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

Metropolitan: Holt. Nov. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781250225672. $29.99. HIST
Behind the “economic miracle” of West German prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s lay a populace deeply distrustful of each other, unable and unwilling to confront the monstrous crimes of the Third Reich and the trauma of defeat. Fueled by mounting Cold War tensions, many Germans encountered apocalyptic signs, religious apparitions, faith healers, and witches. The best-known faith healer, an ex-Nazi named Bruno Gröning, traveled around West Germany where thousands of people waited hours and sometimes days to hear him speak in hopes of being cured of their ailments. Followers collected balls of aluminum foil containing pieces of Gröning’s hair and fingernails in hopes of further healing. Around the country, hundreds of people in rural villages and large cities accused their neighbors of witchcraft or attempting to cause harm. Others turned to exorcisms to cast out demonic spirits afflicting friends and neighbors. Author Black (history, Univ. of Tennessee; Death in Berlin) mines rarely used files in local and regional archives to paint this unique portrait of West Germany.
VERDICT Readers interested in German and Cold War history and cultural studies of religious and supernatural beliefs will find much to enjoy in this rich study.
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