It is easy to separate those involved in World War II as good and evil when one side commits mass genocide. In the mainstream narrative, Germany murdered millions of Jews and engaged in brutal warfare, but the Allied and Russian forces struck back, won the war, and delivered justice for such atrocities. And while this may be true in some senses, it’s a story that helps us sleep better at night.

However, when reading Nossack’s The End and the article about the rape of German women by occupation soldiers, we wonder if there really is a “good” side in war. In The End, after the Allied air raids, civilians in Hamburg became burned corpses lining the ruined streets. The city was demolished and people were left with nothing. Nossack describes it as a post-apocolyptic world. When the Red Army occupied Germany in 1945, about 1.9 million German women were brutally raped.

It’s uncomfortable to think about German suffering during the Third Reich- or perhaps during the collapse of the Third Reich, because we grow up thinking that Germany was collectively evil and that evil subjected to punishment is just. Perhaps it is more accurate to realize that war is evil in its entirety. No one wins in wartime.