The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall

A World Divided, 1961-1989

Book - 2007
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On the morning of August 13, 1961, the residents of East Berlin found themselves cut off from family, friends and jobs in the West by a tangle of barbed wire that ruthlessly cut a city of four million in two. Within days the barbed-wire entanglement would undergo an extraordinary metamorphosis: it became an imposing 103-mile-long wall guarded by three hundred watchtowers. A physical manifestation of the struggle between Soviet Communism and American capitalism--totalitarianism and freedom--that would stand for nearly thirty years, the Berlin Wall was the high-risk fault line between East and West on which rested the fate of all humanity. Many brave people risked their lives to overcome this lethal barrier, and some paid the ultimate price.

In this captivating work, sure to be the definitive history on the subject, Frederick Taylor weaves together official history, archival materials and personal accounts to tell the complete story of the Wall's rise and fall, from the postwar political tensions that created a divided Berlin to the internal and external pressures that led to the Wall's demise. In addition, he explores the geopolitical ramifications as well as the impact the wall had on ordinary lives that is still felt today. For the first time the entire world faced the threat of imminent nuclear apocalypse, a fear that would be eased only when the very people the Wall had been built to imprison breached it on the historic night of November 9, 1989.

Gripping and authoritative, The Berlin Wall is the first comprehensive account of a divided city and its people in a time when the world seemed to stand permanently on the edge of destruction.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, 2007.
ISBN: 9780060786137
Call Number: 943 TAYLOR
Characteristics: p. ; cm.
Subjects: Germany -- History -- Unification, 1990.
Germany (East) -- Politics and government -- 1989-1990.
Berlin (Germany) -- History -- 1945-1990.
Opposition (Political science) -- Germany (East) -- History.
Cold War.
Berlin Wall, Berlin, Germany, 1961-1989.
Alternative Title: Berlin Wall


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sfk8810 Feb 07, 2015

This was a very good history of the Berlin Wall and how it came into existence. I know much more now about why it all happened than I did before I read this book.

mvkramer Mar 11, 2014

For a book about the Berlin Wall, I felt like this book didn't spend a huge amount of time on the actual wall itself. A lot of time was spent on the situation leading to its creation - which was helpful for understanding how such a drastic situation could have emerged - but I wanted to learn more about the personal element of life in divided Berlin. Also, the author describes events in a slightly anachronic order that's a little confusing at times. Still, a very informative book and a great read for people interested in the Cold War.

Jan 29, 2011

For a comprehensive overview of the events that shaped the building, maintenance, and ultimate dismantling of the notorious Berlin Wall, look no further than this. Taylor’s sweeping narrative of the post-WWII/Cold War political happenings that resulted in this great, divisive eye-sore being constructed through the center of the former capital of Germany and the vanquished NAZI government is a tightly written page-turner. Taylor begins his book by detailing the one party rule put into place by the East German Communists – with obvious help, if not direction, by their Communist Party allies/bosses back in Moscow – and details not just the opposition by the West, but also the whispered dissent and political differences a and jockeying between the East German government and their Warsaw Pact allies in Russia.

In hindsight, the failures of East Germany are plain to see. Yet reading about the decades-long lies its government perpetuated still astonish. “By early 1960, the GDR was suffering from serious shortages of raw materials and quality industrial products as well as food. It was heavily in debt both to the USSR and the West. Far from overtaking West Germany, the GDR was falling farther behind.” Which all helps to explain why the wall was finally built: To keep East Germans from fleeing, as opposed to the party line and lie that it was meant to keep the decadent West out. (After all, a truly free society would not be in the least bit threatened by erroneous beliefs and ideas. The reverse is actually true, as it would encourage vigorous debate which would challenge any and all false assumptions and premises, revealing them to be falsehoods.)

As an anti-Stalin communist, Khrushchev’s communist policies are surprisingly progressive. “The Soviet Union itself was less repressive, and its citizens a little more well provided with consumer goods, than had been the case under Stalin…[but] There was a growing rift with Mao’s China, which disapproved of Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin and was constantly pushing for a more aggressive policy against the West.” Ironically, post-Mao China was been remarkably more cooperative with the West, as it emerged by the end of the twentieth-century as the number one trading partner with the United States; which was highlighted yet again by President Hu’s recent visit and meeting with President Obama.

Despite nearly thirty years standing erect, “The Wall was in the long run a propaganda catastrophe for the East. Every day it existed, it screamed aloud one simple, damning statement: in Berlin we Communists stood in direct competition with capitalism, and we lost. Khrushchev and his successors had to live with this permanent mite accusation until a Soviet leader came along who just couldn’t or wouldn’t do it any more. But that miraculous moment lay almost half a lifetime in the future.”

Taylor’s book details the history of the reasons behind why it was built, maintained, and finally dismantled in amazing detail. He not only recounts the political side of these events, but also the individual stories of those who sought to thwart what the Wall stood for – in particular the amazing and often ingenious escape stories (tunnels, hidden storage car compartments, hot air balloons, etc.) that have been documented elsewhere, and even immortalized in film. (For lovers of The Great Escape, try The Tunnel, which dramatizes the story of former East German Olympic swimmer Harry Herschel, who helped many – including his family members – to crawl their way to freedom, and whose story is retold here in these pages of Taylor’s massive book.) For any Cold War history buff, or for anyone interested in learning more about the Berlin Wall and what it came to symbolize, look no further than this well-researched historical narrative.


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