The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall



❰Read❯ ➬ The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall Author Mary Elise Sarotte – E17streets4all.co.uk On the night of November , , massive crowds surged toward the Berlin Wall, drawn by an announcement that caught the world by surprise East Germans could now move freely to the West The Wall infamous s On The Accidental Opening of ePUB Æ the night of November massive crowds surged The Accidental PDF/EPUB è toward the Berlin Wall, drawn by an announcement that caught the world by The Collapse: MOBI :ò surprise East Germans could now move freely to the West The Wall infamous symbol of divided Cold War Europe seemed to be Collapse: The Accidental PDF/EPUB ç falling But the opening of the gates that night was not planned by the East German ruling regime nor was it the result of a bargain between either Ronald Reagan or George HW Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail GorbachevIt was an accidentIn The Collapse, prize winning historian Mary Elise Sarotte reveals how a perfect storm of decisions made by daring underground revolutionaries, disgruntled Stasi officers, and dictatorial party bosses sparked an unexpected series of events culminating in the chaotic fall of the Wall With a novelist s eye for character and detail, she brings to vivid life a story that sweeps across Budapest, Prague, Dresden, and Leipzig and up to the armed checkpoints in BerlinWe meet the revolutionaries Roland Jahn, Aram Radomski, and Siggi Schefke, risking it all to smuggle the truth across the Iron Curtain the hapless Politburo member G nter Schabowski, mistakenly suggesting that the Wall is open to a press conference full of foreign journalists, including NBC s Tom Brokaw and Stasi officer Harald J ger, holding the fort at the crucial border crossing that night Soon, Brokaw starts broadcasting live from Berlin s Brandenburg Gate, where the crowds are exulting in the euphoria of newfound freedom and the dictators are plotting to restore controlDrawing on new archival sources and dozens of interviews, The Collapse offers the definitive account of the night that brought down the Berlin Wall.The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall

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The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall
    The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall result of a bargain between either Ronald Reagan or George HW Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail GorbachevIt was an accidentIn The Collapse, prize winning historian Mary Elise Sarotte reveals how a perfect storm of decisions made by daring underground revolutionaries, disgruntled Stasi officers, and dictatorial party bosses sparked an unexpected series of events culminating in the chaotic fall of the Wall With a novelist s eye for character and detail, she brings to vivid life a story that sweeps across Budapest, Prague, Dresden, and Leipzig and up to the armed checkpoints in BerlinWe meet the revolutionaries Roland Jahn, Aram Radomski, and Siggi Schefke, risking it all to smuggle the truth across the Iron Curtain the hapless Politburo member G nter Schabowski, mistakenly suggesting that the Wall is open to a press conference full of foreign journalists, including NBC s Tom Brokaw and Stasi officer Harald J ger, holding the fort at the crucial border crossing that night Soon, Brokaw starts broadcasting live from Berlin s Brandenburg Gate, where the crowds are exulting in the euphoria of newfound freedom and the dictators are plotting to restore controlDrawing on new archival sources and dozens of interviews, The Collapse offers the definitive account of the night that brought down the Berlin Wall."/>
  • Hardcover
  • 320 pages
  • The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall
  • Mary Elise Sarotte
  • 02 October 2017
  • 0465064949

10 thoughts on “The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall

  1. says:

