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The Year that Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall Hardcover – September 8, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1416558453 ISBN-10: 1416558454 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1St Edition edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416558454
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416558453
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"I thoroughly enjoyed The Year That Changed the World. It is a gripping, colorful account of the rush of events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire. It is also a convincing reappraisal of where credit lies and what lessons should be drawn for U.S. leadership." -- JAMES HOGE, FOREIGN AFFAIRS

" A coolheaded reconsideration of the revolutionary fervor that tore down the Iron Curtain in 1989...Meyer skillfully g rasps the crux of these events and ably conveys their remarkable significance. Meyer 'liberates' the record with sagacity, precision and remarkable clarity." -- KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED REVIEW)

"The twentieth century ended with a bang in 1989 and Michael Meyer has vividly captured the drama, import and energy of that fascinating year....This is a riveting, rollicking read with many surprises along the way." -- FAREED ZAKARIA, AUTHOR OF THE POST-AMERICAN WORLD --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Michael Meyer is currently  Director of Communications for the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Between 1988 and 1992, he was Newsweek's Bureau Chief for Germany, Central Europe and the Balkans, writing more than twenty cover stories on the break-up of communist Europe and German unification. He is the winner of two Overseas Press Club Awards and appears regularly as a commentator for MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, C-Span, NPR and other broadcast network. He previously worked at the Washington Post and Congressional Quarterly. He is the author of the Alexander Complex (Times Books, 1989), an examination of the psychology of American empire builders.  He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

I borrowed this book from my local library and immediately wanted to read it again, so just had to buy it.
Gail Kerr
Michael Meyer has written an important book that combines relevance with accessibility in the best possible way.
Reader from Singapore
The book is well written and moves like an adventure story -- a must read for anyone interested in history.
Jonathan Hudgins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Gloves Donahue on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
More than anything else, Michael Meyer seeks to challenge the perception that the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 primarily due to the policies of the United States and Ronald Reagan. Meyer, a former Newsweek correspondent who reported on the demise of Communism throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, concentrates on the domestic resistance movements that blossomed behind the Iron Curtain. As a result, dissidents such as Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa feature prominently in his account. However, no one receives more credit for the destruction of the Eastern bloc than Miklos Nemeth.

Nemeth, the Communist prime minister of Hungary who inaugurated a wave of reforms after coming to office in November 1988, made the fateful decision to remove the fence between his country and Austria in the summer of 1989. This move -- which is fittingly characterized by Meyer as pulling the plug out of a sink of water -- facilitated the movement of thousands of East Germans from their country to freedom in the West. Indeed, the discussion of Nemeth is one of the great strengths of the book. Meyer explains how the prime minister and several of his closest associates hoped to make Hungary the first of the eastern bloc nations to remove the Communist Party from power. This, these reformers believed, would allow Hungary to benefit from generous subsidies, credits, and other aid from the West. This plan, of course, did not proceed quite the way these men intended, since Communism collapsed so quickly and completely in only a few months. Thus, Hungary's "head-start" into the West was nullified, and instead the West focused most of its attention on the much more dramatic events of East Germany.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By hexe on November 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in one sitting in a couple of hours,and think it is an absolutely unputdownable must read. A thrilling eye-witness and insider account of the collapse of Communism and the Fall of the Berlin Wall which divided a country and a continent into East and West. I wouldn't at all be surprised if Hollywood snapped up the rights. Life has written an story so unbelievable,so true and unique no scriptwriter can ever concoct. A once in a lifetime true life tale of the fight between good and evil,and the desire for exhilarating feeling that is called freedom. As a Hungarian I was fortunate enough myself to witness this tumultuous and uplifting year. It felt incredible to be a very minute part of it as one of the people, and to see how an entire bloc of nations driven by their desire for freedom, with more than a little help from a few wise men accomplished what was thought to be impossible for decades.
For us,the change was helmed by one man in particular, to whom Mr Meyer dedicates this incredible book,and who emerges as the "hidden hero" of this saga. And that man is no other than our then Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth who is now revealed as secret "Hungarian connection" between East and West,and the driving force behind the transformations and key events which took place in Hungary and other Eastern bloc countries at a breakneck pace. He risked everything, (including his own life) to create a better country for us and a better Europe and world for everyone. I'm so proud that our Harvard educated PM finally gets the credit and recognition he deserves.For, as the author writes, beneath the shy exterior, there was a strong man of steely will and strong convictions who was also a quietly determined and an exceptionally intelligent person.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on September 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
President Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" exhortation when visiting Berlin in 1987 has long been cited as the call that brought the Cold War to an end. Others credit it to Reagan's military buildup bankrupting the Soviets trying to catch up, a secret agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to lower oil prices (went from $40/barrel in 1980 to less than $9 within nine years) and undercut the Russian economy, or the rise of oppressed people seeking democracy. In "The Year That Changed the World," Meyer instead contends that the U.S.S.R. fell for mostly other reasons - the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland, the stealth opening of the Hungarian border, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, the collapse of the Berlin Wall (unrelated to Reagan), and the leadership of courageous individuals in Prague (Vaclav Havel), Poland (Lech Walesa and General Jaruzelski), Hungary (Miklos Nemeth), and Russia (Mikhail Gorbachev), and the collapse of oil prices. Meyer also sees our fantasies of 1989 as directly related to America's disaster in Iraq - supposedly all we had to do was confront the Evil One and the people would rise up and throw off their shackles.

The actual opening of the Berlin Wall came at 11:17 P.M., 11/09/1989 during a night of confusion and error at Checkpoint Charlie. Growing numbers of Germans had gathered on both sides after hearing that all East Germans would have the right to a passport. (The new direction was to be implemented the next day, through bureaucratic channels.
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