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Line of Separation (Tannbach) / Book recommendations on Germany at end of WWII

I'm watching Line of Separation (Tannbach) on PBS. The TV series focuses on one German community at the end of WWII and how it's affected by the U.S. and USSR occupation zone border running through it. There are other story lines centered on ideologies, party affiliations, and land ownership.

I'd like to learn more about Germany during those first few years after the war. Relatives who served during that time are no longer with us, and when they were, they didn't share much. If anyone on the forum has a recommendation for non-fiction books (or even fiction) about this particular time period, I'd appreciate it. I read Salt to the Sea earlier this year, and I thought it was a well written novel.

Thanks!

Posted by
1593 posts

The "real" Tannbach is Mödlareuth, divided by the Bavarian / Thurigian border and so historically between GDR and West Germany. A part of the wall has been preserved and there is a small museum. A handful of pictures here. More background in: Jason Johnson, Divided Village: The Cold War in the German Borderlands. New York 2017.

Posted by
5518 posts

Rachel, my main interest in this time period, is the millions of displaced persons brought into Germany as slave labor and prisoners, many of whom could not, or did not want to go home at war's end. There are several books on the subject and multiple websites. The only one who's title I can come up with was a recent book The Last Million, which is not full of personal stories, but rather the administrative and logistical issues dealing with this unexpected problem in a war-weary time. If I can come up with some other titles I will. There is one movie about kids in these DP camps - The Search, with Montgomery Clift.

There were two Berlin airlifts, one still in the '40s which you could probably google up some books.

Posted by
38 posts

Aah! I had three suggestions from the top of my head, but when I checked, I see that none are translated in to English! Very frustrating, as there is some really good German literature on this period. One thing I did think of is a collection of reporting from right after the war, which was originally published in the late 1940´s, called "German Autumn" by Dagerman. You could also look up Trümmerliteratur (the German name for a literary style of this period): Authors like Wolfgang Borchert, Heinz Rein, and Heinrich Böll were active in the post-war period, and offer a particular literary perspective on it. I have to think more about non-fiction that has been translated, but will write back if something comes to me.

Also, as another poster commented, the history of forced labourers and their families is very much worth reading on. But also in this case, most from these that I know are not translated! On a broadly similar theme, however, is Shepard, "The Long Road Home," about post-war refugees.

Posted by
942 posts

Early this year-before Covid, I watched a East German movie made just after the war. It dealt with a non-Jewish woman who was in a concentration camp and came home to find a German soldier living in her house. It's mostly from the point of view of the man who sees the captain of his regiment again, after the man massacred an entire Polish town and how to best get his revenge-by death or tribunal. It's slow in that way that movies were back then(non-hollywood). But it also gives a good idea of what values the allies were trying to convey to the German Public.

The English title is "The Murderers Are Among Us" and it's notable for it's use of bombed out Berlin ruins.

Please also note that until the start of the Berlin Wall, people were able to go back and forth and visit relatives freely.

Posted by
1512 posts

I've mentioned before on the forum

Savage Continent by Keith Lowe
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250015044

as good for the general reader.

The 2014 movie "Labyrinth of Lies"
is also good for general audiences, and is set around 1958 -- I think it serves as an interesting complement to the first two seasons of "MadMen" in terms of capturing the material culture of the late fifties.
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3825638/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Posted by
868 posts

Thanks to everyone for your replies. I'll take a look at all of your recommendations. Azra, Stig Dagerman's German Autumn sounds very interesting!

Posted by
5518 posts

Here's another book: Aftermath of War: Everyone Must Go Home by Carol Mather

One I haven't read is Germany 1945 by Richard Bessel

Posted by
636 posts

Not sure if it meets all you are looking for but I recently read the house by the lake by Thomas Harding and it was very good. The house is in the countryside near Berlin.
It is the story of 5 families living in the house over 100 years for different reasons.
After WWII the property becomes part of the USSR side.

Posted by
2229 posts

I've mentioned elsewhere on the forum in the last week... German Boy by Wolfgang Samuel. The author's memoir of living in Germany from his 10th birthday (a couple of months before the end of the war) to his 14th birthday (a couple of months before the end of the Berlin Airlift). Fleeing with his family from Lower Silesia ahead of the Russian offensive front. Living in poverty as a refugee in West Germany. Observing the sacrifices his mother made to keep her family alive. A very unique perspective. Don't miss the Foreward by historian Stephen Ambrose.

Edit: Pre-COVID, the author could periodically be found at the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum on Sunday afternoons signing his books. He grew up to be a US Air Force pilot.

Posted by
366 posts

Haven't read this but Nemesis at Potsdam is about the expulsion of the Germans from Silesia, Pomerania and East Prussia after the war, so ties in with the book OP mentions about the Wilhelm Gustloff sinking. I've met a few expellees from the Sudetenland and East Prussia. One East Prussian refugee I met was evacuated by boat, ended up marrying an American and her grand kids lived in our town.

Posted by
38 posts

I was talking to a friend today and thought of another thing that might interest you: a film. It is called Die Mörder sind unter uns ("Murderers are among us") and was the first film made in post-war East Germany. It is quite interesting.

Posted by
868 posts

Thanks again! A few of these are available at my library including Coming to Colorado (German Boy) and the House by the Lake. I’ll start there.

Posted by
2229 posts

Coming to Colorado is Wolfgang Samuel's memoir of leaving Germany in 1949 (as I recall) and his somewhat rocky transition to life in the US.