    Substantially reviewed and revised on the 30 year anniversary Nov 10, 2019A day by day, blow by blow account of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the event that made the end of the Cold War irreversible The book emphasizes the actions of East Germans often ordinary ones who forced the changes The DDR s control over the border turned out to be crucial to its power remove that, and the regime crumbled But, it wasn t by design as de Tocqueville observed about the French Revolution, every co Substantially reviewed and revised on the 30 year anniversary Nov 10, 2019A day by day, blow by blow account of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the event that made the end of the Cold War irreversible The book emphasizes the actions of East Germans often ordinary ones who forced the changes The DDR s control over the border turned out to be crucial to its power remove that, and the regime crumbled But, it wasn t by design as de Tocqueville observed about the French Revolution, every concession by the old guard paradoxically made the masses demandSome moving descriptions of the first truly mass rally in Leipzig, where over 100,000 people marched around the city s lovely central ring and Stasi s the secret police shoot to kill orders were countermanded by the local command, without approval from East Berlin Much the same would happen on November 9 10, 1989, when the Wall itself fell a typical droning commie press conference, ended by two sentences released prior to embargo seemingly saying something new The cynical press corps said, They d heard it all before Yet a sleepy Brokaw was too dumb to know what he didn t know, or so wise to have picked up the code He woke saying, Wait a minute did he just announce opening of East Germany s border Despite scoffing from the long time pressers, Brokaw and crew bolted for the Wall So American, not FRG, TV got the scoop.At the border crossing opposite Wedding, Stasi Lt Col Har ald J ger also watched the broadcast Amassing 25 years as a paper pusher, J ger was an unlikely hero But equally confused by the announcement J ger called up the chain for orders None were forthcoming Instead, for the most part, two lines of a press conference would be interpreted on the fly by J ger the name means hunter in German , and another similar Stasi office controlling one of the northern Berlin control points When some of the most notorious DDR dissidents gathered around the southern crossing point, then tens of thousandscrowded in, J ger persevered on the ancient black Bakelite phones until finally a Stasi superior said, Let them across, but stamp their DDR passports so they can t return That s what he did Perhaps a hundred thousand surged and left overnight J ger stayed the entire night shift Some Foreign DDR residents returned after a night of enjoying decadent capitalism A Russian KGB agent fluent in German and stationed in Berlin named Putin Many DDR residents were thrilled to leave permanently a 38 year old DDR Chemistry teacher named Merkel But others thought this one night holiday on ice allowed them to return the next morning to their DDR homes and families The Stasi said, No J ger, still on his post, was scheduled to see his oncologist the next day, to pronounce a growth benign or cancerous J ger had do doubt it would be the latter, and figured he had nothing to lose Seeing two anguished parents, who had left their child in the care of another, blocked ever from seeing their offspring again, J ger snapped He let the two return to East Germany, disobeying a direct order Soon he directed all the guards at his bridge to let any East German return The opening of the wall not only erased an ugly line in Europe, it broke the chains of humanity to allow acts of grace And J ger is alive today he didn t have cancer.In short, the Wall came down not with a bang but with a whimper Given the personal efforts at demolition, much of which wound up as dust, a great deal of the Berlin Wall necessarily must have gone down the drain But, the East Germans interviewed by the author are adamant about causation First we fought for our freedom and then, because of that, the Wall fell

  2. says:

    I wandered into this book with a bit of ho hum Most of my historical reading centers on a different continent Would I really be engaged by a different historical approach from an author I didn t know I was blown away The Collapse describes how the Berlin Wall fell, not by a malicious explosion of violence, but through patient nonviolent protests, face palming mistakes by the repressors, and the bravery of freedom loving Germans.Two things stood out to me 1 The Christian community can be th I wandered into this book with a bit of ho hum Most of my historical reading centers on a different continent Would I really be engaged by a different historical approach from an author I didn t know I was blown away The Collapse describes how the Berlin Wall fell, not by a malicious explosion of violence, but through patient nonviolent protests, face palming mistakes by the repressors, and the bravery of freedom loving Germans.Two things stood out to me 1 The Christian community can be thanked for their organization and pursuit of peace Like those who resisted a generation before e.g., Bonhoeffer, et al German Christians had an unshakeable commitment to social justice By virtue of their identity as Christ followers, they were driven to act in keeping with that identity Christian F hrer, the peace priest figures largely in this historical narrative 2 With all due respect to the good ol U.S.A., it was not American heroism that took down the wall Even though Reagan s Tear down this wall is a strong piece of speechmaking, it was neither Reagen nor Gorbachev who were ultimately responsible for the crumbling of the barrier It was the passionate pursuit of peace and reunification of the Germans

  3. says:

