Evil after Nazism: Miracles, Medicine, and Moral Authority in West Germany


ACLS Fellowship Program




After WWII, West German society struggled to rebuild not only from Nazism, but from moral collapse and its consequences for knowledge, truth, and authority. This study examines a series of nearly forgotten episodes from the 1940s and 50s: the dramatic rise to fame of a faith healer/exorcist; apparitions of the Virgin Mary; the proliferation of accusations of witchcraft; and apocalyptic prophecies. The study interprets these episodes not as anomalies in an otherwise “disenchanted” modern Europe, but instead as moments in which another, subterranean reality briefly became visible—one with its own claims to truth, goodness, and health. Through an examination of the struggle for moral truth in a moment of profound disillusion, the study offers to reconceive fundamentally how we understand perhaps the paradigmatic case of a post-genocidal society.