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Abstract or Description

The year 1945, and particularly the end of the Second World War on May 8 of that year, have come to be known in Germany as a “Nullpunkt” or a “Stunde Null,” a “Zero Point” or a “Zero Hour.” While the two terms have slightly different denotations and connotations, both imply an absolute break with the past and a radical new beginning. To speak of a Zero Hour is to invoke rich cultural resonances going back to the creation of the world in Judeo-Christian tradition; to the invention of calendars; to the advent of Christ and Christianity’s division of time itself into the old and the new; to the mathematical acceptance of the number zero, with all its problematic philosophical implications; and to the vague but indispensable concept of modernity itself, with its sweeping away of old traditions and customs.