THE BERLIN WALL: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and a Showdown in the Heart of Europe by Norman Gelb

THE BERLIN WALL: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and a Showdown in the Heart of Europe

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A journalistic history of a trying period in postwar East-West relations--the tug-of-war over Berlin and the consequent erection of the Berlin Wall. Gelb, then chief European correspondent for the Mutual Broadcasting Network, begins his account right back where the problem began--the end of the war race for Berlin, which Eisenhower, with victory at hand, inexplicably ceded to Stalin. Unfortunately, Berlin was located deep in the heart of what became East Germany, making it a perfect pawn for the Kremlin to use at any time that it wished to embarrass the West. Gelb brings back to life the great tensions that existed over this small piece of real estate that Khrushchev called ""the testicles of the West. When I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin."" Kennedy comes across as naive and reckless here. Cowed by Khrushchev at the Vienna Summit, Kennedy returned home to make a famous TV speech emphasizing the nation's support for Berlin. However, to the chagrin of both advisors and allies, he, for the first time, inserted the word ""west"" before ""Berlin""; the Soviets took the cue that the city could indeed be divided, as it was several months later by the 99-mile perimeter wall. Gelb also notes that economic survival forced East Germany to cut the escape route through which many of its skilled workers were fleeing their presumptive ""paradise."" A solid documentary history, told in fine style.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Times Books