This is potentially an interesting question: has Germany exorcised Hitler, its terrible twentieth-century ghost, who died by his own hand sixty-five years ago? What would that mean historically? What processes – psychological, cultural, even institutional – might be needed for such a spiritual cleansing?
So compelling is this question that historians, philosophers, social scientists and critics have been exploring it for years. This fact makes it all the more puzzling why Frederick Taylor should have decided to add to the pile a book that tells us almost nothing new and certainly gets us no further in understanding the central problem of how German society came to terms with the terrible legacy of 1945. This is a disappointment, since his book on the Dresden bombing was a balanced and thoughtful contribution to a vexed debate.
Taylor’s title is in itself misleading, for this is really a history of the final months of the war and the spasm of vengeful violence that descended on central and eastern Europe in 1945: German fanatics against German defeatists, Red Army soldiers against the women of eastern Germany,