Summary ´ The Berlin Wall 13 August 1961 9 November 1989 108


10 thoughts on “The Berlin Wall 13 August 1961 9 November 1989

  1. says:

    At its best this book is entertaining At its worst it is over extended sloppy and a rag bag of whatever the author felt was interesting with no consistent focusWith 449 pages of text about half actually deals with the Berlin Wall and then only about a six or seven year period around the wall's construction and then again the last few years down to 1989 The rest is filled up with a run through of BerlinGerman history that is irrelevant patchy and occasionally inaccurate and some general cold war tidbits But it is easy readingIt's a lazy book For example Taylor finishes his section on the Khrushchev Kennedy show down over the Wall by describing it as a defeat for Communism OK there is nothing wrong in principle in having a simplistic conclusion particularly in a book that was just a high level history of the cold war looking at the events from the perspective of the Politburo and the Presidency But it is lazy in a book which just a few pages earlier was taking a sophisticated 'wag the dog' approach showing how Walter Ulbricht like Fidel Castro in Cuba was despite being in the junior position relative to the Soviet Union was able to create and drive an issue that conformed to his agenda rather than Khruschev's Maybe I'm simply too critical in expecting a book written by a single author to be internally consistent Or indeed other eastern Bloc countries were described as relatively liberal than East Germany which in the context of one party Stalinist states is an unhelpful choice of words Would it have taken so long to mention that they practised Goulash Communism a system geared to providing subsided foodstuffs and basic consumer goods to win the acuiescence of the population?There is a consistent lack of context Vienna as I remember from The Third Man was also divided among the four occupying powers for a time but no comparison is made The author does point out that the Soviets removed German factories and relocated them into Russia but doesn't point out that the British did exactly the same in their sector and that this was a recommendation of the Morgenthau plan A point arising from this that would have been relevant to his discussion of East German economic weakness was that in the western zones this created something like a blank slate that manufactures could take advantage of but this effect does not seem to have occurred in the eastThe narrative is again effected in his discussion of the fall of the Wall because of a lack of context here the actions of the Czechoslovak and Hungarian governments come out of the blue despite being part of wider developments tied up with Gorbachev's perestroika impulse but that in turn was driven by not too dissimilar economic problems to those that beset East Germany Yes as Taylor says East Germany was borrowing heavily from the Capitalist world but then so were all the other Eastern Block states actually I'm not sure about Albania but they were aligned with China anyway In other words what is presented as a specifically East German problem was in fact a systemic crisis that brought down almost the whole of the Soviet Union and its sphereFor me this is the heart of the problem A book called the Berlin Wall 1961 to 1989 turns out not to be much about the Berlin WallThere's just a sketchy introduction to the city existing divided between two states with people living on one side and going to work or school and so on on the other side The only problem mentioned is with the workers on the U and S Bahn who were employed by the East and paid in East Marks Eventually the West Berlin authority agreed to subside those workers who lived in West Berlin to make up the value of their wages But this situation can hardly have been uniue Life in the East was cheaper and wages in the West were higher It's hard to imagine that most people didn't take some advantage of thisGenerally a city has a unified system of sewerage waste processing rubbish removal utility supply transportation what happened to all these once the city was divided by the Wall? There is a mention of U Bahn tunnels beginning blocked and sewers having stronger grills attached after escape attempts but what about the operation of those systems? Were duplicate systems set up or was there cross border co operation? Is there really no story here or just an absence of curiosity on the author's part? Is it wrong to expect that the person who is writing a book about a subject should be curious about it? The author mentions that westerners boycotted the S Bahn during the 60s and 70s but never explains why let alone why they then stopped presumably boycotting it in the 80s The author doesn't go into any detail about the processing camp for refugees from the East at Marienfelde either What was it's capacity how were people debriefed screened cared for and moved on estimates of how many East German spies got through without being weeded out these are the kinds of things I would have liked to have read about in a book about the Berlin Wall rather than digressions about the Maginot line Taylor mentions Stasi agents like Guillaume getting through into the West or Stasi agents infiltrating the Western groups that were digging escape tunnels for Easterners it would have been interesting to read about how this was done Oh and you know what since East Germany collapsed and all the Stasi files that weren't destroyed are available to be studied an author can research these things if they can be bothered What about the enclosure of West Berlin the text gives a bare couple of mentions to the majority of the length of the Wall which ran round the perimeter of the zones belonging to the Western powers in favour of spending time on the short bit that ran through the middle of the cityFinally when I can spot mistakes in a text for example the author claims here that the Kaiser abdicated and then a republic was proclaimed when in fact the Republic was proclaimed first and then the Kaiser had no choice but to abdicate then I wonder how many there are in the book as a wholeThis is a journalistic account of Berlin Wall There isn't a consistent focus there is a sense that relevant parts of the story were ignored and while there is some interesting stuff such as Honecker's trip back to the Saarland where he had been born or the tunnels dug under the Wall the lack of context whether deliberate or out of ignorance on the author's part means that are inaccuracies among his statements I couldn't recommend this in good conscience


