This article reconstructs two “modes of memory” in postwar West Germany and explores an underappreciated historical trajectory. These two modes offer radically different ideas about why Germany should remember its past. In the immediate aftermath of the war, Karl Jaspers called on Germany’s citizens to remember the atrocities of the Nazi past so they could open a new chapter in the nation’s history. Twenty years later, at the zenith of the economic miracle, Jean Améry made a similar demand. His, however, was not a constructive call for responsibility and improvement, like Jaspers’s call, but one of anger and resentment. Juxtaposing these two calls for memory shows that, against every intuition, the immediate postwar period, defined by unprecedented human loss and physical devastation, was also a moment of energy and hope, while the height of the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) was also one of melancholy and discontent.

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