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The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989 [Paperback]

Frederick Taylor
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Nov 2009
The appearance of a hastily-constructed barbed wire entanglement through the heart of Berlin during the night of 12-13 August 1961 was both dramatic and unexpected. Within days, it had started to metamorphose into a structure that would come to symbolise the brutal insanity of the Cold War: the Berlin Wall. A city of almost four million was cut ruthlessly in two, unleashing a potentially catastrophic East-West crisis and plunging the entire world for the first time into the fear of imminent missile-borne apocalypse. This threat would vanish only when the very people the Wall had been built to imprison, breached it on the historic night of 9 November 1989. The Berlin Wall reveals the strange and chilling story of how the initial barrier system was conceived, then systematically extended, adapted and strengthened over almost thirty years. Patrolled by vicious dogs and by guards on shoot-to-kill orders, the Wall, with its more than 300 towers, became a wired and lethally booby-trapped monument to a world torn apart by fiercely antagonistic ideologies. The Wall had tragic consequences in personal and political terms, affecting the lives of Germans and non-Germans alike in a myriad of cruel, inhuman and occasionally absurd ways. The Berlin Wall is the definitive account of a divided city and its people.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408802562
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408802564
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

PRAISE FOR 'DRESDEN' 'In narrative power and persuasion, he has paralleled in Dresden what Antony Beevor achieved in Stalingrad' Independent on Sunday 'Well-researched and unpretentious fascinating Taylor skilfully interweaves various personal accounts of the impact of the raids' Michael Burleigh, Guardian 'Impressive Taylor weaves a chilling narrative from eyewitness accounts and painstaking documentary research, particularly with German sources. He explains the conceptual and strategic background with admirable clarity. His account of the air operation itself is quite superb' The Times

About the Author

Frederick Taylor was educated at Aylesbury Grammar School, and read History and Modern Languages at Oxford, and did postgraduate work at Sussex University. He is the author of the acclaimed bestseller, Dresden. He edited and translated The Goebbels Diaries. He lives in Cornwall.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of two cities 25 Aug 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Written in a similar vein to his earlier 'Dresden', Frederick Taylor's most recent work, 'The Berlin Wall' is a lively, well-researched and readable chronicle of the Cold War's most recognisable and chilling symbol. Beginning with a contextual preamble which briefly, but informatively describes events such as the development of the marshy settlement of Berlin, through to the formation of the Weimar Republic, and beyond that, the political and social climate of post WWI Germany, Taylor's book gives the reader a good background of knowledge on the foundations of Germany which have led the way to the disastrous WWII, and the realities of East and West Germany.

Equally, the bulk of the book, which deals in depth with both the Wall itself, as well as the wider contexts of life in East and West Germany is superb. Taylor's wealth of information regarding the strengthening of borders with everything from armed troops and extra, climbing proof wire in Berlin, to road devices in the more secluded areas of the GDR, is extremely impressive; as are his tales of individual successes and failures to cross the border, which show both the power of the Wall to prevent desertion, and the will of many East Germans to escape to the West. Taylor's critically sound and impartial assessments on more general issues such as the American government's struggles to decide on a correct policy for West Germany, and the hands-off approach from the British and French Governments regarding Berlin, add an extra depth to the work.

There are, however, some flaws in the text.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating study 29 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback
I have enjoyed Mr Taylor's book a great deal - it evokes the post-war period powerfully, and drives home the point that the Second World War only truly ended with the reunification of first Berlin and then Germany. It does a good job of explaining the quite complex nature of occupied Berlin, its place within the Soviet occupation zone, and the relationships both among the occupying powers and between them and the nascent East German government. Who was permitted to travel between West Germany, West Berlin, East Berlin, East Germany and beyond, and with what conditions, was also a complex (and frequently changing) matter which the author tracks in commendable detail.

Passages such as those covering the historical background of Berlin, the Wandlitz compound, the 1961 tank stand-off, the often difficult political relationship between West Berlin and Bonn, Kennedy's relations with Brandt and Ulbricht's with Khrushchev, are particularly fascinating. Other sections - e.g. Honecker's visit to the Saarland in 1987, and comments such as the fact that "The Wall" as it features in the western consciousness was virtually never seen by any East Berliners - are particularly insightful.

As others have pointed out, though, there are some flaws. The book properly focuses most heavily on the 1950s and 1960s. However, I feel that the discussion of the 1970s and 1980s - in many ways an equally interesting period - is a little short. There seems to be relatively little attention paid to Honecker the man and his succession of Ulbricht. I feel more coverage of the media available in the GDR - particularly broadcast - would have added considerably to the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb. 12 Nov 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is very well researched and enthusiastically written, and the chapters flew by. It contains a huge barrage of political players, ordinary people, key dates, facts and incredible events all of which are presented in a flowing, intelligent and lively manner which kept me reading and reading and reading....

If you have even a passing interest in why the wall existed and why it had to come down, please start with this. It covers the decades leading up to its creation in 1961, casts a broad net across European, American and Soviet relationships, shows all the deceit and dishonesty of the house-of-cards communist regimes along with cash-strapped dilemmas and misjudgements of the west - all of which come to life with not only the gift of hindsight and interviews with all kinds of people, but also the opening of the Stasi files after 1989.

One thing which would have made this book even better would have been a few more photographs. There's a few b&w ones, but there's such a lot of people are mentioned, and it would be nice to put faces to those names. But that's just a tiny point to make and does not detract from what is a fine piece of work!

It's a great book, and I would recommend it to anyone - especially those who, like me, remember the wall coming down but have never known the story behind it. It's an amazing tale!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recomended 6 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has given me an important historical insight into the city I have visted regularly for over thirty years. Having read it through once, I will consult it again and again as a valued reference guide.
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