Berlin 1961

Konrad Adenauer, suspicious ally

May 10, 2011

Federal Chancellery, Bonn, West Germany

January 5, 1961

Friends speculated that it had been his inconsolable concerns over President Kennedy’s fitness for office that had worsened Konrad Adenauer’s illness; a cold he had contracted before the U.S. elections deepened to bronchitis and then pneumonia. On the occasion of the West German chancellor’s 85th birthday, others attributed his fragility to age.

On New Year’s Eve, a Communist in a hurry

May 9, 2011

The Kremlin, Moscow
New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1960

“It was just minutes before midnight, and Nikita Khrushchev had reason to be relieved 1960 was nearly over. He had even greater cause for concern about the year ahead as he surveyed his two thousand New Year’s guests under the towering, vaulted ceiling of St. George’s Hall at the Kremlin.

The legacy of Soviet rape in Germany

May 8, 2011

I first visited four of my elderly East German aunts as a college student in the late 1970s, they were willing to discuss almost anything except the final days of World War II and the first days of Soviet military occupation.  Only over time and in whispers, did one of my aunt’s share the story. She and her sisters, she said, had each suffered either rape or some other sexual abuse at the hands of troops that history recorded as their liberators and allies.

How misreading Khrushchev led to confrontation

May 6, 2011

Five years after his forced retirement, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1969 would concede to the American physician A. McGhee Harvey, a specialist who had visited Moscow to treat his daughter, that his watershed political event – the moment after which he “was no longer in full control” of the Kremlin — had been the Soviet shooting down of the U-2 American spy plane in May of 1960.

The characters who clashed in Berlin 1961

May 5, 2011

“The Great Man Theory,” first developed by the Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle in the 19th Century, argues that history can be largely explained by the influence of towering historical figures from Shakespeare to Attila the Hun. Its detractors contend that the societal forces and trends which produce these people are more decisive.

Reliving the Cold War’s tensest moment

May 5, 2011

Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s face turned red with rage. Leaning in close to U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Khrushchev said that Cold War Berlin was “the most dangerous place on earth.” He told Kennedy he would “perform an operation on this sore spot – to eliminate this thorn, this ulcer…to the satisfaction of all peoples of the world.”