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Available October 2014
The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wallby Mary E. Sarotte
Synopses & Reviews
On the night of November 9, 1989, massive crowds surged toward the Berlin Wall, drawn by an announcement that caught the world by surprise: East Germans could now move freely to the West. The Wall—infamous symbol of divided Cold War Europe—seemed to be falling. But the opening of the gates that night was not planned by the East German ruling regime—nor was it the result of a bargain between either Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
It was an accident.
In The Collapse, prize-winning historian Mary Elise Sarotte reveals how a perfect storm of decisions made by daring underground revolutionaries, disgruntled Stasi officers, and dictatorial party bosses sparked an unexpected series of events culminating in the chaotic fall of the Wall. With a novelists eye for character and detail, she brings to vivid life a story that sweeps across Budapest, Prague, Dresden, and Leipzig and up to the armed checkpoints in Berlin.
We meet the revolutionaries Roland Jahn, Aram Radomski, and Siggi Schefke, risking it all to smuggle the truth across the Iron Curtain; the hapless Politburo member Günter Schabowski, mistakenly suggesting that the Wall is open to a press conference full of foreign journalists, including NBCs Tom Brokaw; and Stasi officer Harald Jäger, holding the fort at the crucial border crossing that night. Soon, Brokaw starts broadcasting live from Berlins Brandenburg Gate, where the crowds are exulting in the euphoria of newfound freedom—and the dictators are plotting to restore control.
Drawing on new archival sources and dozens of interviews, The Collapse offers the definitive account of the night that brought down the Berlin Wall.
On November 9th, 1989, massive crowds of East Berliners surged toward the Berlin Wall, drawn by an announcement that would catch the entire world by surprise: residents of the citys Eastern half could now freely move to the West. The Wall—the greatest symbol of the Cold War—had fallen, literally overnight.
As Mary Elise Sarotte reveals, there was nothing deliberate or planned about the dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an accident. A carelessly worded memo, a bumbling press conference, the bravery of ordinary people in East and West Berlin—these factors combined to bring about the end of nearly forty years of oppression and fear in Berlin. Based on new archival evidence and interviews with key actors, The Collapse is the definitive telling of the event that came to represent the end of Communism in Europe.
About the Author
Mary Elise Sarotte is Visiting Professor of Government and History at Harvard University and Deans Professor of History at the University of Southern California. A former White House Fellow and Humboldt Scholar, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author, most recently, of 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe, a Financial Times Book of the Year. She lives in Boston and Los Angeles.
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