The Year that Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall
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A riveting, eyewitness account of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War from the Newsweek Bureau Chief in that region at the time. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many still believe it was the words of President Ronald Regan, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!,” that brought the Cold War to an end. Michael Meyer disagrees, and in this extraordinarily compelling account, explains why. Drawing together breathtakingly vivid, on-the-ground accounts of the rise of Solidarity in Poland, the stealth opening of the Hungarian border, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the collapse of the infamous wall in Berlin, Meyer shows how American intransigence contributed little to achieving such world-shaking change. In his reporting from the frontlines of the revolution in Eastern Europe between 1988 and 1992, he interviewed a wide range of local leaders, including VÁclav Havel and Lech Walesa. Meyer’s descriptions of the way their brave stands were decisive in bringing democracy to Eastern Europe provide a crucial refutation of a misunderstanding of history that has been deliberately employed to help push the United States into the intractable conflicts it faces today.
accepting down payments for TVs, starting the next Monday. A line formed the preceding Friday. At opening time, fifteen thousand people were waiting for the privilege of paying nearly $1,300—a year’s average wages—for a no-frills set they would be lucky to receive in a few months’ time. “This is life by attrition,” he said. “After a time, you begin to feel that everything around you is crumbling.” Young Poles were especially desperate. Most had no homes of their own; in some parts of Poland, it
Ninth Circle, the ring of frozen stillness closest to the Darkness. That was the first thing you noticed, the stillness. It wasn’t an absence of sound but rather an almost existential mutedness, as if nothing were quite real. Nicolae Ceausescu, Europe’s Last Stalinist, bestrode his unfortunate country like some oddly frail colossus. He began as a shoemaker, rising in 1965 to become chief of Romania’s communist party, famous as a maverick East European leader who dared to defy Moscow. His
gleaming black limousine glided silently and majestically by, Stars and Stripes aflutter. Near the Square of National Unity, a woman neatly dressed in office clothes carefully scraped the contents of a broken egg off the sidewalk and put it into her purse. At the front desk of the Intercontinental, the manager greeted me with a knowing smile. “Did you enjoy your walk in the park, Mr. Meyer?” The day before I was to fly back to Germany, word came that Ceausescu had consented to an interview. The
conspirators agreed that they would try to send the Soviet leader a signal, perhaps ask for his support for a change in leadership. “We could not try to contact him before then,” said Schabowski. “We could have been found out. We had to protect ourselves. We did not think it would matter whether we waited another week or two.” In fact, it mattered immensely, for during those few weeks a popular German resistance movement arose and gathered strength. But neither that nor anything else fully
keys from the streets below. The Grand Hotel Europa, in the heart of Wenceslas Square, was built at the height of central Europe’s infatuation with art nouveau. A down-at-heel gem of old-world style, from the serpentine ironwork of its balconies to the smoky ambience of its renowned café, the Europa became my home away from home. Each morning I would stake out a table by the windows looking out on the square, order coffee and read the newspapers, meet with friends, conduct interviews and write