  2. says:

    What a tome I had no idea when I picked this up that it would take me so long or so much effort to get throughI have recently become fascinated by the Berlin Wall mainly thanks to Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther novels I found it unacceptable that I a student of history who had studied the world wars from than one perspective and Germany specifically had never actually known what the Wall was or how it came to be or how it came to collapse It was just one of those things I was conscious of in a vague way hearing cultural references to it and nebulously knowing that it had existed without ever learning about itThis had to be rectified It was embarrassing So when Toby brought home this large and impressive looking book I was excited The trouble with me and I'm venturing to guess a lot of others who read this book is that I read it wanting to know about one specific aspect of the Wall; namely its effect on the people of Berlin I thought there are people alive today who grew up 'behind' the wall who are now living in a capitalist world totally unlike the one they knew as a youth How have those people come to cope? What was life like for them and for their families and friends on the other side? Is it a common uestion in Berlin or greater Germany today to ask 'Which side of the Wall were you born on?'Bringing your own baggage to a historical work is never a good idea Others wanted to hear about daring escape attempts or the military power of East Germany I wanted to read about the intimate social issues that came with dividing a city down the middle for forty years In all cases we would have found our needs better served elsewhere This book is a sweeping overarching history of post war Berlin covering politics and politicians in intimate detail At times it was very like reading for a history class which was alright for me because I enjoy the sense of achievement gained at having understood a difficult or intricate piece of politics in its historical context It certainly covers the period of grand escapes in uite a lot of detail Often Taylor will focus on one person whose actions became famous or symbolic at the time and to me this is where the book shines Zooming in from the bird's eye vantage point of history we see the effect on a single person or a family or a group of friends of this monumental act of division This is why I read this bookI learned a lot I know a lot about post war politics and the shape of the world now than I did a couple of weeks ago I am a rounded person for it But for me there was something missing from Taylor's extremely well researched book some kind of humanity that is hard to pin down that will always be sacrificed on the altar of hindsight and good historical accounts I missed the sense of pain and life and struggle that would probably have no place in a book of history and I will continue to search for it in both fiction and non fiction until I am satisfied


  3. says:

    Almost without exception the border jumpers were young mostly ' Children of the Wall' Their disenchantment brought the statistics of Political Dissidence to life And time in 1989 worked in their favourFor better and for worse Taylor gives us the full context from the end of WWII to the formal foundation of the DDR working on both the local Berlin level a default Cold War level While it gives us a solid grasp on the origins of the Wall it leaves less space for the story of the Wall as told by the people who lived behind it or tried to scale it I'd say about one third of the book accounts for the Human Interest that people except whether they have walked the grounds or notOnce you've stood across the boundary edged in bronze across a Berlin sidewalk with a preserved watchtower in view you want the stories Especially if you're past DDR 101


