economic reconstruction. Portrayed on a broad canvas, this is a history of post-war Germany for our crisis-ridden times."—Benjamin Ziemann, author of Hitler's Personal Prisoner: The Life of Martin Niemöller

“I could not put the book down. The way Frank Trentmann writes history, the way he brings together great and small, analysis and narrative, is wonderful.” —Bernhard Schlink, author of the international best seller The Reader

"A milestone of historical writing" Frankfurter Rundschau

Trentmann adds another layer to the history of events: the accompanying self-reflection among the Germans, with all their contradictions, their conflicts, their insights and errors. This is original, enlightening and entertaining. We find ourselves in these pages and are amazed!" Sueddeutsche Zeitung

"Impressive ... shows how German history can be told in a new way'" —Wolf Lepenies, Die Welt

"A great panorama." Hamburger Abendblatt

"Compelling...a deeply serious work that moves gracefully between the moral challenges that are his central concern and the more familiar categories of politics, law and culture." —David Blackbourn, Literary Review

"Outstanding... A meticulous and well-judged account of Germany from 1942 to today [that] shows how it transformed itself from pariah nation to leader of a continent." —"Best Books of 2023," The Daily Telegraph

"Monumental... a remarkable book...[with] original and unique insights into the lived history of the Germans... [It] succeeds like no other broad overview to combine the width and depth of human voices with an overarching narrative ...stimulating, immensely rich and very readable."—Frank Biess, Sueddeutsche Zeitung

"An impressive account of how Germany built a new identity for itself after the barbaric Nazi years...terrifically insightful...This book runs to 838 pages, but barely a word is wasted. Trentmann is a skillful and unflashy storyteller with flickers of gentle irony. Echoing Tolstoy’s theory of history as the 'sum of human wills,' he aims to stitch the scraps of everyday experience into a quilt of grand narrative... [with] richness, colour and subtlety." —Oliver Moody, The Times (London)

"Excellent .... Trentmann's study marshals an immense amount of evidence in response to a single basic question: how did Germans reassert themselves as morally oriented human beings?"The Times Literary Supplement

“Give[s] a deep insight into how Germany and its people grappled with questions of guilt and identity....navigates complex issues like self-pity, denazification, immigration, reunification and military intervention with refreshing clarity. This book couldn’t be more timely.”BBC History Magazine, Katja Hoyer

"Frank Trentmann’s rich and brilliant Out of the Darkness traces the moral and material history of Germany since the Second World War through the lives of its people. Wonderfully readable and compelling, it introduces us to Christian peaceniks, 'red' militarists, frustrated feminists, unappreciated 'guest workers,' and a host of other unexpected and diverse Germans, illuminating the achievements and failures of the nation that emerged from the Third Reich."—Suzanne L. Marchand, Author of Porcelain: A History from the Heart of Europe and Down from Olympus

"Frank Trentmann’s enthralling account of the Germans since 1942 is rooted in a brilliant insight: that the morality Germans invoked in their struggle to make sense of their place in history was never a transcendent standard, but a malleable and contingent substance whose nature was always contested. This fascinating and compelling moral history takes us to the centre of modern Germany’s self-understanding, moving elegantly between politics, economics, culture and the private reflections of individuals." —Christopher Clark, Author of The Sleepwalkers and Revolutionary Spring
Product Details
ISBN: 9781524732912
ISBN-10: 1524732915
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: February 20th, 2024
Pages: 816
Language: English