cover image Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World

Checkmate in Berlin: The Cold War Showdown That Shaped the Modern World

Giles Milton. Holt, $25.49 (400p) ISBN 978-1-2502-4756-8

Historian Milton (Soldier, Sailor, Frogman, Spy) captures in this immersive account the drama and intrigue of Berlin in the immediate aftermath of WWII. At the 1945 Yalta conference, Berlin was divided into three zones of occupation to be controlled by the U.S., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. However, the border of Soviet-controlled East Germany was drawn 110 miles west of Berlin, which meant that the American and British sectors of the city would be surrounded by the Red Army. The Allies hoped that any difficulties could be overcome by diplomacy, but problems arose from the beginning. Soviet troops entered Berlin first and began a program of rape, violence, and plunder; by the time the Allies were allowed in, the Russians had looted everything of value from the Western sectors. Milton notes that the basic ration card providing Berliners with only 1,504 calories per day was known as the “death card,” and documents high-level Soviet defections that brought to light Russian infiltration of U.S. and British atomic research programs, Stalin’s rigging of local elections, the kidnapping of German scientists by the Soviets, the diplomatic tensions leading up to the 1948–1949 Soviet blockade of the city’s western half, and the resulting airlift that helped bring the siege to an end. Full of vivid details and intriguing personalities, this is a page-turning chronicle of a noteworthy period in world history. (July)