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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: 1 x 6.3 x 9.2 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: #252,074 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

Great job Mr. Meyer!
M. Madaras
This is a very complete history of 1989, the fall of the Berlin wall, how it came about, and the aftermath, in some detail.
William R. Green
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on December 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book obviously appealed to me. I participated in the Velvet Revoluation and marched through Prague's streets during a week in Prague's Wien. Square. What a blast it was. I remember the store front windows with the 5 minutes to 12 midnight clock symbol. The author doesn't mention that in his book, but it was a symbol that the Communist government was almost finished. I remember the last Communist premier trying to speak in the Sport's stadium and being shouted down. Above all, I remember the jangling of the keys, a protest to the government. The author devotes one chapter to the happenings in Czechoslavakia. He spends the majority of time devoted to East Germany, Poland, and Hungary. I was in East Germany during the same time and watched the crumbling of the East German government. People power and bad mistakes by Communist politicians made these governments collaspe. I think the author has it right when he talks about the collaspe as more of a European thing, than something caused by America.

This is a good analysis of the collaspe of the East European governments. I wished the author has highlighted issues that happened in Bulgaria and Albania also, since both their Communist governments also fell apart during the same time period. Otherwise a flawless description of the behind the scenes manuevering of the politicians and opponents in East Europe.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ron M. Linton on October 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So much going on in so many places but you are there. The broad outlines of the fall of the Berlin Wall are well known but in this accounting the story of the events is woven like a novel and links brilliantly the unfolding of the transition from communistic dictatorship to democracy across eastern Europe. Michael Meyer is the consummate reporter. His accounting of events through personal conversations gives the reader a sense of sitting in on the meetings and interviews. But Meyer goes beyond mere description and recounting of events. His analysis and assessments of the key players puts the year in perspective to the sweep of history from world war II to the present.

Meyer focuses on the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Romania showing the interrelationship of events and how they played on one another. How did it all come about and who gets the credit for "The fall of the wall"is clearly shown. How did Ronald Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" come about. For the want of a nail... is the amazing out come to an incredible faux pas by the head of the GDR in changing East Germany's travel policy.

This fascinating story moves back and forth across eastern Europe in breathless fashion but is told with the hand of a historian.
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