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The Year that Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall 1St Edition Edition
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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.Read more ›
Newsweek correspondent Michael Meyer WAS paying close attention: he was in Eastern Europe during the Summer and Fall leading up to the collapse of the Iron Curtain. His behind-the-scenes reporting of what actually took place makes for an illuminating story.
Meyer couldn't believe his good fortune when Newsweek asked him to cover Eastern Europe in the summer of 1988. He sensed change was afoot and was stunned like everyone else when change--huge change--came a year later at lightning speed. From the outside, it appeared Eastern Europe's long-repressed citizens, deeply frustrated by poverty, lack of freedom, and corrupt leadership, rose up en masse and overthrew their communist overlords. It makes for an inspiring story, but like many inspiring stories, it's not entirely accurate. Change would not have been possible had not Mikhail Gorbachev become general secretary of the communist party in 1985, and relaxed the Soviet grip on Eastern Bloc countries. When that happened, the Cold War thaw began.
The thaw was felt first in Hungary, by a small band of party leaders (East European buccaneers, Meyer calls them) who saw their chance to end communism and free their fellow countrymen, not only in Hungary but across the East bloc.Read more ›
Next, Meyer makes the claim that the American flags waved by the crowd had been "planted" by the US embassy. "Planted" is a loaded word. Imagine you're going to a big Fourth of July celebration -- a concert in the park followed by fireworks -- and on your way in you pass a table where people are giving away miniature American flags. Would you say they're planting the flags? Of course not. But that's exactly how the flags were distributed on that day in Berlin.
Then there's Meyer's claim that Berliners were strongly anti-American. Now, I lived in Panama in the early '80s, so I have some idea what it's like when people aren't keen to have Americans around. There was none of that in Berlin. If Meyer wanted to say that Berliners weren't fond of Reagan, that'd be one thing -- though even that, I think, was more pronounced in West Germany proper than Berlin -- but the anti-American claim is over the top.
Finally, I'd like to say something about Meyer's reasoning.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting and different angle to the European, Russian and American goings on around 1989.Published 6 months ago by djax
Meyer, as a journalist "on the ground" as the events making the fall of the Berlin Wall and change in the governments of the Soviet Union "satellite countries"... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Terrance Olson
Find out what really happened from those who were there behind the scenes. I lived through it, but I'll never see it the same way again. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Robert
This is a well-written accounting of the end of European communism, but it has a decided "leftist intellectual" aroma. Read morePublished on May 4, 2014 by rkt10
This is not an erudite in depth analysis of the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, but given the title and the front cover recommend from thriller novelist Ken... Read morePublished on March 25, 2014 by russell king
Some events in history are so dramatic that they take on the character of myth and often with such force that myth replaces history. Read morePublished on November 13, 2012 by Stratiotes Doxha Theon
I truly enjoyed Mr. Meyer's account of the revolutionary year 1989 in Europe.
A reporter, first-hand testimony of many unknown or little-known aspects of a turbulent time in... Read more
I just recently read MR. Meyers book and it is excellent. Easy to read but also thorough at the same time. Read morePublished on March 20, 2012 by Stevie Kara