The period immediately following Germany’s defeat in the Second World War became known as Stunde Null, or zero hour. It become the bleakest chapter in the nation’s modern history. There was no longer even the hope of a surprise victory – Germany was a defeated and occupied country facing an uncertain and divided future. It had plunged the world into a global catastrophe and its armies had carried out some of the worst atrocities ever committed.
Its reputation as a ‘kulturstaat’, or cultural state, seemed irreparably tarnished – what cultured society carried out the mass, merciless killing of innocents? What civilisation would plunge a continent into flames and destruction? What people would tolerate such behaviour from their leaders?
Germany’s historic cities had been flattened. They were now vast, rubble strewn voids messily squatting on the space once occupied by homes, offices, factories, palaces and cathedrals. The most lustrous of Germany’s cultural pearls, Dresden, had become a byword for complete and utter destruction. A perfect firestorm had been unleashed by the RAF and USAAF, towering whirlwinds of flames that sucked the life out of basement refuges.