    In German history it seems that November 9th commemorates many important twentieth century dates In 1918, following the defeat of Germany in World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated the Hohenzollern throne In 1923, Adolf Hitler launched his failed Beer Hall Putsch in trying to seize power in Munich In 1938, the Nazis unleashed Kristallnacht the Night of the Broken Glass against the Jews of Germany Finally, November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down which is the topic of Mary Elise Sarotte In German history it seems that November 9th commemorates many important twentieth century dates In 1918, following the defeat of Germany in World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated the Hohenzollern throne In 1923, Adolf Hitler launched his failed Beer Hall Putsch in trying to seize power in Munich In 1938, the Nazis unleashed Kristallnacht the Night of the Broken Glass against the Jews of Germany Finally, November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down which is the topic of Mary Elise Sarotte s informative and interesting new monograph, THE COLLAPSE THE ACCIDENTAL OPENING OF THE BERLIN WALL Sarotte s thesis is evident in the title of her book She argues in a clear and evocative manner that the opening of the Berlin Wall was not planned and it came as a dramatic surprise when a series of accidents, some of them mistakes so minor that they might otherwise have been trivialities, threw off sparks into the supercharged atmosphere of the autumn of 1989 and ignited a dramatic sequence of events that culminated in the unintended opening of the Berlin Wall The purpose of the book according to its author was to examine not only the sparks, but the friction in East Germany that produced them in the first place the rise of a revolutionary but nonviolent civil resistance movement and the collapse of the ruling regime xx Sarotte argues further that the wall did not come down on November 9th because of the actions of the superpowers, and the figures that brought down the wall were not internationally known The book is an important contribution to the literature on the subject because on the night of November 9, 1989, a peaceful civil resistance movement overcame a dictatorial regime It is all too seldom that such a peaceful process happens at all, let alone leaves a magnificent collection of evidence and witnesses scattered broadly behind itself for all to see xxv Sarotte has written a carefully constructed narrative as she tries to ascertain why the Berlin Wall came down when it did The book is cogently written, well thought out, and impeccably researched The reader is drawn into the reasons behind events leading up to November 9 and almost half the narrative is spent explaining what led up to the opening of the wall that evening The first half of the book describes the gradual growth of opposition in the German Democratic Republic East Germany, GDR regime under Erich Honecker and his replacement, Egon Krenz Sarotte lays out her argument carefully as the civil opposition movement gains the confidence and support it needed in order to confront the regime The reader is witness to the growing opposition that relied on churches in Leipzig and East Berlin to host prayer meetings that throughout the summer of 1989 continuously grew in attendance that in the weeks leading up to November 9 saw crowds of upwards of 500,000 people leave the churches and take to the streets These demonstrations were a key as dissidents adopted a peaceful approach in matching government repression and violence Sarotte effectively explores the leadership on both sides, analyzing their strategies and actions to determine why events evolved as they did.The three most important elements leading up to November 9 appear to be the dissident and church leadership during prayer meetings the strategy, or lack of thereof by officials of the GDR government in trying to defuse the opposition by issuing looser travel restrictions into the Federal Republic of Germany West Germany, FRG and decisions made during the course of November 9 that led to the unexpected opening of the Berlin Wall The most important characters in this process were a pair of dissident filmmakers and their contacts in West Berlin, church leaders in Leipzig and East Berlin, the intransigent attitudes of Honecker and Krenz, and the draft of a new travel law by Gerhard Lauter, head of the GDR Interior Ministry that led to the uncertainties that resulted in the opening of the wall We must be kept in mind is that none of this could have taken place without the actions, or inaction by Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev The Russian economy was in dire condition and Gorbachev made the decision that the Soviet Union could no longer afford to keep 380,000 troops in the GDR What is fascinating as Sarotte points out is that throughout the period leading up to and including November 9, the Soviet Embassy remained ignorant of what Lauter and his colleagues had drawn up Moscow thought that a hole variant, allowing one exit gate with severe restrictions was the policy that they approved of But in reality, that policy was obsolete and was replaced by a muchliberal plan.The most interesting and surprising aspect of the book is Sarotte s presentation dealing with the GDR Politburo meeting when Krenz announces the new travel plan and there is no opposition to it Following the meeting, Gunter Schabowski, a member of the GDR Politburo holds a live broadcast news conference in which he announces that private trips to foreign countries may, without presenting justifications reasons for trips connections to relatives be applied for Approvals will be distributed in a short time frame 117 This included emigration and short trips and when pressed on when this would take effect, Schabowski replied, right away What is incredible about the press conference that ended around 7 00 pm on November 9th is that Schabowski never read the new travel law before he made his presentation This lack of communication is a dominant theme throughout the book and as evening took over on November 9, border guards and other officials were taken aback as they had no clarification as to what to do when thousands of people approached different parts of the wall GDR officials tried to contact their counterparts in Moscow, but the Soviet Union was just completing a holiday and no one in authority was available.Sarotte concludes her book with the reactions in Moscow, London, Washington, and Bonn to events and she is very clear that western officials and intelligence officers were taken completely by surprise Sarotte brings her monograph to a close with an epilogue in which she examines the reunification of Germany as a year after the wall fell five new states that were carved out of the GDR were able to join West Germany on October 3, 1990 Sarotte points out that West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had moved quickly for fear of a Soviet change of heart based on hard line opposition to the reform policies of Mikhail Gorbachev Sarotte goes on to update the reader on the lives of the major participants in the drama she described, one of which was Vladimir Putin who was a KGB officer stationed in Dresden at the time, who returned to Russia full of regret of how the Soviet Union had lost its position in Europe This would lead to his political career fueled by the desire to restore Russia to what he believed to be its rightful place in Europe The issues of justice also emerge as well as memorials to celebrate the events she describes One interesting aspect in closing is that there arewall memorials in the United States than there are in Germany Sarotte s monograph is an excellent tool for anyone who is interested in understanding why the Berlin Wall fell when it did and why it was so significant

