Wow. I really loved this book. Berlin: 1961 by Fredrick Kempe details the establishment of the Berlin Wall. The first section offers a look into the leaders who played key rolls in the Berlin crisis. Then readers are treated to a by-by-play account of creation of the wall and the western response (or lack there of). Finally, the epilogue takes readers through a critique of Kennedy’s actions and how the aftermath of Berlin was linked to Cuba. I will say the last 1/3 of the book provides the real action! So, if you’re pressed for time, skip to the end!
In addition to the barebones facts of history, Kempe offers small vignettes offering readers a look at the real occupants of Berlin. Many of the compelling stories of escape from East Berlin are featured– and I am very interested to follow up with a book of life behind the wall. Kempe uses these stories to illustrate the heart-braking elements of the wall.
As a reader, I was left feeling that JFK really abandoned the German people and betrayed the cause of freedom through his weakness. Furthermore, I am left wondering if there would ever even had been a wall if Nixon were elected the first time.
I highly recommend this book. It provides an interesting, thoughtful, well-researched point of view of a time and place critical to the American-Soviet Cold War.