Beyond the Wall: A History of East Germany
AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • From the ashes of the Second World War to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the definitive history of East Germany, "a fascinating, sparkling book, filled with insights" (Peter Frankopan)
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.
In Beyond the Wall, acclaimed historian Katja Hoyer sets aside the usual Cold War caricatures of the GDR to offer a kaleidoscopic new vision of this vanished country, revealing the rich political, social, and cultural landscape that existed amid oppression and hardship. Drawing on a vast array of never-before-seen interviews and documents, this is the definitive history of the other Germany, beyond the Wall.
Praise for Beyond the Wall: A History of East Germany
"In this impressively researched history of East Germany, Hoyer excavates the human and the worthwhile from the rubble of a police state. Her lens is primarily on geopolitics, but her narrative kicks into gear when she lingers on the lives of ordinary East Berliners."
—New York Times Book Review
“What makes this meticulous book essential reading is not so much its sense of what East Germans lost but of what we never had. A history of the GDR that adds stability, contentment, and women’s rights to the familiar picture of authoritarianism.”
—Stuart Jeffries, Guardian
"[The GDR] was one of the strangest countries to have ever existed, a jewel box of contradictions...These contradictions are beautifully captured in Beyond the Wall...Crafting an expansive and generous history of East Germany, Hoyer brings long-standing academic scholarship to a broader audience, explaining how the GDR evolved over its 40-year existence, the triumphs and travails of everyday life under state socialism, and why so many East Germans continue to pine for the country they have lost."
“Hoyer’s book is an erudite plea for empathy in grappling with the ongoing aftershocks of German reunification.”—Foreign Policy
"Fast-paced, vivid and engaging."
—Times Literary Supplement
“Forget everything you thought you knew about life in the GDR. This terrifically colorful, surprising, and enjoyable history of the socialist state is full of surprises. Enormously refreshing.”
—Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
“Brilliant. Hoyer is a historian of immense ability. Exhaustively researched, cleverly constructed, and beautifully written, this much-needed history of the GDR should be required reading across her homeland. Five stars.”
—Saul David, Daily Telegraph
“Enthralling, fascinating, and very readable history.”
—Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday
“A rich, counterintuitive history of a country all too often dismissed as a freak or accident of the Cold War.”
“A vivid political story of the communist German state.”
"A sweeping history of East Germany."
—Los Angeles Review of Books
"Well-researched, well-written, and profoundly insightful, it explodes many of the lazy Western cliches about East Germany."
“Myth-busting, artfully constructed history. Hoyer displays a special understanding and wants to present a corrective to previous reductive assessments of the GDR that depict it as a field-gray Stasiland. Her command of detail, broad historical brush strokes, and evident sympathy for her interview partners make for a fascinating read.”
—Roger Boyes, Times (London)
“Having begun her life behind the wall, Hoyer tells the story of the GDR with emotional intensity but also with the detachment and balance of a professional historian who is determined to portray both the good and bad. And a very interesting story it is, too.”
—Oliver Letwin, The Tablet
“Tremendous. Until the publication of Beyond the Wall, there hadn’t been an English-language history of the GDR with which to color in that vanished country’s past.”
—Peter Hoskins, Prospect
“A bold, deft history of the forty-one years of the German Democratic Republic. Hoyer is a historian with skin in the game.”
—John Kampfner, Literary Review
“Beyond the Wall is not just a superb history of East Germany. It is most certainly that, but it is also an outstanding history, full stop. Hoyer’s blend of deeply personal and human stories with high politics and culture brings the story of the GDR vividly to life and shows how the legacy of East Germany is very much alive in Germany and Europe today."
"Fair, balanced and understanding."
"Historian and journalist Hoyer (Blood and Iron) captivates with this compassionate narrative of a lost nation."
“A fantastic, sparkling book, filled with insights not only about East Germany but about the Cold War, Europe, and the forging of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”
—Peter Frankopan, New York Times-bestselling author of The Silk Roads
“With Beyond the Wall, Hoyer confirms her place as one of the best young historians writing in English today. On the heels of her superb Blood and Iron, about the rise and fall of the Second Reich, comes another masterpiece, this one about the aftermath of the Third Reich in the East. Well-researched, well-written, and profoundly insightful, it explodes many of the lazy Western cliches about East Germany.”
—Andrew Roberts, New York Times-bestselling author of Churchill
“Superb, totally fascinating, and compelling, Hoyer’s first full history of East Germany’s rise and fall is a work of revelatory original research—and a gripping read with a brilliant cast of characters. Essential reading.”
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, New York Times-bestselling author of The Romanovs
“Hoyer brilliantly shows the history of East Germany was a significant chapter of German history, not just a footnote to it or a copy of the Soviet Union. To understand Germany today, we have to grapple with the history and legacy of its all-but-dismissed East.”
—Serhii Plokhy, New York Times-bestselling author of The Gates of Europe
“A gripping and nuanced history of the GDR from its beginnings as a separate German socialist state against the wishes of Stalin to its final rapprochement with its Western other against those of Gorbachev. Beyond the Wall is a unique fresco of everyday reality in East Germany. Elegantly moving between diplomatic history, political economy, and cultural analysis, this is an essential read to understand not only the life and death of the GDR but also the parts of it that still survive in the emotions of its former citizens.”
—Lea Ypi, author of Free
“A colorful and often revelatory re-appraisal of one of modern history’s most fascinating political curiosities. Hoyer skilfully weaves diverse political and private lives together, from the communist elite to ordinary East Germans.”
—Frederick Taylor, author of The Berlin Wall
“Utterly brilliant. This gripping account of East Germany sheds new light on what for many of us remains an opaque chapter of history. Authoritative, lively, and profoundly human, it is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand post-WW2 Europe.”
—Julia Boyd, author of Travelers in the Third Reich
“The joke has it that the duty of the last East German to escape from the country was to turn off the lights. In Beyond the Wall, Hoyer turns the light back on and gives us the best kind of history: frank, vivid, nuanced, and filled with interesting people.”
—Ivan Krastev, author of After Europe
“Hoyer is becoming the authoritative voice in the English-speaking world for all things German. Thanks to her, German history has the prominence in the Anglosphere it certainly deserves.”
—Dan Snow, History Hit
“A beyond-brilliant new picture of the rise and fall of the East German state. Hoyer gives us not only pin-sharp historical analysis, but an up-close and personal view of both key characters and ordinary citizens whose lives charted some of the darkest hours of the Cold War. If you thought you knew the history of East Germany, think again. An utterly riveting read.”
—Julie Etchingham, ITV News
“A refreshing and eye-opening book on a country that is routinely reduced to cartoonish cliché. Beyond the Wall is a tribute to the ordinary East Germans who built themselves a society that—for a time—worked for them, a society carved out of a state founded in the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism.”
—Owen Hatherley, author of Landscapes of Communism