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Beyond the Wall


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About the Author

Katja Hoyer is a German-British historian, journalist and the author of the widely acclaimed Blood and Iron. A visiting Research Fellow at King's College London and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, she is a columnist for the Washington Post and hosts the podcast The New Germany together with Oliver Moody. She was born in East Germany and is now based in the UK.


Forget everything you thought you knew about life in the GDR. This terrifically colourful, surprising and enjoyable history of the socialist state is full of surprises
*The Sunday Times*

What makes this meticulous book essential reading is not so much its sense of what East Germans lost, as what we never had. A history of the GDR that adds stability, contentment and women's rights to the familiar picture of authoritarianism

A lively, objective and original study ... Although Hoyer depicts a country of which some became proud, she is in no doubt about its inviability: the state gave “an illusion of civil rights and basic freedoms” that the mass import of Levi jeans to appease a restless youth could not conceal
*Telegraph, Books of the Year*

We often think of East Germany as grey, but this is a surprisingly colourful book. Born in the GDR’s far east in the 1980s, Katja Hoyer is an admirably open-minded guide to its bizarre history. She’s excellent on the communist elite, such as the grim apparatchik Erich Honecker, but her story really comes alive when she’s writing about the lives of ordinary people, from their Baltic summer holidays to their beloved Trabant cars
*The Times, Best Books of the Year*

A from-start-to-finish account of the East Germany where Hoyer was born, which means not just the Stasi but also day jobs, picnics and rock albums. The result is a complete reconstruction of a country that stopped existing 23 years ago
*Prospect Magazine, Books of the Year 2023*

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
*Daily Telegraph*

Absolutely fascinating

A rich, counterintuitive history of a country all too often dismissed as a freak or accident of the cold war

Myth-busting, artfully constructed history. . . Katja Hoyer displays a special understanding and wants to present a corrective to previous reductive assessments of the GDR that depict it as a field-grey Stasiland. . . Her command of detail, broad historical brush strokes and evident sympathy for her interview partners make for a fascinating read
*The Times*

Impressively researched … Hoyer makes a strong case for paying the vanished state its historical due … her well-told stories of valiant East Germans are a tribute to human resilience under brutal conditions
*New York Times*

Enthralling, fascinating and very readable. An extraordinary book. Five stars
*Mail on Sunday*

A fast-paced, vivid and engaging book. Beyond the Wall does much to combat amnesia and Cold War prejudice, and to normalize the GDR and the people who lived there

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 stroy it is, too
*The Tablet*

Tremendous. Until the publication of Beyond the Wall, there hadn't been an English language history of the GDR with which to colour in that vanished country's past

A bold, deft history of the forty-one years of the German Democratic Republic. Hoyer is a historian with skin in the game
*Literary Review*

Beyond the Wall breaks away from Cold War stereotypes to depict 'normal life' in the German Democratic Republic ... a bestseller against the odds ... unexpectedly resonant
*Le Monde*

Humane, deeply historically informed and compelling
*Country Life*

Now a historian and commentator, Hoyer tells the country's human story with a compelling eye for detail in a book that deftly unpicks the complexities and contradictions of the so-called People's State
*New Statesman*

East Germany once seemed an amalgam of useful symbols: The Wall; Stasi secret police; superhuman athletes. Katja Hoyer has looked beyond the stereotypes to discover something more complex, a dynamic society distinct from the Warsaw Pact and different from West Germany. Fascinating and engagingly written, this book uncovers a rich and diverse culture in a country surrounded by barbed wire and weighed down by the contradictions
*The Times, Best Books of the Year*

Offers a set of fresh and often brave perspectives on East Germany during the Cold War and after
*Spectator, Books of the Year*

There's been a swell of books about the former German Democratic Republic this year, but this chunky tome might be the best. Historian Hoyer blends large-scale political insights with engaging personal stories
*Independent, Summer Books*

Katja Hoyer's monumentally successful history of the GDR is a call to restore the history of East Germany to the mainstream of German modern history ... a feast of vignettes and anecdotes, it is a genuine pleasure to read
*Aspects of History, Best Books of the Year*

Beyond the Wall recreates vividly what it was like to live under communist rule behind the Iron Curtain. Fascinating and wholly original
*Country and Town House, Books of the Year*

Through interviews and personal experience, Katja Hoyer brings a new understanding to a country that has now vanished ... A fresh look at what life was like for average people in East Germany ... intriguing and surprising
*ABC, Radio National*

With Beyond the Wall, Katja 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*

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*

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*

Superb, totally fascinating and compelling, Katja 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*

A beyond-brilliant new picture of the rise and fall of the East German state. Katja 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*

A fantastic, sparkling book, filled with insights not only about East Germany but about the Cold War, Europe and the forging of the 20th and 21st centuries
*Peter Frankopan*

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 Katja Hoyer turns the light back on and gives us the best kind of history: frank, vivid, nuanced and filled with interesting people
*Ivan Krastev*

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*

A colourful and often revelatory re-appraisal of one of modern history's most fascinating political curiosities. Katja Hoyer skilfully weaves diverse political and private lives together, from the communist elite to ordinary East Germans
*Frederick Taylor*

Katja 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*

Katja Hoyer brilliantly shows that 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*

Katja Hoyer's return to discover what happened to her homeland - the old East Germany - is an excellent counterpoint to Stasiland by Anna Funder
*Iain Macgregor*

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