More systematic than suspenseful, this account amply conveys the universal amazement and excitement of the time.



A rigorous sifting of evidence surrounding the final toppling of the sclerotic East German state.

With extensive use of Stasi files, Sarotte (History/Univ. of Southern California; 1989: The Struggle to Create Post–Cold War Europe, 2009) finds that accident, rather than planning, caused the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Although the author acknowledges the importance of certain external factors—Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s four-year “new thinking” reforms, President Ronald Reagan’s famous call for tearing down the wall in 1987—she unearths evidence of the key roles of provincial players, rather than politicians, in the crisis culminating on Nov. 9, 1989. The German Democratic Republic, under the aging iron grip of Erich Honecker, was losing its control over the border crossings as a result of the effects of the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe, which eased East Germans’ ability to leave the country; moreover, the shoot-to-kill policy of the border police had grown muddied due to international humanitarian outcry. Meanwhile, the Stasi somewhat tolerated certain religious groups, and St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig had managed to turn itself into a substantial hub for nonviolent protest movements. Also, cooperation among Soviet bloc members began to break down in 1989: Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Németh and colleagues decided to ease Hungary’s border restrictions, creating a mass exodus by GDR holidaygoers in the spring and summer, encouraged and welcomed by West German leader Helmut Kohl. Sarotte follows the countdown to collapse, from the growth of a massive civil disobedience demonstration in Leipzig on Oct. 9, to the confused international press conference given by East German Politburo member Günter Schabowski announcing apparent new possibilities to emigrate, to Bornholmer Street border officer Harald Jäger’s beleaguered decision to fling open the gates.

More systematic than suspenseful, this account amply conveys the universal amazement and excitement of the time.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-465-06494-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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