Berlin Witness: An American Diplomat's Chronicle of East German's Revolution

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9780271009322: Berlin Witness: An American Diplomat's Chronicle of East German's Revolution
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In a remarkable combination of personal reflections, official dispatches, and sophisticated political analysis, Berlin Witness recounts the dramatic story of the erosion of Communism in East Germany and the forging of the new Germany. Jonathan Greenwald arrived in East Berlin in the summer of 1987, when discontented East German youths were shouting "Gorby, Gorby!" on Unter den Linden and Erich Honecker was still received in Bonn as the respected leader of the Soviet Union's most powerful ally. Germany was divided, and Honecker's GDR was a cornerstone of the armed but apparently stable security order that grew up after the Second World War.

As Political Counselor of the American Embassy, Greenwald expected to chronicle Europe's evolution away from East-West confrontation and to assess for the State Department the implications of strengthening ties between the two German states that were beginning to cause unease in the alliances of both superpowers. Instead, he found and described a revolution that climaxed with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and the unification of Germany.

The daily entries, beginning with a traditional Communist May Day 1989 when time seemed to stand still, tell the story of that astonishing year from the unique perspective of a senior American diplomat. Greenwald had access not only to the leading personalities of the GDR, including Honecker, Egon Krenz, and Gregor Gysi, but also to the idealistic young people and churchmen who set in motion the events that astonished the world and changed all our lives. He participated in the often frustrating efforts to shape an American policy response to the accelerating crisis. In his Afterword, he offers insightful, and sometimes skeptical, observations about the rush to unification that has left Germany whole and free but racked by new tensions and self-doubts.

Provocative and personal, Berlin Witness is likely to be the definitive American description of the first phase of the German Revolution until the government opens its archives in the next century and will be a valuable resource for anyone wishing to understand the background of the new Germany.

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About the Author:

G. Jonathan Greenwald is Director for Regional Affairs at the Office of the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism in the U. S. Department of State. From 1987 to 1991, he was Political Counselor at the American Embassy in Berlin.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Interesting but unexciting diary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and East Germany, by Greenwald, who at the time was the political counselor to the US embassy in East Berlin. When, in 1987, Greenwald began his assignment, conventional wisdom had it--as put by German politician Egon Bahr--that ``all this talk of reunification is crazy nonsense...It is absolutely impossible for Gorbachev to give up East Germany.'' In this reconstructed diary, Greenwald doesn't pretend to have had any greater insight into future events--though, occasionally, he quotes prescient comments by others: The head of the East German Foreign Ministry's US section, for instance, who told Greenwald that ``in two or three years, we will have the same situation as in Poland and Hungary because we have exactly the same problems.'' Indeed, the events in East Germany were partly precipitated by events elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc. But as late as August 25, 1989 (less than three months before the Wall went down), Greenwald reflected that--with East Germany's disciplined Party, world-class security apparatus, and tolerable standard of living--it was difficult to envisage collapse. But when it became apparent that the East German government lacked the will to risk a crackdown, the situation unraveled with astonishing speed. Greenwald believes that it was the determination of the East Germans that proved decisive, though he adds that Kohl, by refusing to aid the East German government, made the downfall inevitable--as did the East German leadership, ``mostly old and sick men who had long since lost their ideals and sense of reality in the pursuit and protection of power.'' Intelligent insight into what was being said and thought at the time, at least in higher political circles, makes this a useful resource for historians; but Greenwald only occasionally brings to life the passion and turbulence of those last few days. (Illustrations) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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