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 Wallinfamous symbol of divided Cold War Europeseemed to be falling. But the opening of the gates that night was not planned by the East German ruling regimenor 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 freedomand 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.
Drawing on first hand interviews and extensive evidence fromarchives, Sarotte shows how the opening of the Berlin Wall was not a part of East Berlin’s plan or the result of an agreement between theUnited States and Russia, it was instead a mistake. Sarotte tells the compelling story of how the perfect storm of human error andchance lead to the collapse of the infamous symbol of a divided Europe. Her use of specific details and close looks at the majorcharacters make this an engaging read that both informs and entertains.Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
"The Soviet Union suffered the most significant symbolic defeat in the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but Sarotte, professor of government and history at Harvard University, thinks that is only half of the story. What emerges from this detailed account is that, contrary to popular belief, neither secret plans by German officials nor behind-the-scenes agreements between U.S. President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev caused the barrier between East and West Berlin to crumble; the political breech occurred via a series of miscues by short-sighted Communist-bloc authorities. With growing mass protests in East Germany, an inept statement delivered at a press conference by a functionary from SED (the country's ruling party) on Nov. 9, 1989, sparked a battle between dissidents and East German security forces that led the Wall to come down much sooner than expected by either side. Sarotte carefully etches his narrative of the momentous shattering of the Wall, coloring it with social, political, and personal details, including anecdotes about the death of young Chris Gueffroy, the last East German shot before the barrier came down, and about Harald Jager, the senior officer giving the order to open a key crossing. This gripping, important account of a long-misinterpreted event is one of the most surprising books about the Cold War. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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 Wallthe greatest symbol of the Cold Warhad 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 Berlinthese 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 E. Sarotte
is a Visiting History and Government Professor at Harvard University. A former White House Fellow, Humboldt Scholar, and journalist, she is the author of the prize-winning 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe
, a Financial Times
book of the year.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Discovering the Causes of the Collapse
PART I: THE STRUGGLE WITHIN THE SOVIET BLOC AND SAXONY
Chapter 1. A Brutal Status Quo
Chapter 2. Marginal to Massive
Chapter 3. The Fight for the Ring
Part II: THE COMPETITION FOR CONTROL IN EAST BERLIN
Chapter 4. The Revolution Advances, the Regime Plays for Time
Chapter 5. Failure to Communicate on November 9, 1989
Part III: THE CONTEST OF WILLS AT THE WALL
Chapter 6. The Revolution, Televised
Chapter 7. Damage Control?
Epilogue. Violence and Victory, Trust and Triumphalism