In 1990, a country disappeared. When the Iron Curtain fell, East Germany ceased to be. For over forty years, from the ruin of the Second World War to the cusp of a new millennium, the German Democratic Republic presented a radically different Germany than what had come before and what exists today. Socialist solidarity, secret police, central planning, barbed wire: this was a Germany forged on the fault lines of ideology and geopolitics. Historian Katja Hoyer sets aside the usual Cold War caricatures of the GDR to offer a new vision of this vanished country.
An exhaustive — and, at times, exhausting — attempt to restore the lost state to the historic significance she feels it has been denied ... Impressively researched ... Hoyer also draws sharp portraits of the hardened German Communists ... Tepid descriptions are among this important book’s weaknesses ... Hoyer makes a strong case for paying the vanished state its historical due. But her well-told stories of valiant East Germans are a tribute to human resilience under brutal conditions — not a credit to the state itself.
Enormously refreshing ... As a guide to East Germany’s political history, Hoyer is commendably brisk and judicious. But it’s when she’s discussing the lives of ordinary people that her book really comes alive ... Terrifically colourful, surprising and enjoyable.