“This vivid account of the Wall and all that it meant reminds us that symbolism can be double-edged, as a potent emblem of isolation and repression became, in its destruction, an even more powerful totem of freedom.” — The Atlantic Monthly
NOW WITH AN UPDATED EPILOGUE 30 YEARS AFTER THE FALL OF THE WALL
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 split 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 that stood 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.
In 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.
Walls, like those of Hadrian and Maginot, do not have a good reputation, and Taylor (Dresden) has written a superb narrative of the rise and fall of the monstrous one that scarred Berlin between August 1961 and November 1989. Walls, too, are more than merely bricks and mortar (or, in the 100-mile-long Berlin version's case, anti-vehicle crash obstacles, unclimbable barriers, barbed-wire fences, self-activating searchlights and heavily armed border guards), and one of Taylor's major themes is the Berlin Wall's significance in the global power politics of the Cold War. According to Taylor, Kennedy, Macmillan and de Gaulle were not decisively opposed to the division between East and West Germans. Berlin, in truth, was a dangerously volatile potential flashpoint, and while the erection of the wall was brutal and oppressive to those caught behind or trying to get over it, it stabilized Europe and symbolized the differences between capitalism and communism. Reagan, however, emphasized the rights of the trapped and challenged Gorbachev to tear it down. The Kremlin, ironically, was undone by its own creation. Taylor's enthralling story, combined with impeccable research and its rich human interest, makes this as dramatically gripping as any of the spy thrillers that used the wall as a backdrop. 16 pages of b&w photos, map.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Good book -- riddled with typos.
Taylor's book is a good read. It focuses mainly on the events leading up to the building of the wall in 1961 -- and the period shortly thereafter. The 70s and 80s and mostly glossed and the events of 1989 are handled fairly quickly. But it's worth checking out if the topic interests you.
What's up with all of the typos? Nearly one per page. Random misspellings, mostly. Which isn't a problem in English, but when they would happen in a German word or phrase -- very frustrating to have to second guess everything ("wait -- is that the actual word, or is it misspelled?"). Not sure who to blame for this, but it's a mess. If I see this kind of thing too often with digital books, I'm going to probably stop buying them.