The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989
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The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  527 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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.

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Paperback, 668 pages
Published 2007 by Bloomsbury (first published 2006)
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Jan-Maat
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 focus.

With 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 Berlin/German history that is irrelevant, patchy and occasionally inaccurate and some general col...more
Zepp
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 t...more
Leah
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 through.

I 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 more 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 con...more
Erik
For a comprehensive overview of the events that shaped the building, maintenance, and ultimate dismantling of the notorious Berlin Wall, look no further than this. Taylor’s sweeping narrative of the post-WWII/Cold War political happenings that resulted in this great, divisive eye-sore being constructed through the center of the former capital of Germany and the vanquished NAZI government is a tightly written page-turner. Taylor begins his book by detailing the one party rule put into place by th...more
Laura
Sep 05, 2007 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs, Germanophiles
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 t...more
Glorious
Starting with a history of the Germanic and Prussian land and its development, it moves efficiently through to the first half of the 20th century, showing how the men who would control the DDR and its citizens for the next forty years would rise to power. The creation of the Wall is mentioned in detail as Berlin awoke to find itself divided by barbed-wire.

Ruling by fear, Honecker, Ulbricht and Mielke keep the population under intense scrutiny with the surveillance techniques of the Stasi, turni...more
Joshua
Kind of disappointing non-fiction, exhaustive [and rather exhausting!] history of the Berlin Wall. I got this wanting to read about escapes and desperate people trying to get across the barbed wire and later the wall--there was some of that, but not nearly enough. Taylor is way more concerned about discussing every possible facet of whatever government involved in the wall's creation [West Germany, East Germany, Soviet Union, United States] than covering the "fun" stuff. If there was a politicia...more
Sander
Since I am a sucker for history novels and for German history in particular, I have to admit this review is biased.
The title does not really cover the scope of this non-fiction account, which actually delivers about a thousand years' worth of Berliner history in a mere 600 pages. Taylor attempts (and in my opinion, succeeds) in painting a picture of a city which finds itself in the centre of European history a few times too often.
The story of the wall itself is narrated chronologically and find...more
Laura
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...more
Karen Mardahl
I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others. The first part of the book provides the historical background - how did the Wall appear in anyone's mind, let alone be constructed. The history is what makes this interesting. My own knowledge was weak in this area, so I liked getting history delivered this way. I saw a criticism on Amazon that decried the lack of many escape stories. They didn't realize it was about the history of the Wall - up to and during. There were escape stories, but t...more
Linda
After reading this account, I realized how little I knew about the Wall even though I lived through most of the period of its existence as an adult, one who considers herself reasonably informed about European affairs. The only time I visited Berlin was ten years after the Wall came down, but staying at the corner of Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse, offered me a perspective on Berlin's history that caused me to wish I had read this book before the visit.
Mary Warnement
Frederick Taylor's history of the Berlin Wall starts with a summary of German history from the beginning. I enjoyed this and wouldn't recommend skipping the first several chapters. I would advise to be patient, the background information is necessary. This history combined stories of individuals, the type of people who can live and die without appearing in textbooks if not for the intervention of events, with political history. Fast-paced and easy to read, the kind you gobble up. I read it on th...more
Eric
Jan 11, 2008 Eric is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I read a little and put it down. Fascinating history, but the book itself is drier than sawdust and so heavy that I can't take it on the subway. Meticulously detailed, though, if that's your thing.
Maria Kramer
For a book about the Berlin Wall, I felt like this book didn't spend a huge amount of time on the actual wall itself. A lot of time was spent on the situation leading to its creation - which was helpful for understanding how such a drastic situation could have emerged - but I wanted to learn more about the personal element of life in divided Berlin. Also, the author describes events in a slightly anachronic order that's a little confusing at times. Still, a very informative book and a great read...more
Brian
The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor seeks to show the Berlin Wall in a biographical format and does an excellent job of framing the role the wall played in not only world politics but the daily lives of Berliners who were changed forever by its presence. The Wall was an operation that for the average citizen came out of nowhere and in many cases initially trapped people from one side or the other on the opposite side as they visited friends and families. Those who worked on the other side of Ber...more
Leah
I really enjoyed this. I've read some reviews that suggested that the Berlin wall itself wasn't enough to merit a whole book. Having read the book, though, I disagree. This was a really engaging discussion of the events before, during, and after the Berlin wall's presence in the center of Berlin.

The book starts with a long discussion of the history of Germany, which gets a little dry, but it's all very interesting. The book is full of stories about the people who ordered the wall built (party of...more
Simone
I remember where I was when I heard The Wall was coming down. Do you? It was unbelievable - I still get goose-bumps when I see the footage; David Hasselhoff in the light-bulb jacket excluded.

