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

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

by Monica Black


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A revelatory counterhistory of postwar Germany, not as a reborn democracy but as a nation convulsed by apocalyptic visions, witchcraft trials, and supernatural obsessions

In the aftermath of World War II, a succession of mass supernatural events swept through war-torn Germany. 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 Drawing on previously unpublished archival materials, acclaimed historian Monica Black argues that the surge of supernatural obsessions stemmed from the unspoken guilt and shame of a nation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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250225672
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/17/2020
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 246,797
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Reading Signs 19

2 A Stranger in Town 43

3 The Miracle of Herford 55

4 Soul Medicine 75

5 Messiah in Munich 93

6 If Evil Is the Illness, What Is the Cure? 121

7 Sickness That Comes from Sin 145

8 Are There Witches Among Us? 167

9 Kruse's Crusade 197

10 Dawn of the New Age 227

Conclusion 253

Notes 259

Acknowledgments 315

Index 319

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