The Year that Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall
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.
through a cement plant. Once a single complex, there were now instead two huge cones of cement dust, two big conveyors, and two identical smokestacks. One belched choking clouds of dust (on the Eastern side); the other (on the West German side) emitted a more modest, environmentally conscious plume. Farther north, near the university city of Göttingen, developers had built a new golf course at Bad Sooden, only a long slice from the border. In neighboring Wanfried, the border split the local train
another: Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, East Berlin, Bonn, Vienna and back again. I’ve confined the narrative to interviews with the principals in the drama: Nemeth, Pozsgay, Schabowski, Walesa, Mazowiecki, Havel. But many others played large roles in the events. Among them, in Poland: Bronislaw Geremek and Janusz Onyszkiewicz, a mathematician and alpinist who became Solidarity’s spokesman (and had spent years in jail) and went on to become defense minister and eventually vice chairman of the European
shrugged, confessing that he largely shared Gorbachev’s view. Pushing for more nukes in Europe at a time when “Gorbi” was taking Germany by storm? “Wake up, boys,” he said. “Smell the coffee brewing.” As far as Germans were concerned, Gorbachev was the peacemaker, the man of the future. Americans with their nukes were seen as dinosaurs, retrogrades, warmongers. None of this made much impression on the president’s men. Baker listened politely but coolly. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney abruptly got
the tarmac. It was lined with ambulances and fire trucks. Throughout the ordeal, Elvis Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes” played on the intercom. Music to die to, I thought ever after. Walesa sat at a desk reading (or pretending to read) Politika, an intellectual political journal. “He can barely read,” a former ally once boozily confided. True or not, Walesa had no time for the likes of me, now merely a lowly journalist. German businessmen, potential partners, awaited outside his door. “What do you
a similar allusion. Neither knew for sure whether the Soviet leader would know what they meant. Meanwhile, Schabowski noticed secret police chief Erich Mielke leaving the reception. The few hundred marchers outside the Palace of the Republic at the beginning of dinner had now been joined by thousands of others. Mielke had gone to tend to the messiness. How dare they, on this of all days? “He gave orders to beat them,” Schabowski said. I had arrived from Budapest that afternoon, too late for the