The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989
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....more
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
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
Ruling by fear, Honecker, Ulbricht and Mielke keep the population under intense scrutiny with the surveillance techniques of the Stasi, turni...more
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
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
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
The story of the Berlin Wal...more
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
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
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
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.