Death in Berlin
From Weimar to Divided Germany
Cambridge University Press 2011
Over 2.5 million Germans died as a result of World War I, or about 4% of the German population at the time. Somewhere between 7 and 9 million Germans died as a result of World War II, or between 8% to 11% of the German population at the time.* It’s hardly any wonder, then, that in the first half of the twentieth century the Germans were preoccupied with death and how to deal with it–it was all around them.
Monica Black‘s impressive Death in Berlin: From Weimar to Divided Germany (Cambridge University Press, 2011) explains how they did it. She focuses on remembrances of various sorts (funerals, monuments, eulogies, etc.) and the ways in which they were shaped by German tradition, transient ideology, and exigency. As Monica demonstrates, Germans themselves changed “German Way of Death” radically over this short period as they attempted to deal with a whole variety of competing pressures, values and interests. This is a fascinating book as it shows how the dead, though gone, are really (and particularly in the German case) still with us.
*To put German losses in perspective, 117,000 Americans died in World War I (.13% of the population) and 418,000 Americans died in World War II (.37% of the population).