Second prize two weeks in East Germany, first prize one week. . . so goes a Russian joke, while current U.S. news stories focus on Ulbricht's fight against East European winds of liberalization. Dornberg was born there, fled in 1939, and made a dozen revisits in the past seven years, travelling and interviewing with exceptional freedom. Drab and politically repressive, yes, he says, but there's a newer, brighter side -- a Wirtschaftswunder ""as spectacular as West Germany's,"" resulting in the Soviet bloc's highest standard of living, and increasing popular preference for the collective economy. Dornberg emphasizes the social effects of this ""transformation from the grim last bastion of Stalinism to a country burgeoning with confidence and nascent nationalism,"" and discredits prevalent half-truths about the past twenty years, from the introduction of socialism to the impact of the Wall. Attitudes toward West Germany are surveyed at length (suspicion of ""remnants of Nazism and superficial values""), but relations with Communist neighbors are slighted, which is odd since Dornberg is News-week's bureau chief for the area.