  4. says:

    So here s a sad story For some reason, I have been belaboring under the delusion for years that the Berlin Wall opened as a direct result of Ronald Reagan making his Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall speech I chalk this up to not paying enough attention in history, and also the fact that this line of speech appears in so many inspirational montages but as it turns out, Reagan s speech was made in 1987, and the wall didn t open until 1989 I guess its inspirational montage appearances are So here s a sad story For some reason, I have been belaboring under the delusion for years that the Berlin Wall opened as a direct result of Ronald Reagan making his Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall speech I chalk this up to not paying enough attention in history, and also the fact that this line of speech appears in so many inspirational montages but as it turns out, Reagan s speech was made in 1987, and the wall didn t open until 1989 I guess its inspirational montage appearances are just because it was a really good speech.Even if, unlike me, you ve never belabored under this particular delusion, you may still be misinformed about the circumstances of the opening of the Berlin Wall According to the author, the wall did not open as a result of the wheeling and dealings of the big superpowers of the era at all rather, she states, The opening that night was simply not planned p xix She then goes on to recount the strange series of events including numerous miscommunications and coincidences that resulted in the opening of the wall Contrary to popular thought, the main actors in the drama aren t the huge political leaders, but rather the pastors who lead enormous peaceful protests, individuals who smuggled footage of the events to the outside media, and low level members of the GDR Party who made a number of fateful choices The book is very well sourced, with impressive amounts of primary documents and interviews with those who lived through the event The writing moved along at a good pace and kept my interest, although it was a bit on the heavier side of the spectrum as far as nonfiction that I ve read The book was a great reminder that it is possible for individuals to make a difference on the world stage and although the author does not draw this conclusion, as a Christian, it reminded me of the Sovereign hand that presided over a series of accidents and coincidences

  5. says:

