Bodies and Ruins
Imagining the Bombing of Germany, 1945 to the Present
Explores visual representations of the Allied bombing war on Germany to reveal how Germans remembered and commemorated WWII
Bodies and Ruins explores changing German memories of World War II as it analyzes the construction of narratives in the postwar period including the depiction of the bombing of individual German cities. The book offers a corrective notion rising in the late 1990s notion that discussions of the Allied bombing were long overdue, because Germans who had endured the bombings had largely been condemned to silence after 1945. David Crew shows that far from being marginalized in postwar historical consciousness, the bombing war was in fact a central strand of German memory and identity. Local narratives of the bombing war, including photographic books, had already established themselves as important “vectors of memory” in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The bombing war had allowed Germans to see themselves as victims at a time when the Allied liberation of the concentration camps and the Nuremberg trials presented Germans to the world as perpetrators or at least as accomplices. The bombing war continued to serve this function even as Germans became more and more willing directly to confront the genocide of European Jews—which by the 1960s was beginning to be referred to as the Holocaust.
Bodies and Ruins examines a range of local publications that carried photographic images of German cities destroyed in the air war, images that soon entered the visual memory of World War II. Despite its obvious importance, historians have paid very little attention to the visual representation of the bombing war. This book follows the search for what were considered to be the “right” stories and the “right” pictures of the bombing war in local publications and picture books from 1945 to the present, and is intended for historians as well as general readers interested in World War II, the Allied bombing of German cities, the Holocaust, the history of memory and photographic/visual history.
“Smart, thought-provoking, engaging, and important. The topic of the bombing war has moved to center stage in discussions of how best to remember and commemorate the end of the Second World War in Germany, but we know very little about the ways in which “bodies and ruins”—the causalities of the bombing war—were remembered in the fifty years or so after 1945. David Crew fills in that story.” —Robert Moeller, University of California-Irvine
Praise / Awards
"The rich archival material of photos and published sources Crew presents in his book, will be of significant interest to scholars in the fields of memory studies, postwar German history, and Holocaust studies."
"In his remarkable new book, historian Crew (Texas) examines the significant role that local memory cultures have played in conceptualizing the air war and German victimhood after 1945...Essential."
"David Crew’s analysis of photographs and publications could be valuable not just for those interested in German history. This should be useful for scholars working on histories of bombed cities at that time in Britain, France, Austria, Netherlands, and Japan."
--Journal of Modern History
"David Crew proposes a fresh and creative perspective on the well-known allied bombing campaign on Germany and on post-war German emotional and memorial reconstruction."
--War in History
"This is an insightful and necessary history of the pictorial repertoire that Germans have drawn on since the end of the Second World War."
--The American Historical Review
"An important contribution to our understanding not only of postwar
German history, but also the construction and meaning of memories of suffering."
--Journal of Social History
Winner: American Library Association (ALA) Choice 2018 Outstanding Academic Title
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