Rebuilding a House Divided

Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Author, Hans D. Genscher, Author, Thomas Thornton, Translator Broadway Books $40 (592p) ISBN 978-0-553-06712-5
On the day before Nazi Germany's surrender to the Allies on May 8, 1945, Genscher, a teenage soldier from Halle, crossed a makeshift bridge over the Elbe River just ahead of Soviet pursuers to become a U.S. POW. That may have saved Genscher from slave labor in the Soviet Union. Although repatriated to a home province that would be in Communist East Germany, he managed to study law and look for a chance to leave. Slipping away in 1952, he moved up in the West German governmental hierarchy, ultimately serving for 18 eventful years, until 1992, as foreign minister. In this dry memoir, from which a deservedly self-congratulatory tone often emerges, there are no headline-making revelations. Still, one gets an inside view of decision-making in Bonn, from the Munich Olympics hostage crisis to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Germany. Ever the diplomat, Genscher has good words for most of the major policy-makers--German, French, British, American, Russian--and for the increasingly assertive Eastern bloc ministers, who begin developing minds of their own as the grip of Moscow weakens. Although off-putting in the many references to the jargon of his trade--the double-zero option, the Weimar Arc, the Two-Plus-Four talks--some human touches symbolize the meaning of this jargon. After the Berlin Wall comes down, Genscher is approached by a woman in Potsdam who confides that in 1988 she innocently waved to him, and soon after was interrogated by East German authorities, nearly losing her job. That two years later she could tell Genscher in person registers how both their worlds had changed. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
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