Set In: Berlin

Revelers testing the wall in 1989.

Next month marks the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s hard to imagine that there is now an entire generation of young Germans who have known only a united Berlin (and Germany, for that matter), rather than the East and West versions. Although the wall no longer exists in physical form – except in small sections all over the world (the largest section in the U.S. is at the Wende Museum in Los Angeles) – there is still a psychological and emotional presence in those who lived with it.

Below are books set in Berlin, and many offer a story that includes the Wall. Pick up one and learn more about the Wall, the people it separated, or how its destruction has changed Germany.

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FICTION

Couplings – Peter Schneider

  • Eduard, a molecular biologist living in West Berlin, along with his friends Theo, a writer from East Berlin, and Andre, an international composer, scientifically examine every form of love and its complications and ironies, during the re-unification of the Germanies.

The Good German – Joseph Kanon

  • This compelling thriller is both a touching love story and a masterful portrayal of the struggle for geopolitical control of postwar Germany. Network correspondent Jake Geismar, who covered Berlin before the war, has returned to the devastated city, ostensibly to cover the Potsdam Conference but actually to find the woman he loves. When the bullet-ridden body of an American soldier washes up on the shores of Potsdam, Jake is plunged into a maelstrom of intrigue, corruption, and betrayal.

Secret Father – James Carroll

  • In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, three teenagers in West Germany head for Berlin to join a May Day rally on the Communist side of the divided city, only to find themselves arrested by the East German secret police.

The Story of Henri Tod – William F. Buckley, Jr.

  • Suave CIA agent Blackford Oakes returns to attempt to keep the Soviets from dividing Berlin with the infamous Berlin Wall, in a story of international intrigue, political machinations, and espionage set during the height of the Cold War.

The Student Conductor – Robert Ford

  • Returning to the orchestral communities of Germany just as the Berlin Wall falls, Cooper Barrow begins studying under the cruel and capricious maestro and concentration camp survivor Karlheinz Ziegler, an endeavor that is compromised by a psychologically complex relationship with a beautiful fellow musician.

Trudy’s Promise – M.K. Preston

  • Branded the wife of a defector and sent to prison, Trudy Hulst, wondering if her husband survived his attempted escape past the newly constructed Berlin Wall, makes a break for freedom, determined to find the son she had to leave behind.

The Wall – John Marks

  • A few hours before the Berlin Wall falls in 1989, an American spy defects to the East.

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NONFICTION

Berlin, 1961 – Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth – Frederick Kempe

  • Shares controversial perspectives on a defining event in the Cold War, revealing how nearly American and Soviet troops came to waging nuclear war while citing the specific challenges that were faced by international leaders.

Berlin Now: The City After the Fall – Peter Schneider

  • Berlin Now is a longtime Berliner’s bright, bold, and digressive exploration of the heterogeneous allure of this vibrant city. Schneider takes us on an insider’s tour of this rapidly metamorphosing metropolis, where high-class soirees are held at construction sites and enterprising individuals often accomplish more without public funding–assembling a makeshift club on the banks of the Spree River–than Berlin’s officials do. .

The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989 – Fred Taylor

  • A history of the 103-mile wall between East and West Germany discusses its geopolitical ramifications, its representation of the struggle between Soviet communism and American capitalism, and the internal and external pressures that led to its dismantling.

The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall – Mary Elise Sarotte

  • Historian Mary Elise Sarotte shows that the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, was not, as is commonly believed, the East German government’s deliberate concession to outside influence. It was an accident. A carelessly worded memo written by mid-level bureaucrats, a bumbling press conference given by an inept member of the East German Politburo, the negligence of government leaders, the bravery of ordinary people in East and West Berlin–these combined to bring about the end of nearly forty years of oppression, fear, and enmity in divided Berlin.

Spies Beneath Berlin– David Stafford

  • An account of the covert cold war activities surrounding Operation Stopwatch/Gold traces the surveillance of German Red Army intelligence from a secret tunnel and the activities of a British secret service mole who impacted both sides.

Wall: The Inside Story of Divided Berlin – Peter Wyden

  • Erected in 1961 to stop the mass exodus of East Germans to the West, the Berlin Wall is a grim symbol of the Cold War. Wyden describes superpower confrontations in which the Wall has been central, and reveals in detail the policies and punishments imposed on citizens who either try to cross it or merely express a desire to live in the West.

When the Wall Came Down: The Berlin Wall and the Fall of Soviet Communism – Serge Schmemann

  • Articles from the archives of “The New York Times” and the author’s first-hand account of one of the greatest moments in European history relate the division of Berlin after World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

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