  4. says:

    An excellent and well paced if journalistic history of the Berlin Wall covering all of the important events from the actual building of the wall and its collapse with great coverage of all the relevant issues Taylor successfully shows both the big picture significance of all of these events and how they affected ordinary people on both sides of the wall Taylor’s writing is engaging and flows well and he does a great job telling the wall’s compelling story Taylor describes the conference at Potsdam where Germany was divided and Berlin occupied At first the US had no intention of maintaining any occupation forces in the city until the crisis of 1948 Afterwards thousands of German escaped to the west through Berlin for several years The Soviets closed the border but they left Berlin aloneThe German communists pressured the Soviets to support the building of a wall which they refused since it would harm their image and believed it to be impossible After several years of pestering Khrushchev gave his grudging approval fully aware of the confrontation this might cause with the west Taylor shows all of the high level maneuvering of the crisis of 1961 and afterwards as well as all of the personal stories of triumph and tragedy that resulted from escape attempts by east Germans Of course he covers all of the famous ones like Conrad Schumann the soldier who escaped over the barrier but eventually hanged himself He covers such topics as the psychology of the border guards and the economic problems of East Germany As Taylor reminds us the collapse of the wall was a result of accidents and local pressures and the role of American foreign policy in general and Ronald Reagan in particular can easily be exaggerated At the time of Reagan’s presidency a policy of coexistence had been adopted by both Germanys giving the East German regime a new international respectability that made it easy for them to dismiss any challenge to their authority and legitimacy The East German government had settled on a hard line ideologically while allowing a certain degree of liberal reform elsewhere Relaxed travel restrictions nationalist protests in the Baltic Hungary’s détente with Austria electoral protests in East Germany and Gorbachev’s public repudiation of the Brezhnev Doctrine all played an important role Comically at one point the East German government forbade the distribution of certain Soviet publications and Gorbachev’s reform efforts were roundly criticized by East German newspapers In 1989 the East German regime was or less paralyzed by the refugee problem and the discontent of the masses At first the regime tried to ignore the refugee problem then decided that its people would simply be allowed to leave with their citizenship revoked As it happened few East Germans felt shunned or humiliated and eagerly abandoned their East German citizenship Many East Germans favored Gorbachev over Honecker who refused to discuss any reforms with Gorbachev Eventually however the East German politburo ousted Honecker from office and when demonstrations began in East Germany the regime’s security forces refused to fire possibly on Honecker’s orders Honecker would leave the government with a bankrupt East Germany in his wake Taylor deftly describes the collapse of the wall which was or less an accidental result of the confusion of the East German Politburo’s spokesman The East German regime’s spokesman was intending to announce stricter travel regulations but he mistakenly announced an opening of the border to all citizens after failing to read his instructions carefully he figured it was so ho hum that he didn’t even read it before the press conference started When a journalist asked him to clarify a statement regarding relaxed travel restrictions he “clarified” by saying they would be dropped right away The resulting frenzy at the border proved to be too much for the East German police to handle and they declined from firing for fear of sparking a revolution Interesting and well written with the compelling stories of people both ordinary and high level The writing can get somewhat too breezy conversational and even cheesy at times and Taylor often includes such historical no nos like we do not know precisely what is said but we can imagine that when he should just stick to what is actually known Also the book is not entirely focused; his first chapter is an overview of European history but it has a simplistic flippant tone to it And his writing includes such oddities as “brains trust” and “unwisdom” and “escapers” and “none the less” instead of “nonetheless” Similarly Dean Rusk is described as a “toughie” and one of Kennedy’s Georgetown dinners included a number of young women reputedly shall we say on friendly terms with the President It gets pretty clunky Then Brandt arrived for a private meeting Now real conversation could be had Business could be got down to But it gets better once Taylor actually gets to his point The writing gets pretty clumsy at times ”The two million abortions a year carried out in West Germany in the immediate postwar period mostly in the Soviet zone witnessed unimaginable suffering” Witnessed or caused? ”Werner was elderly and becoming somewhat vague” ”What Stalin had he held at least until it was prised from his stubby grasp from the fingers that the long since liuidated Russian poet Osip Mandelstam had described as ‘thickfat like worms’ “ Still a fairly good history of an iconic landmark


