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A Demon-Haunted Land

Witches, Wonder Doctors, and the Ghosts of the Past in Post-WWII Germany

Monica Black

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Metropolitan Books
06 January 2021
In the aftermath of World War II, a succession of mass supernatural events swept through a war-torn Germany. As millions were afflicted by a host of seemingly incurable maladies (including blindness and paralysis), waves of apocalyptic rumors crashed over the land. 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, assault, and even murder. What linked these events, in the wake of an annihilationist 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, profound bitterness, and spiritual malaise that unfolded alongside the economic miracle. Drawing from a set of previously unpublished archival materials, acclaimed historian Monica Black argues that the surge of supernatural obsessions stemmed from the unspoken guilt and shame of a nation remarkably silent about what was euphemistically called the most recent past. 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.
By:   Monica Black
Imprint:   Metropolitan Books
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 244mm,  Width: 166mm,  Spine: 33mm
Weight:   518g
ISBN:   9781250225672
ISBN 10:   1250225671
Pages:   352
Publication Date:   06 January 2021
Audience:   Children/juvenile ,  English as a second language
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Monica Black is a professor of history at the University of Tennessee and the author of Death in Berlin: From Weimar to Divided Germany, which won the prestigious Fraenkel Prize, among other awards. She lives in Knoxville.

Reviews for A Demon-Haunted Land: Witches, Wonder Doctors, and the Ghosts of the Past in Post-WWII Germany

Evocative . . . epic . . . How do societies that commit monstrous atrocities recover from them?. . . Chock-full of colorful anecdotes and charismatic figures, A Demon-Haunted Land not only offers a brilliant rethinking of postwar German history, but also asks us to see the irrational as an integral part of modernity. --Boston Review By attending carefully to the voices of the sick in soul and body and to the stories told by ghosts, demons, and witches, Monica Black makes her way through the elisions, silences, and bad faith of post-World War II Germany into the anguished inner life of this time and place. A Demon-Haunted Land is a stunning, revelatory work of social and cultural history, of profound resonance for our own times. In it Black has enlarged the possibilities of historical knowledge itself. --Robert Orsi, author of History and Presence A bold and original account of the ways in which postwar West Germans used mythic forms of evil like witches and demons to deflect attention from the very real forms of evil their nation had just committed. Black's fascinating book is full of insight not only about postwar West Germany, but about the strange and complex ways people reinterpret evil and guilt. --Susan Neiman, author of Evil in Modern Thought Monica Black has given us a fascinating alternative history of postwar Germany, one that feels more psychologically true than the usual upbeat stories of social capitalism and reconstruction. She tells instead of individual responses to trauma--of witches, demons, Marian apparitions, and faith healing--and the Germans' desperate attempts to come to grips with the emotions produced by moral and physical collapse. A fine book that deserves a wide audience. --Ruth Harris, author of Lourdes Miraculous healings, heavenly apparitions, ghostly traces... Thanks to the magnificent work of Monica Black, post-Nazi Germany presents itself to the reader in a completely new light. --Sergio Luzzatto, author of The Body of Il Duce


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