    An excellent, fast paced, concise account of the fall of the Berlin Wall Aside from explaining this complicated story in clear terms, Sarotte has a lot to say here about the distinct benefits of historical analysis and causation Sarotte argues that in order to understand why something happened, we have to understand how I m not sure if I ve heard aconcise and perfect definition of how historians think and what they do We can talk about causation all day, but we need a fine grained sens An excellent, fast paced, concise account of the fall of the Berlin Wall Aside from explaining this complicated story in clear terms, Sarotte has a lot to say here about the distinct benefits of historical analysis and causation Sarotte argues that in order to understand why something happened, we have to understand how I m not sure if I ve heard aconcise and perfect definition of how historians think and what they do We can talk about causation all day, but we need a fine grained sense of how events developed, what options people considered, what decisions people made and rejected, etc before we can see how big picture factors turned into movement on the ground The fact that the opening of the Berlin Wall was an accident really can t be explained in anything but historical terms The government meant to issue a statement that would allow people to emigrate through CZ, although they would still have to apply for visas However, mid level bureaucrats found the statement confusing, so they changed the statement to say that emigration restriction were being lifted right away, including into East Berlin This led a population, mobilized already by protests in Leipzig and elsewhere, to go to the gates of the wall and demand entry The confused guards, angry at their clueless superiors, decided against crushing the protests and started to let them through This proved uncontrollable, leading to the complete collapse of the wall Of course, big picture forces were pushing against the GDR economic disaster, de legitimation at home, political upheaval in the Eastern Bloc, Gorbachev s reforms, increased media and human rights scrutiny However, even with all these structural factors set up, the fall of the Berlin Wall still had to happen people had to make decisions that interacted to produce an outcome that was by no means predetermined by those big structural factors that scholars spend most of their time arguing about Things still could have gone in other directions there could have been a German Tiananmen, for example, and people had to choose to not do that In those moments, ripe with many potentials, history can veer off in many directions in spite of the weight of big picture factors This is one of the best books I ve come across on the sheer capriciousness of history and the fact that events are made by people rather than forces, two big points that no other discipline can really grasp.People impute all kinds of meaning to the end of the Cold War the end of history, the definitive failure of communism, the voluntary surrender of communism, etc These big narratives all have some truth to them, but this book shows the importance of overlooked forces in history accident, confusion, misunderstanding, petty bureaucratic rivalry Theyou dig into any given case, theyou see this kind of accidental stuff shaping events.I d recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the end of the Cold War, German history, activism, or just someone who likes thinking about history as a discipline Maybe some lessons in here for modern protest movements too, such as the importance of maintaining the moral high ground in spite of the endless provocations and indignities that authorities can inflict

  6. says:

    The Collapse opens with the following quote by Alexis de Tocqueville It is not always going from bad to worse that leads to revolution What happens most often is that a people that puts up with the most opressive laws without complaint as if it did not feel them rejects those laws violently when the burden is alleviated The evil that one endures patiently because it seems inevitable becomes unbearable the moment its elimination becomes conceivable. As Sarotte explains in her excellent boo The Collapse opens with the following quote by Alexis de Tocqueville It is not always going from bad to worse that leads to revolution What happens most often is that a people that puts up with the most opressive laws without complaint as if it did not feel them rejects those laws violently when the burden is alleviated The evil that one endures patiently because it seems inevitable becomes unbearable the moment its elimination becomes conceivable. As Sarotte explains in her excellent book about the opening of the Berlin Wall, the above quote is a perfect way to describe the events that led to this momentous occasion on November 9th, 1989 She focuses on the 6 weeks to 2 months leading up to the opening, showing how a series of unplanned contingent events involving a variety of people, including activists, church leaders, reporters, government officials, and border guards converged to ultimately lead to the unexpected and unplanned opening of the Berlin Wall, and hence, the end of the Cold War

  7. says:

