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The Wall: The People's Story [Paperback]

Christopher Hilton
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2011

For almost three decades, the Cold War was focused on Berlin, where the two (nuclear-armed) sides were kept apart by a twelve-foot wall, which had appeared almost overnight in August 1961. For a generation, until its fall in November 1989, it not only divided the city of Berlin, but also symbolised the confrontation between capitalist West and socialist East. In this astonishing book, journalist Christopher Hilton has collected together the individual stories of those whose lives it affected, including international politicians, American and British soldiers, East German border guards and, most importantlty, the citizens of Berlin itself, West and East. Weaving their memories together into a remarkable narrative, this is the extraordinarily vivid, occasionally harrowing and often touching story of a city divided, and of how it affected the lives of real people.

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The Wall: The People's Story + Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall + The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989
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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press; New edition edition (1 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752458337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752458335
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 12.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 262,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


"The most complete narrative . . . of the Wall's demise." --"Sunday Telegraph"

About the Author

Christopher Hilton was a writer and journalist. He wrote more than twenty books, including Hitler's Olympics and After the Berlin Wall, as well as numerous titles on sport.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I was thoroughly gripped from start to finish and could not put it down. The last three days of my life have been written off as I was resolved to enjoy it without interruption.
The means by which the author, Christopher Hilton, weaves the political developments of the Berlin Wall with poignant anecdotes from Berliners as a consequence, makes the book both fascinating and very human.
The book's structure works well in communicating the various personal accounts of the cross section of people interviewed. The method of inserting the escapee bulletins as punctuation throughout each chapter illustrates the fact that these events were happening simultaneously and helps to keep the pace of the book going. What also becomes apparent is that these particular accounts, the author chose to highlight, were really the tip of an incredibly large iceberg. However the amount of research is not only exacerbating but seems to flow through the book with great ease as one (the reader) flits from story to story and back again.
It is self-evident that the author comes from a journalistic background as words are treated as a precise commodity with little room for waffle...
The book is an excellent read for anyone interested in the history of the Berlin Wall and the effect it has had on the people of the city.
It should appeal both to those who have prior knowledge of the subject and those who are interested for the first time.
Neil Robert Wenman
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and Sympathetic. 11 Dec 2003
Christopher Hilton's narrative of the Berlin Wall, from its conception to its destruction is a terrific read. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first and it took me a while to get right into it but it was well worth the effort. This is a no-nonsense account. Hilton is admirably neutral in his description of why the wall was built, especially when it comes to describing the characters involved such as Ulbricht and Honecker. He explains how they arrived at the conclusions they did and what the West did - and didn't - do about it.
East Germany had been impoverished by Stalin's war reparation taxes until his death in 1953, so East Berliners had to sit by and watch as West Berlin was rebuilt under the Marshall Plan. During this time, the temptation to emigrate to the West became too strong for many people but in those days it was not so difficult. The queues to leave grew longer every day until, in 1961, as many as 1,500 people per day were crossing over, half of them under 25. Ulbricht, a committed Communist well before WWII, could see the future of East Germany disappearing down the road to the West and after consultation with Krushchev, closed the border on August 13th, 1961. Construction of the first of four versions of the wall began almost immediately along with the issuing of orders to "shoot to kill".
The West responded by allowing it to happen. Realistically, there was not much else they could do. If, in desperation, East Germany moved on West Berlin, that would have been totally unacceptable to the West and would likely have led to nuclear war. Allowing the wall to be built was really the lesser of two evils and the arrival of the Soviets on the scene actually stabilised the situation.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The People's Story 29 Jan 2002
By David S
I visited Berlin in 1988 as a student a year before the wall came down and crossed through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin.
The wall affected your emotions in words its hard to find. The cruelty of it, the contrast of West and East etc. What Hilton has done is to find the words.
I crossed to the East for a day and felt touched by it. Hilton recounts stories from both sides of the divide, lives broken, and lives lost by a regime now forgotten over 28 years.
Hilton's approach is to tell the tale from the viewpoint of many different personal accounts whilst at the same time telling the history of how the wall came to be and how it suddenly collapsed.
He also scratches the surface at the end of the book around how hard it is for West and East to come together again after 20 years but as he concludes the book "thats another story altogether".
A must for anyone with an interest.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating. 29 Sep 2001
I looked forward to reading this book after a visit to Berlin at Easter 2001.
The book really brings what it was like to live with the wall to life. Publishing of the names of those killed trying to escape also bring things sharply into focus.
Only downside for me is the peculiar grammar used at times - I can only guess this is because of translation from the original German.
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