  5. says:

    Even though I visited the Wall in 1987 and then lived within a few miles of it a few years later on the East side I realized I knew precious little about the history of the Wall When I saw this book at the library I snatched it up Taylor's prose are engaging I believe another reviewer called it gossipy and I find the overall history interesting The most fascinating parts of the book are the personal accounts of Berliners affected personally by the construction of the Wall; they ring true with many of the stories I heard while I was in BerlinMy one major complaint with this book is the sometimes shoddy editing missing words misspelled words and so on Along with this is Taylor's apparent affection for sentence fragments I find them highly irritating and than a little distracting from the flow of the narrativeI understand Taylor has also written a book on Dresden a city that is also near and dear to my heart I'm planning on picking that up at the earliest opportunity


  6. says:

    Mr Taylor takes a Noah and the Flood approach to his subject which is to say he examines the beginning of Germany the effects of Bismarck the Emperors Wilhelm and the aftermath of WWI before glossing over the rise of Hitler and most of WWII and diving in for a fascinating examination of the foundation of East Germany and the relationship between the leaders of East Germany and the Soviet Union Particularly vivid and meaningful for me is his recounting of the months leading up to the fall of the Wall which I remember following in the news in those pre Internet days


  7. says:

    The definitive account


  8. says:

    Fun to read but I'm not sure The Wall deserves it's own history The author uses it as an excuse to tell only selective stories the most exciting and sexy ones of course of the Cold War but these snippets are not really unified by the concept of the Wall itself He does a good job of explaining why we Westerners were relieved by the Wall's erection and how we continued to love it as a symbol but this isn't new revisionist work deserving of an entire volume; this story was not one that had to wait to be told as he claims in the introduction I would recommend Faust's Metropolis Ghosts of Berlin or a good solid Cold War history for real perspective on what The Wall was and is


  9. says:

    This was a captivating book on the history of Berlin Germany Europe and via the Cold War of the World in the 20th century I am happy that I happened to buy this book from the Berlin airport during my trip there in spring 2017Taylor starts from the very beginning and uickly runs the reader through why Berlin was originally established where it was Soon the wars and politics take over and even though it seems a bit tedious at first it is all essential to understand why the Wall was built in the end After this relatively uick run through the pre Wall times the narrative slows down and concentrates on the critical years of 1958 1964 and explains sometimes day by day what happened by whom and what followed As a child of 70 80's it was eye opening to read how close to the third WW we were during those times Taylor manages to connect the events in Berlin very convincingly to the bigger picture of the world politics and the personae of the relevant politicians He also weaves in some very touching individual stories to keep the human interest factor highTowards the end of the book the pace accelerates again and it seems like years 1964 1985 are not very significant all of a sudden the reader finds herself in the middle of events of autumn 1989 and the Wall is being teared down together with the GDR As uickly as the Wall was built up it was demolished and in a surprisingly peaceful mannerI read this interesting book of the recent past like a thriller which proves that it was well written In retrospect I would have liked to learn a bit on the everyday life in the shadow of the Wall not just on the most dramatic moments in the Wall's history Also at times Taylor got a bit lost in telling the story of the Wall vs the story of Germany Nevertheless an enjoyable reading experience and definately history worth knowing


  10. says:

    Informative history of Berlin and the wall Includes some compelling individual stories that make it very readable despite the often complex and difficult to explain events of the time The author’s perspective is less empathetic with the Soviets which is understandable but it sometimes feels like it ends up simplifying many of their actions as incompetent and malevolent however satisfying that may be


