Author(s): Frederick Kempe
"A mind-shaking work of investigative history". ("Wall Street Journal"). Checkpoint Charlie, 27 October 1961. At 9pm on a damp night, the "Cold War" reaches crisis point, US and Soviet tanks face off across the East-West divide, only yards apart. One mistake, one nervous soldier, could spring the tripwire for nuclear war...Frederick Kempe's gripping book tells the story of the Cold War's most dramatic year, when Berlin became what Khrushchev called 'the most dangerous place on earth'. Kempe re-creates the war of nerves between the young, untested President Kennedy and the bombastic Soviet leader as they squared off over the future of a divided city. He interweaves this with stories of the ordinary citizens whose lives were torn apart when the Berlin Wall went up - and the world came to the brink of disaster.
A gripping, well-researched, and thought-provoking book with many lessons for today -- Henry Kissinger Fast-paced, dramatic ... a great story. Both an enriching history and a rollicking good read Washington Post Fascinating ... A fine example of intelligent popular history. In concentrating on the clash between JFK and Krushchev, he does not crudely personalise the conflict. Rather he uses the differing ... situations of these two extraordinary men to strip away appearances and reveal the power realities -- Frederick Taylor Financial Times Kempe ... has taken on a monumental task and succeeded. The story-telling is masterful, both entertaining and elucidating. The story itself is one to provoke grievance and fury across generations Washington Independent Review of Books Berlin 1961 is a page-turner, written with all the vigour and verve of a spy novel, so you will have difficulty in putting it down until you have finished its 500 pages of gripping narrative International Affairs History at its best. Kempe's book masterfully dissects the Cold War's strategically most significant East-West confrontation, and in the process significantly enlightens our understanding of the complexity of the Cold War itself -- Zbigniew Brzezinski (National Security Advisor To President Jimmy Carter) [A] mind-shaking work of investigative history Wall Street Journal Kempe has masterfully captured the dramatic dimensions of a great story that shaped the world order for twenty-eight years. Berlin 1961 is an important achievement -- Chuck Hagel An amazing drama ... Kempe's compelling narrative is a triumph of great writing and research -- Walter Isaacson (President And Ceo, The Aspen Institute) Kempe's compelling narrative, astute analysis, and meticulous research bring fresh insight into a crucial and perilous episode of the Cold War, bringing Kennedy and Khrushchev to life as they square off at the brink of nuclear war. His masterly telling of a scary and cautionary tale from half a century ago has the immediacy of today's headlines -- Strobe Talbott (President, Brookings Institution) Engaging, richly researched, thought-provoking ... combines the 'You are there' storytelling skills of a journalist, the analytical skills of the political scientist, and the historian's use of declassified U.S., Soviet, and German documents to provide unique insight into the forces and individuals behind these events -- General Brent Scowcroft (National Security Advisor To Presidents Gerald Ford And George H. W. Bush) Takes us to Ground Zero of the Cold War. Reading these pages, you feel as if you are standing at Checkpoint Charlie, amid the brutal tension of a divided Berlin -- David Ignatius The genius at the heart of this gripping work resembles that of a play by Schiller or Shakespeare Financial Times
Frederick Kempe is president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. He previously spent more than twenty-five years as a reporter, columnist and editor for The Wall Street Journal, where he served as chief diplomatic correspondent, Berlin bureau chief and editor and associate publisher of the Journal's Europe edition. His previous three books are Divorcing the Dictator: America's Bungled Affair with Noriega, Siberian Odyssey: A Voyage into the Russian Soul and Father/Land: A Personal Search for the New Germany. He lives in Washington, D.C.