Fear and Democracy in Postwar Germany

Frank Biess
UC San Diego

This project employs a newly conceptualized history of emotions for writing a history of fear and anxiety in postwar West Germany. Contrary to dominant teleological narratives of the Federal Republic’s successful postwar stabilization and “arrival in the West,” the project takes seriously postwar Germans’ own fearful and apprehensive anticipations of their past futures after 1945. It examines how and why recurrent circles of fear and anxiety complicated the process of postwar democratization. Based on a series of empirically rich case studies, the project analyzes the shifting objects of fear and anxiety from the 1940s to the 1980s as well as the changing cultural norms governing the experience and expression of emotions. A synthetic analysis draws these cases together and offers a new perspective on postwar West German history more generally. The book also provides a historical perspective on contemporary manifestations of a politics and culture of fear.