More than 65 years after its end, the Second World War continues to have a powerful influence on German society. Questions of guilt, shame, and responsibility are still part of the public discourse in Germany today. Books and documentaries about Nazi crimes and the extermination camps have inextricably shaped how past, current and - most likely - future generations of Germans feel about themselves, their families and their national identity.
At the same time, the German population also directly experienced the war itself. The bombardment of German cities, displacement and forced expulsions, hunger, fear and the loss of family members have left psychological scars in those who lived through that time and their families. With the focus rightly on collective responsibility, publicly speaking of German suffering has been morally unacceptable for most of the post-war period, and was largely relegated to personal and family conversations.
Although public and academic interest in the topic has grown in the last few years, research about the psychological impact of World War II on the general German population of that time and their children is only just starting to emerge. I would like to contribute to this knowledge, and more generally to the understanding of the long-term consequences of war and collective violence by conducting a detailed examination of the intergenerational effects of war trauma in Germany. My research will aim for a better understanding of whether and how traumatic experiences were transmitted through family and community experiences and how they interplayed with a private and public focus on guilt and responsibility.