In this highly readable, ultimately problematic recreation of the weeks surrounding the erection of the Berlin Wall on...

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THE IDES OF AUGUST: The Berlin Wall Crisis 1961

In this highly readable, ultimately problematic recreation of the weeks surrounding the erection of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961, Curtis Cate succeeds in evoking the general mood of despair shared by the increasing number of East Germans who flocked to the west in the final free-passage weeks. By alternating chapters on politics with the personal stories of several refugees and their families, Cate also captures the tension that accompanied escape from the totalitarian ""New Germany,"" a tension which grew with each passing day. He is also fairly adept at describing both the political actors and the known political events that led to establishment of the Wall as a Berlin landmark. But his free and dramatic style raises a major problem. Because he does not use footnotes, and employs paraphrase and a novelistic presentation of the inner workings of real minds, it is often quite difficult to know whether Cate or one of his protagonists is speaking. In an interview between an East German news agency and a former West German immigration employee, the statement ""most of the Marienfelde counterintelligence people were ex-Nazis, Fascists, or militarists"" appears without any immediate indication of who said it, or, more importantly, of Cate's judgment as to its validity. Since Marienfelde was the major camp for East German refugees, it would be nice to know the author's opinion. Cate's underlying thesis only becomes explicit at the end, when he states, ""America's mouselike reaction to the challenge of August 13. . . was to lead to the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962."" This rather dubious assertion, dependent upon the all-too-familiar notion of ""the scheme that was brewing in the. . . Kremlin,"" is certainly not proven here, because although Cate's book registers as an account of events, it never really becomes a historical argument.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Evans

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1978