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  • Published: 13 February 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241303498
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 880
  • RRP: $95.00

Out of the Darkness

The Germans, 1942-2022

A groundbreaking new history of the people at the centre of Europe, from the Second World War to today

A groundbreaking new history of the people at the centre of Europe, from the Second World War to today

In 1945, Germany lay in ruins, morally and materially. The German people stood condemned by history, responsible for a horrifying genocide and a war of extermination. But by 2015 Germany looked to many to be the moral voice of Europe, welcoming almost one million refugees. At the same time, it pursued a controversially rigid fiscal discipline and made energy deals with a dictator. Many people have asked how Germany descended into the darkness of the Nazis, but this book asks another vital question: how, and how far, have the Germans since reinvented themselves?

Trentmann tells the dramatic story of the Germans from the middle of the Second World War, through the Cold War and the division into East and West, to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunited nation's search for a place in the world. Their journey is marked by extraordinary moral struggles: guilt, shame and limited amends; wealth versus welfare; tolerance versus racism; compassion and complicity. Through a range of voices - German soldiers and German Jews; environmentalists and coal miners; families and churches; volunteers, migrants and populists - Trentmann paints a remarkable and surprising portrait over 80 years of the conflicted people at the centre of Europe.

  • Published: 13 February 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241303498
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 880
  • RRP: $95.00

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Praise for Out of the Darkness

Masterly. Frank Trentmann's wide-ranging, deeply researched, nuanced evaluation of changing German mentalities and moral challenges since the Nazi era is a tour de force

Ian Kershaw, author of Hitler and Personality and Power

In this magisterial book, Frank Trentmann charts how the Germans responded to the moral responsibilities that they faced as perpetrators of a war of annihilation and of the mass murder of the European Jews. Discussing transformations in East and West Germany, Trentmann highlights the trade-offs between moral reorientation and economic reconstruction. Portrayed on a broad canvas, this is a history of post-war Germany for our crisis-ridden times

Benjamin Ziemann, author of Hitler's Personal Prisoner: The Life of Martin Niemöller

Frank Trentmann's rich and brilliant Out of the Darkness traces the moral and material history of Germany since the Second World War through the lives of its people. Wonderfully readable and compelling it introduces us to Christian peaceniks, 'red' militarists, frustrated feminists, unappreciated 'guest workers,' and a host of other unexpected and diverse Germans, illuminating the achievements and failures of the nation that emerged from the Third Reich

Suzanne L. Marchand, author of Porcelain: A History from the Heart of Europe and Down from Olympus

Frank Trentmann’s enthralling account of the Germans since 1942 is rooted in a brilliant insight: that the morality Germans invoked in their struggle to make sense of their place in history was never a transcendent standard, but a malleable and contingent substance whose nature was always contested. This fascinating and compelling moral history takes us to the centre of modern Germany’s self-understanding, moving elegantly between politics, economics, culture and the private reflections of individuals

Christopher Clark, author of The Sleepwalkers and Revolutionary Spring

A milestone in historical writing

Michael Hesse, Frankfurter Rundschau

Excellent ... Trentmann's study marshals an immense amount of evidence in response to a single basic question: how did Germans reassert themselves as morally oriented human beings?

Ben Hutchinson, Times Literary Supplement

Monumental ... a remarkable book ... original and unique insights into the lived history of the Germans ... succeeds like no other history to combine the width and depth of human voices with an overarching narrative ... stimulating, immensely rich and very readable

Frank Biess, Sueddeutsche Zeitung

An impressive account of how Germany built a new identity for itself after the barbaric Nazi years ... terrifically insightful ... This book runs to 838 pages, but barely a word is wasted. Trentmann is a skilful and unflashy storyteller with flickers of gentle irony. Echoing Tolstoy’s theory of history as the "sum of human wills", he aims to stitch the scraps of everyday experience into a quilt of grand narrative. This results in a good deal of richness, colour and subtlety

Oliver Moody, The Times

Outstanding ... A meticulous and well-judged account of Germany from 1942 to today [that] shows how it transformed itself from pariah nation to leader of a continent

Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph, Best Books of the Year

A great panorama

Hamburger Abendblatt

Compelling ... vivid ... fresh ... one of the most impressive studies I have read of German guilt and shame ... an eloquent and original account of the last eighty years of the country’s history

David Blackbourn, Literary Review

In Out of the Darkness Trentmann does something different and extraordinary. He has composed an account of recent Germany that is not primarily political or economic or social, but moral.. [His] moral history is enormous, but never heavy-going: he is a gifted and intelligent writer

Neal Ascherson, London Review of Books

Absorbing... Frank Trentmann's approach is novel [and] his Germans leap vividly off the page, both as archetypes and as complex, multi-layered individuals... an excellent book

Brendan Simms, New Statesman

Impressive ... shows how German history can be told in a new way

Wolf Lepenies, Die Welt

Trentmann adds another layer to the history of events: the accompanying self-reflection among the Germans, with all their contradictions, their conflicts, their insights and errors. This is original, enlightening and entertaining. We find ourselves in these pages and are amazed!

Gustav Seibt, Süddeutsche Zeitung

A must read!

taz Futur Zwei, Best Books Winter 2023

A lively portrait of German mentalities


A fascinating, rich and fluid narrative

Der Spiegel, Books of the Year

A panorama of German mentalities since 1942

Die Zeit, Best Books January 2024


Stuart Jeffries, Spectator

I could not put the book down. The way Frank Trentmann writes history, the way he brings together things great and small, analysis with narrative, is wonderful

Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader

Remarkably rich . . . Out of the Darkness usefully reveals the roots of [modern Germany's] ethical knots. Trentmann is still hopeful that Germans can untangle them

Peter Fritzsche, New York Times Book Review

The [postwar] moral remaking of Germany is a complicated tale. It’s a tale that Mr. Trentmann is well placed to tell... He brings to his challenging subject both the sympathy of a native German and the detachment of an outsider... engrossing

Ian Brunskill, Wall Street Journal

Out of the Darkness give[s] a deep insight into how Germany and its people grappled with questions of guilt and identity.... navigates complex issues like self-pity, denazification, immigration, reunification and military intervention with refreshing clarity. This book couldn’t be more timely

Katja Hoyer, BBC History Magazine


Camden New Journal

A lively and very readable portrait of German society… which offers many surprising details and insights

BM, Buch-Magazin

He takes full advantage of the sources and gives voice to many contemporaries

Das Parlament


Winnipeg Free Press

An outstanding book ... a probing moral history with a distinctly mixed verdict.

Timothy Garton Ash, New York Review of Books