    Sarotte s thesis is that the Wall came down due to local actors and effects not high level decision making She makes the case well It was the protests of reform churches in Leipzig particularly that grew to a size that forced authorities to forego the use of violence as a means to shut them down which prompted new leadership in East Germany to draft a travel law which unwittingly opened the border on the night of November 9, 1989 Miscommunication and failure to act was endemic within the East Sarotte s thesis is that the Wall came down due to local actors and effects not high level decision making She makes the case well It was the protests of reform churches in Leipzig particularly that grew to a size that forced authorities to forego the use of violence as a means to shut them down which prompted new leadership in East Germany to draft a travel law which unwittingly opened the border on the night of November 9, 1989 Miscommunication and failure to act was endemic within the East German government The author shows that authority crumbled once the vast majority of people in East Germany no longer took their government seriously Good history

  8. says:

    The first hundred or so pages of The Collapse The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall is preamble but the context is required for those without a penchant for modern history It takes a world s stage and distills it to the minute by minute lives of a handful of people The prep work can get tedious because it is all marches and mimeographed flyers and you know how it ends, anyway But if you jump right to the Berlin Wall being overcoming by the citizens of East Germany, the American exception The first hundred or so pages of The Collapse The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall is preamble but the context is required for those without a penchant for modern history It takes a world s stage and distills it to the minute by minute lives of a handful of people The prep work can get tedious because it is all marches and mimeographed flyers and you know how it ends, anyway But if you jump right to the Berlin Wall being overcoming by the citizens of East Germany, the American exceptionalism the false primacy of G.H.W Bush and Reagan as Cold War heroes encoded in our national psyche color the reality and serve to diminish the truth of the work.And that reality is that non violent civil unrest works At least, it did this one time The book repeats itself a thousand times over that this was a fluke, that nothing about it was inevitable, and that the circumstances may never be duplicated again This hampers what seems to be the take away this was ex post positioned toward to capitalize on the current zeitgeist that the marches and protests going on right in America now can succeed in similar ways Maybe they can, too, butlikely they will be met with violent state resistance.This movement, this revolution, was a non violent success preciously because of a string of mousetrap like coincidences that led the state s unwillingness to gun down its own citizens The JFK quote being bandied about right now, shorn from context, has the same vibe of misplaced kismet Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. The important parts that it was a speech to an alliance of Latin American countries that it was about livable wages and workers rights and economic developments that the course of rational social change is evenhazardous for those progressive governments who often face entrenched privilege on the right and subversive conspiracies on the left, seems to be ignored for the soundbite that is vague enough to fit the any present crises.Similarly, taking excerpts from The Collapse out of context would undercut the structure of banal and bureaucratic malevolence if I give you highlights, their impact is diminished by lack of contrast if you get a taste of the day to day descriptions, they are stripped of context and also quite, well, boring It brought honest to god tears to my eyes when the people walked through the checkpoints and I had only been living with this trauma for two hundred pages, not forty years The thought of another wall being built, or even the use of the rhetoric of another wall, is stomach churning The Collapse is short and compelling, so there is no excuse none whatsoever not to add it to your reading list

  9. says:

    This book recounts what is, to my mind, one of the most incredible, and most exciting, events of the 20th century The fact that Western particularly US leaders have insisted on undeservedly making themselves its authors has always irked me it is to be hoped that this book will makepeople aware of why it was so incredible and exciting because a lot of perfectly ordinary, mostly forgotten East Germans had the courage to rise up and do something the rest of us were convinced was impos This book recounts what is, to my mind, one of the most incredible, and most exciting, events of the 20th century The fact that Western particularly US leaders have insisted on undeservedly making themselves its authors has always irked me it is to be hoped that this book will makepeople aware of why it was so incredible and exciting because a lot of perfectly ordinary, mostly forgotten East Germans had the courage to rise up and do something the rest of us were convinced was impossible Even if one is among those who think the triumph of democracy failed to fulfil its promise, the peaceful events leading up to the opening of the Berlin Wall were remarkable

  10. says:

    The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th, 1989, unexpected and unscripted, illustrates Gandhi s point that whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is important that you do it a great many insignificant individual actions added up to a very important event indeed Sarotte gives us a detailed, fascinating, and affecting analysis of a remarkable moment in European history.

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