Even more unbelievable then The Wall coming down, was it going up at all in the first place!!! I was born about 10 years later, and as a child I never really gave it any thought. I knew there was “a wall in Germany” but that was about it. When I was a teenager and learned it was built in 1961 I was astounde...more
Byron
Having read several books about World War II and the conquest of Hitler, I recently shifted my attention, at least momentarily to the period after the war. I read a book about Trumann and Eisenhower and a book about the Brown vs. the Board of Education case and its aftermath, things that helped me better understand the world as it was when I dropped in for my visit. This book about the Berlin Wall caught my eye as a continuation of the theme, and it did not disappoint.

The story of the Berlin Wal...more
James
Nearly two decades since its demise, the Berlin Wall has largely faded from our thoughts. But Frederick Taylor's latest book revives memories of a time when it seemed the Wall would never fall. Much more than the biography of a barrier, Taylor's book profiles a structure that's had a lasting impact on individuals and families, statesmen and nations.

Taylor sets the scene with an invigorating sprint through Berlin's history, culminating in the defeat of the Nazis in 1945. With the Soviets occupyi...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
I absolutely loved this book. The idea of the Berlin Wall is still a bit absurd to me. It's something that I hear about and kind of have a hard time comprehending. I can't even remember the wall falling as I was only 4. The idea that someone could put a wall around part of a city and divide one half of the city from another is so strange. The greater idea that a wall could become a symbol for so much is also amazing. The fall of the Berlin Wall became a very physical reminder of the fall of the...more
Marcia
Sep 28, 2008 Marcia rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs
Being a interested in the political consequences of WWII, I picked up this book expecting it to be more interesting and thrilling; instead, it is a dry history of the founding of the original German state, its history leading to WWI and WWII, and the consequences of its actions.

Taylor has done some amazing research into how the Berlin Wall was "born," but it take him hundreds of pages to get there and then hundreds more to tell of its effect on the German peoples' psyche.

If you want to plug al...more
Sean O'Hara
Uneven history which can't decide whether it's a history of the Wall itself or a more general history of Berlin during the Cold War. About a third of the book takes place before the Wall went up, a third during and immediately after the building, with another sixth detailing the events leading up to the fall. Which leaves just a sixth to cover the bulk of the Wall's existence. And while the early part of the book pays equal attention to the East and West Berlin governments and occupation forces,...more
Brett
Some parts exciting, a few parts somewhat dry, but the entire thing is full of information on this interesting period in history.
Joshua Rigsby
A wonderful overview of an iconic structure and Cold War idea.

Taylor does great work in this book. He slowly builds the history leading to the wall and vividly paints the characters that were the architects and guardians of it for decades. He details escape attempts, and the unfortunate deaths that result with diligent attention to accuracy. Though he occasionally gets distracted by the backstories of the individuals involved, on the whole he holds the course well.

This is a must-read for anyon...more
Nickstarfield
Quote from the book, "For anyone who knew the city when the Wall cast its pall across Berlin, nothing can beat the pleasure of being able to stroll through the Brandenburg Gate and across the Pariser Platz, maybe heading for an espresso in one of the boulevard cafes on Unter den Linden. And nothing is sweeter than the awareness that, compared with twenty years ago, the greatet danger you run when taking these few unhurried paces is of beeing knocked into by an over-enthusiastic bicycle courier,...more
Mitchell
Great book about Berlin in general, and the Wall specifically. Very interesting to read after my visit to Berlin. I was only 10 when the Wall came down, and so I didn't have a lot of perspective on it. However, having visited and now read about it, it's an amazing story. The author does a great job of keeping things interesting and moving, and puts a very human face on the story behind the Wall; its suffering, motives, and eventual downfall.
Sydney
Very well-written, fact-filled book offering not just the history of the Berlin Wall but also a nice overview of 20th century politics in Germany.
Stephanie
This kind of thing is right in my wheelhouse. Taylor gives an overview of German sociopolitics from WWI to 1961 as background, then examines the impact of the wall on everyday Berliners whose lives were changed essentially overnight. It's a great mix of historical fact and personal vignettes. Highly recommended if you're curious about the social effects of political power gone horribly awry.
Chris Wood
Fascinating account of a divided Germany and thoroughly recommended!

I do wonder whether the first quarter of the book could have been edited a little more closely, though. Despite the dates in the book's title, it actually discusses Germany's history for the preceding centuries too. It's all relevant in order to set a context, but maybe a little overly lengthy.
Milan
Moving and well researched book about origins and history of Berlin Wall. Includes many stories of individuals who attempted (both successfully and unsuccessfully) to from the East to the West and also provides a very interesting insight of the political background on East German and Russian side as well as the implications of Berlin Wall in the West. Recommended!
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