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The Berlin Wall 13 August 1961 9 November 1989

characters ´ eBook, ePUB or Kindle PDF ´ Frederick Taylor

S 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 priceIn 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 An excellent and well paced if journalistic history of the Berlin Wall covering all of the important events from the actual building of the wall and its collapse with great coverage of all the relevant issues Taylor successfully shows both the big picture significance of all of these events and how they affected ordinary people on both sides of the wall Taylor’s writing is engaging and flows well and he does a great job telling the wall’s compelling story Taylor describes the conference at Potsdam where Germany was divided and Berlin occupied At first the US had no intention of maintaining any occupation forces in the city until the crisis of 1948 Afterwards thousands of German escaped to the west through Berlin for several years The Soviets closed the border but they left Berlin aloneThe German communists pressured the Soviets to support the building of a wall which they refused since it would harm their image and believed it to be impossible After several years of pestering Khrushchev gave his grudging approval fully aware of the confrontation this might cause with the west Taylor shows all of the high level maneuvering of the crisis of 1961 and afterwards as well as all of the personal stories of triumph and tragedy that resulted from escape attempts by east Germans Of course he covers all of the famous ones like Conrad Schumann the soldier who escaped over the barrier but eventually hanged himself He covers such topics as the psychology of the border guards and the economic problems of East Germany As Taylor reminds us the collapse of the wall was a result of accidents and local pressures and the role of American foreign policy in general and Ronald Reagan in particular can easily be exaggerated At the time of Reagan’s presidency a policy of coexistence had been adopted by both Germanys giving the East German regime a new international respectability that made it easy for them to dismiss any challenge to their authority and legitimacy The East German government had settled on a hard line ideologically while allowing a certain degree of liberal reform elsewhere Relaxed travel restrictions nationalist protests in the Baltic Hungary’s détente with Austria electoral protests in East Germany and Gorbachev’s public repudiation of the Brezhnev Doctrine all played an important role Comically at one point the East German government forbade the distribution of certain Soviet publications and Gorbachev’s reform efforts were roundly criticized by East German newspapers In 1989 the East German regime was or less paralyzed by the refugee problem and the discontent of the masses At first the regime tried to ignore the refugee problem then decided that its people would simply be allowed to leave with their citizenship revoked As it happened few East Germans felt shunned or humiliated and eagerly abandoned their East German citizenship Many East Germans favored Gorbachev over Honecker who refused to discuss any reforms with Gorbachev Eventually however the East German politburo ousted Honecker from office and when demonstrations began in East Germany the regime’s security forces refused to fire possibly on Honecker’s orders Honecker would leave the government with a bankrupt East Germany in his wake Taylor deftly describes the collapse of the wall which was or less an accidental result of the confusion of the East German Politburo’s spokesman The East German regime’s spokesman was intending to announce stricter travel regulations but he mistakenly announced an opening of the border to all citizens after failing to read his instructions carefully he figured it was so ho hum that he didn’t even read it before the press conference started When a journalist asked him to clarify a statement regarding relaxed travel restrictions he “clarified” by saying they would be dropped right away The resulting frenzy at the border proved to be too much for the East German police to handle and they declined from firing for fear of sparking a revolution Interesting and well written with the compelling stories of people both ordinary and high level The writing can get somewhat too breezy conversational and even cheesy at times and Taylor often includes such historical no nos like we do not know precisely what is said but we can imagine that when he should just stick to what is actually known Also the book is not entirely focused; his first chapter is an overview of European history but it has a simplistic flippant tone to it And his writing includes such oddities as “brains trust” and “unwisdom” and “escapers” and “none the less” instead of “nonetheless” Similarly Dean Rusk is described as a “toughie” and one of Kennedy’s Georgetown dinners included a number of young women reputedly shall we say on friendly terms with the President It gets pretty clunky Then Brandt arrived for a private meeting Now real conversation could be had Business could be got down to But it gets better once Taylor actually gets to his point The writing gets pretty clumsy at times ”The two million abortions a year carried out in West Germany in the immediate postwar period mostly in the Soviet zone witnessed unimaginable suffering” Witnessed or caused? ”Werner was elderly and becoming somewhat vague” ”What Stalin had he held at least until it was prised from his stubby grasp from the fingers that the long since liuidated Russian poet Osip Mandelstam had described as ‘thickfat like worms’ “ Still a fairly good history of an iconic landmark

