In the first seven or eight years after the end of World War II, the western German press and publishing landscape was filled with essays and books addressing what was variously called the “marital crisis,” the “sexual crisis,” or the “sexual misery of our time.” One author titled his 1947 book The Tragedy of the Bedroom; another writer in 1949 opined that “marriage is sick through and through.” Not until the mid-1950s did the hyperventilated fascination with these themes subside. An analysis of the postwar writings on sexual topics suggests not only that the reconstruction of a domesticated heterosexuality was an important component of the transition from fascism to Western democracy, but also that for quite some time it was not at all self-evident what sort of sexual politics would emerge from the wreckage of 1945.
Each contributor to the postwar debates defined the problem of “marital crisis” or “sexual crisis” differently. Some authors referred to the high rates of marital discord in the wake of so many multiyear spousal separations caused by war and postwar imprisonments. News articles, popular advice columns, and professional literature alike repeatedly thematized both the need to help individuals leave unhappy partnerships through divorce and the possibility that with mutual effort and sensitivity damaged relationships could be repaired.