Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"
I am fascinated by the things people do and the reasons they give for doing them. That people also do things in culturally specific ways and that their culturally specific ways of doing things are related to their culturally specific ideas about what makes sense and what does not inspires in me a sense of awe. As a professor and historian, thinking anthropologically has always been an important tool, because it helps me look for the hidden, cultural logics that guided the behavior of people in history. It helps me ask different questions. And it sharpens my sense of humility for the fundamental unknowability of this world we call home.
After World War II, a succession of mass supernatural events swept through war-torn Germany. A messianic faith healer rose to extraordinary fame, prayer groups performed exorcisms, and enormous crowds traveled to witness apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Most strikingly, scores of people accused their neighbors of witchcraft, and found themselves in turn hauled into court on charges of defamation and even violence. What linked these events, in the wake of a catastrophic war and the Holocaust, was a widespread preoccupation with evil.
While many histories emphasize Germany’s rapid transition from genocidal dictatorship to liberal democracy, A Demon-Haunted Land places in full view the toxic mistrust, bitterness, and spiritual malaise that unfolded alongside the economic miracle. This shadow history irrevocably changes our view of postwar Germany, revealing the country’s fraught emotional life, deep moral disquiet, and the cost of trying to bury a horrific legacy.
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We think you will like Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust, Hunting the Truth: Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, and The Complete Black Book of Russian Jewry if you like this list.
From Yohanan's list on European art, culture, and history.
Written by one of the key scholars of Jewish history in the USSR, who died untimely in 2020, this book challenges our bias about the USSR and its Cold-War era culture. Shneer tells how the Soviet photographers, many of whom where Jews, documented the Nazi atrocities during World war II and how the Soviet officialdom used their visual narratives to create new cult of the Great Patriotic war and the image of the USSR as a humanistic society.
From Mirla's list on the Holocaust and remembering the world's failure.
Beate and Serge Klarsfeld made it their life missions to find Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice. In their memoir Hunting the Truth, they detail their efforts in tracking down Nazi war criminals. We are with them when we read how they put their lives and well-being at considerable risk for many years. Hunting the Truth is an incredible book about two incredible people.
From Wendy's list on the Soviet Union in World War II.
Most Western readers are familiar with the holocaust carried out by the Nazis in Europe, but know little about the almost two million Jews murdered by the Nazis in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union. Here, the Germans embarked on a “holocaust by bullets,” rounding up the Jewish inhabitants, imprisoning them in camps and ghettos, and then shooting them at the edge of vast pits and ravines.
Grossman and Ehrenburg, renowned Soviet war journalists and members of the Jewish Anti Fascist Committee, began collecting eyewitness testimonies and other documents during the war. Yet the Soviet state, following the policy, “we do not divide the dead,” refused to permit publication of the book they assembled because it was too focused on the particularity of Jewish suffering. The Complete Black Book, a powerful compilation of firsthand reports, is essential to understanding the full scope of the German campaign for Jewish annihilation.