Berlin Witness: An American Diplomat's Chronicle of East Germany's Revolution
By G. Jonathan Greenwald
Penn State Press, 1993, 347 pp.
Elizabeth Pond, a long-time journalist in Germany, has written a fine instant history of the complex events and developments that led to German unification. She was an eyewitness to these events, but complemented what she saw by interviewing a wide array of leading actors in both Germanies, Europe and the United States. She also has an exceptional command of the new literature. She relates the diplomatic context of unification, giving generous praise to America's decisive role-a role, she argues, that Americans themselves failed to appreciate fully. So much of the drama of the G.D.R.'s dissolution was improvised-a fact that Pond acknowledges and that makes her analysis especially credible and valuable. An assured optimism pervades her conclusions, for example: "Thus, following German unification, the EC is condemned to succeed." Some sentence!
Greenwald was the last Political Counselor at our East German embassy and his diary notes cover the momentous months from the accelerating unrest in the G.D.R. in 1989 to actual unification. An exceptional record of a tottering regime, with shrewd observations about the special character of the G.D.R.: "Ironically, while the more successful West German society adds greatly to dissatisfaction, its nearness makes East Germans less inclined to take risks." As did Stasi omnipresence, but at the end and with the encouragement of the churches, vast numbers of East Germans did take to the streets, at incalculable risk. Greenwald gives fine portraits of East German reformers, of those who hoped for a thoroughly democratic but still independent G.D.R.. He also gives a close, cordial view of the American Foreign Service. Greenwald's book has an immediacy and incisiveness that Pond's retroactive reconstruction largely lacks.