characters The Berlin Wall 13 August 1961 9 November 1989

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 1989Gripping 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 destructi Fun to read but I'm not sure The Wall deserves it's own history The author uses it as an excuse to tell only selective stories the most exciting and sexy ones of course of the Cold War but these snippets are not really unified by the concept of the Wall itself He does a good job of explaining why we Westerners were relieved by the Wall's erection and how we continued to love it as a symbol but this isn't new revisionist work deserving of an entire volume; this story was not one that had to wait to be told as he claims in the introduction I would recommend Faust's Metropolis Ghosts of Berlin or a good solid Cold War history for real perspective on what The Wall was and is

characters ´ eBook, ePUB or Kindle PDF ´ Frederick Taylor

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 wa What a tome I had no idea when I picked this up that it would take me so long or so much effort to get throughI have recently become fascinated by the Berlin Wall mainly thanks to Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther novels I found it unacceptable that I a student of history who had studied the world wars from than one perspective and Germany specifically had never actually known what the Wall was or how it came to be or how it came to collapse It was just one of those things I was conscious of in a vague way hearing cultural references to it and nebulously knowing that it had existed without ever learning about itThis had to be rectified It was embarrassing So when Toby brought home this large and impressive looking book I was excited The trouble with me and I'm venturing to guess a lot of others who read this book is that I read it wanting to know about one specific aspect of the Wall; namely its effect on the people of Berlin I thought there are people alive today who grew up 'behind' the wall who are now living in a capitalist world totally unlike the one they knew as a youth How have those people come to cope? What was life like for them and for their families and friends on the other side? Is it a common uestion in Berlin or greater Germany today to ask 'Which side of the Wall were you born on?'Bringing your own baggage to a historical work is never a good idea Others wanted to hear about daring escape attempts or the military power of East Germany I wanted to read about the intimate social issues that came with dividing a city down the middle for forty years In all cases we would have found our needs better served elsewhere This book is a sweeping overarching history of post war Berlin covering politics and politicians in intimate detail At times it was very like reading for a history class which was alright for me because I enjoy the sense of achievement gained at having understood a difficult or intricate piece of politics in its historical context It certainly covers the period of grand escapes in uite a lot of detail Often Taylor will focus on one person whose actions became famous or symbolic at the time and to me this is where the book shines Zooming in from the bird's eye vantage point of history we see the effect on a single person or a family or a group of friends of this monumental act of division This is why I read this bookI learned a lot I know a lot about post war politics and the shape of the world now than I did a couple of weeks ago I am a rounded person for it But for me there was something missing from Taylor's extremely well researched book some kind of humanity that is hard to pin down that will always be sacrificed on the altar of hindsight and good historical accounts I missed the sense of pain and life and struggle that would probably have no place in a book of history and I will continue to search for it in both fiction and non fiction until I am satisfied

  • Hardcover
  • 512
  • The Berlin Wall 13 August 1961 9 November 1989
  • Frederick Taylor
  • English
  • 18 March 2018
  • 9780747580157

About the Author: Frederick Taylor

Frederick Taylor is a British novelist and historian specialising in modern German historyHe was educated at Aylesbury Grammar School and read History and Modern Languages at Oxford University He did postgraduate work at Sussex University on the rise of the extreme right in Germany in the early twentieth century Before embarking on the series of historical monographs for which he is best known