The strategy of appealing to history as a means of securing a special national identity is by no means a distinctively German trait, but it has been particularly pronounced in Germany for well over a century. The geographical and institutional continuities to which claims could be made in other nation states rarely applied in the 'land of the middle'. The role that fell to the historian in locating and defining a usable past was an important one, and one that was played with some consistency by German historians over a period otherwise more remarkable for its ruptures. In the wake of what was perhaps the greatest rupture of all in modern German history, the liberation/capitulation of 1945, the task of finding a past that could serve the present and the future was strikingly difficult. How could the immediate past of fascism or national socialism be written into, or perhaps written out of, any kind of narrative of national identity?