The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall
By Mary Elise Sarotte
Published by Basic Books, USA
Distributed by NewSouth Books: link here to purchase
ISBN 9780465049905 | 320pp | paperback
This book has garnered wide praise since its release last year overseas. Local publisher NewSouth Books has taken on the role of Australian distributor. While not strictly ‘military history’ – it more properly belongs under the heading ‘political history’ – I thought I would include it in my blog for the interest of readers.
The story of the night the Wall came down is well known. 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 would now be allowed to move freely to the West. The Wall — that infamous symbol of a 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 any particular agreement between either Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
It was, in fact, an accident.
In The Collapse, prize-winning historian Mary Elise Sarotte brings to life an unexpected series of events culminating in the chaotic fall of the Wall. With a novelist’s eye for character and detail, she brings to life a story that sweeps across Budapest, Prague, Dresden, and Leipzig and up to the armed checkpoints in Berlin.
Sarotte has drawn on new archival sources and undertaken dozens of interviews to bring this extraordinary story to the page. As she writes in her introduction, … It is worth spending time looking at the details of how and why the Berlin Wall opened on November 9, 1989 because they add up to larger lessons. That night represented the moment when a peaceful civil resistance movement overcame a dictatorial regime. ….
The collapse of the Berlin Wall was a landmark event that changed the map of Europe forever … and, more importantly, changed the lives of East Germans and Eastern Europeans forever. I feel certain that anyone with an interest in these events will find this book a compelling and inspiring read. It certainly has been widely praised since its release.
Below is a link to an opinion piece Mary Elise Sarotte wrote for The New York Times on the fall of the Berlin Wall, which I’ve included for the interest of my readers.
Opinion page: The New York Times (7/11/2014)
How the Fall of the Berlin Wall Really Happened
Mary Elise Sarotte is a professor of history at the University of Southern California, and a visiting professor at Harvard