The Year that Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Year that Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Michael Meyer

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 1416558489

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A riveting, eyewitness account of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War from the Newsweek Bureau Chief in that region at the time. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many still believe it was the words of President Ronald Regan, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!,” that brought the Cold War to an end. Michael Meyer disagrees, and in this extraordinarily compelling account, explains why. Drawing together breathtakingly vivid, on-the-ground accounts of the rise of Solidarity in Poland, the stealth opening of the Hungarian border, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the collapse of the infamous wall in Berlin, Meyer shows how American intransigence contributed little to achieving such world-shaking change. In his reporting from the frontlines of the revolution in Eastern Europe between 1988 and 1992, he interviewed a wide range of local leaders, including VÁclav Havel and Lech Walesa. Meyer’s descriptions of the way their brave stands were decisive in bringing democracy to Eastern Europe provide a crucial refutation of a misunderstanding of history that has been deliberately employed to help push the United States into the intractable conflicts it faces today.

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between Americans and those Germans living in the immediate shadow of the Cold War. “War? You mean like an invasion?” asked Gisela Sieland, a housewife in the little town of Altenburschla, surprised that I would ask whether she worried about a Soviet invasion. She seemed baffled at my suggestion that NATO and the Warsaw Pact could come into conflict, even though she resided at ground zero. “We don’t feel the least fear,” said Ulle Winter, a student at Göttingen University working part-time at a

154–155, 234 Kohl, Helmut attitudes toward German reunification, 23–28, 127 fall of Berlin Wall and, 9, 72–76, 175, 228–229, 235–236 Gorbachev and, 12 nuclear deterrence and, 74–76 refugees from GDR and, 113–114, 125–127 Korean War, impact of, 23 Kornblum, John, 10 Kosovo, 47 Kovacs, Gyula, 99–100, 102 Kraków, 82 Krauthammer, Charles, 214, 236–237 Krenz, Egon collapse of GDR and, 163, 165–167, 169, 170, 172, 173, 204, 234–235 fall of Berlin Wall and, 7–9, 65, 223, 234 GDR Jubilee

Krenz in. And so it was. Krenz was damaged goods, hamstrung from the get-go. His “reforms” would be seen as impotent holding actions, the cynical manipulations of one who wished only to hold power. As the days passed, Krenz grew increasingly desperate. In an interview five months later, he would liken it to “riding a whirlwind.” Everything was chaos, he told me. Nothing worked. In his book Wenn Mauer Fallen, he described how impossible it was to keep pace with events. “We decided something in

that they could hardly breathe, let alone run,” Martin recounted. “The police just beat them and beat them, swinging their clubs with all their force.” Here, in front of the chic new Café Louvre, the police stopped the march. Down there, not far from a recently opened outlet for Just Jeans, they sprang their trap. Just here, down this narrow side street, no wider than an alley, was the only way out. It became a gauntlet. Special antiterrorist units in distinctive red berets lined either side,

promises of support from more than five hundred factories and workplaces. The roll call was read out each evening from the balcony: the Tatra engineering and defense group, the Skoda autoworks, the big CKD steelworks in Prague. To foreigners, these names meant little. To Czechs, they carried totemic power. CKD, especially, was not just any company. It was the General Motors and IBM of Czechoslovakia, the country’s largest employer and the absolute core of the communist party. It was significant

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