Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain

Edith Sheffer. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-19-973704-8
Stanford assistant professor of history Sheffer has written a meticulous analysis of a social experiment that began in 1945 when Soviet troops occupied Sonneberg and Americans Neustadt, sister cities whose city halls were three miles apart. The first of the book's three sections covers 1945–1952, when the unfenced "green border" between the two cities became a "wild frontier," with so much violence and harassment that citizens themselves urged more control. From 1952 to 1961, East Germany built fences and cut transit links, actions mostly successful in confirming the cities' psychological separation. From 1961 to 1989, the border progressively hardened; Sheffer emphasizes that this occurred with little violence but much local grumbling and negotiation. Both sides preferred to avoid trouble. Easterners trying to escape were more likely to be caught by local civilians and police than border guards. Sheffer's Ph.D. thesis, although a superior example, is lucidly written with plenty of anecdotes, but also an avalanche of statistics in the appendixes. This is serious academic research on a narrow subject that will interest serious history buffs. 34 illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/2011
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 380 pages - 978-0-19-987620-4
Paperback - 357 pages - 978-0-19-931461-4
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