Cover of William R. Smyser: From Yalta to Berlin

William R. Smyser From Yalta to Berlin

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St. Martin'S Press










"No nation's fury, no nation's fate, had a greater impact on the twentieth century" than Germany's, writes W.R. Smyser, a onetime State Department official now considered a leading expert on Germany. In this eye-opening account, Smyser suggests the question of Germany is central to understanding the cold war. The country itself lies in the heart of Europe: "If one takes a map of Europe and draws one line from Paris to Moscow and another line from Stockholm to Rome, the two lines intersect remarkably close to the Brandenburg Gate," writes Smyser, in one of his characteristically smart observations. The author has a strong grasp of the leaders who quarreled over Germany between the end of the Second World War and its unification in the 1990s, and an especially good grasp of their motives. Using new archival information, he suggests that Stalin did not in fact want a divided Germany, and that President Kennedy, for his part, had the opportunity to prevent construction of the Berlin Wall but failed to take proper action. Despite all its agonies, the Cold War did have some positive effects: "It served as the essential incubator for a modern German state" and eventually allowed this most problematic of nations to become a peaceful member of the world community. As Smyser points out; the Cold War "ended as it had to end, not on the battlefield but on the streets, in the churches, atop the Berlin Wall and in the conference room. It ended so that all could win, and did." This is a winning account of how it happened. --John J. Miller

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