Like everybody else, New Books in History is also full of reminiscence of the fall of the Wall twenty years ago. Last week the DDR was subject, this week 1989 in a more broad aspect, but with emphasis on Poland in Marshal Poe's interview with Padraic Kenney.
Just like last week's guest Stevan Allen was in East-Germany, Padraic Kenney was in Poland when the Iron Curtain came tumbling down like a rusty wreckage. Of course the actual opening of the Berlin Wall was the apotheosis and the most tangible symptom of the communist demise, yet it was, according to Kenney, a mere incident in the chain of events. And in this chain, Germany was much less the place to witness the downfall of the Soviet System than Poland was, or Hungary or Czechoslovakia.
The most important element in the picture Kenney paints is the way in which the communists, before they effectively had lost their power, had lost their grip. Kenney describes it thus: people were no longer afraid of the authorities. Of course, people could still be arrested, but they began to feel nothing was really being done. They found they would be released anyway and it would be just having gone through the motions. And so the whole terror effect of the regime went absent. This was what made clear that barriers would open up rather sooner than later and that the communists would get out of power as well.
The Ossie twilight,
The first day of LBJ,
Political rationalizations in Nazi-Germany.