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Berlin 1961

Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth
Narrated by: Paul Hecht
Length: 20 hrs and 5 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (161 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A former Wall Street Journal editor and the current president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, Frederick Kempe draws on recently released documents and personal interviews to re-create the powder keg that was 1961 Berlin. In Cold War Berlin, the United States and the Soviet Union stand nose to nose, with the possibility of nuclear war just one misstep away.

©2011 Frederick Kempe (P)2011 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

I am scared in retrospect

I was living in Berlin as an American military dependent during the time period that this book examines. I was horrified to learn how close we came, those of us living in West Berlin and going about our daily lives, to being vaporized by the Russians. I must have sensed the anxiety because I remember vividly asking my father on a regular basis "If we went to war with the Russians, who would win?" I remember the question. I do not remember the answer. My father was the commanding officer of AFN Berlin, the American Forces Network radio station at the time. We had no TV. We only had the radio. I remember all the circumstances described in the book. I was largely unaware of the context. Indeed, I was in East Berlin on a "tour" with my sister and a Swedish cousin who was visiting, one week before the wall went up. I was actually in Sweden visiting relatives with my parents the day the wall went up on August 13, 1961. I remember vividly the trek thru the Eastern Germany and the Checkpoint like a Hitchcock movie. We hurried back to West Berlin as my two younger brothers were still in the city in the care of a babysitter. My father is no longer alive to discuss these events with me so I only have the memories of the time and the conversations we had about those events. I found this book to be so insightful albeit terrifying. It is so frightening to learn after the fact how close to the front line we were living (for 5 years!) unaware of the danger we were in. Berlin, its charm and its drama had such an effect on all of the Americans that lived through those days that we have "found" each other and formed a group, a collective it you will. The experience defines us like no other experience has. Mr. Kempe did an outstanding job bringing those days to life again.... in all their triumph and fear. Reading the book I felt in a way that family secrets were being revealed. Enjoyed this book immensely and have recommended it hi

41 of 44 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Important history well told

Any additional comments?

Easy to follow and well narrated. A story full of interesting insight with just enough relevant detail to fill up the canvas. A gut-wrenching tale of how close we came to nuclear war. A war prevented in spite of the foibles of men, skewed perceptions of the other, and the chance of history. The wall was an afterthought that came about due to its own momentum. A band-aid that held throughout the Cold War.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Superb in every way

A very well written, and equally well read, telling of the behind-the-scenes facts during a dangerously fascinating time in world history

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Eye opening

What did you love best about Berlin 1961?

I was a young child during this time, and didn't know about this. I had heard bits and pieces but nothing as detailed as this.

What did you like best about this story?

The history facts.

Have you listened to any of Paul Hecht’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, was just amazed that I had never heard the history stated in this way

Any additional comments?

No

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • philip
  • bronx, NY, United States
  • 04-06-17

First rate history of often overlooked crisis

I give this book a 5 because it sustained an exciting narrative until the final scene. After going over every detail of the building cris over several months the author skips through the climatic showdown rather breezily. The epilogue reveals the authors neocon preferences for how Kennedy should have handled Berlin. Not a neocon myself but respect his points, worthy of debate. Highly recommend this book.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Practical information we can use today

Would you consider the audio edition of Berlin 1961 to be better than the print version?

They are both good.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Berlin 1961?

Everything was memorable.

Have you listened to any of Paul Hecht’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes. This compares well with his other performances. I wish Paul Hecht could read all books.

If you could rename Berlin 1961, what would you call it?

I wouldn't rename this book.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael
  • CANBERRA CITY, Australia
  • 06-14-19

Interesting yet good for sleeping

This was a well researched, informative and well narrated audio book, My review title "Interesting yet good for sleeping" reflects the fact that I have developed two distinct lines of preference for audio books (and I have an extensive library and have listened to many).

The first type I am searching for is the "thoroughly engaging" e.g. I am on a long drive and so caught up in the story and narration that when I have arrived at my destination I don't want to stop, as I am so mentally enthralled by the listening experience that I want it to continue to the very end,

The second type I look for is the "informative sleep aid". That is, when the light goes out and my mind wants to find something to focus on, I want to listen to something that will be engaging enough to prevent my mind whirling, yet monotone enough to let me drift off to sleep (as I learn something new). This one fits the bill exactly - thus: "Interesting yet good for sleeping".

This was a very interesting insight into the entire Berlin Wall saga (and the human tragedies that ensued), how it almost triggered WW3, largely fuelled the Cold War period, showed the failings of a new, inexperienced and comparatively young president (JFK) and how the Soviets were viewing the mistakes of the West.

Well researched and well presented. Bravo!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Evert
  • Burtonsville, MD, United States
  • 06-06-19

Wow!

A "must read" for anyone interested in how and why history is so important for understanding what happened and the impacts of past events that ripple on down to today. If ever there was an object lesson of what happens when America fails to act, this is it. A most gripping read indeed.

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  • Woody
  • APO, AE, United States
  • 05-29-19

An Incredible History of the Berlin Wall

I learned more than I expected...a lot more! Having been in East Berlin twice before the wall came down, I was able to identify with both the people and the politics surrounding this event. Kempe did an excellent job of portraying Kennedy and Khrushchev, and the tension between them and their nations. If you were alive during the Cold War, get this book!

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New Insights

Having grown up in America during the Cold War I have always searched for insightful historical reviews to understand that time period. I guess I was angry that as a child I had to hide under my desk for a nuclear strike & I wanted to understand why.
I heard also all the indoctrination about the “Communist Scare”. And false flag situations.
I believe any academic view of history should educate & increase better judgment. As history has shown, better judgment is clouded by intents not governed by honorable reasons and we still keep shaking our heads at the folly.

During this audible book I learned a deal more about Communism & perhaps why it was more serious than my knowledge provided over the years. Dear Mao was indeed out to find new countries, like Tibet in 1959. However the information provided here gave an insight into the competition going on between the USDR & China, and expansionist ideas.

The focus on West Berlin in this writing connected problems of the Kennedy Administration with the Cuban missile crisis. For all the mistakes President Kennedy may have made, I still applaud his thinking outside the war box. I would have liked to have seen in this how it would have been difficult to combat group think as a new president. I have heard he used few close advisors because thinking outside of war wasn’t a part of the solution being offered.

I still believe this offers fresh insight, in grand chronological order, to flesh out the issues so immense that faced a new president. I applaud the author. Well done.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr. R. D. Cox
  • 03-22-16

the truth hurts<br />

the book interspersed the dry timeline of political events with the emotional human side well