‘Based on a lifetime living in and reporting on Germany and Central Europe, award-winning journalist and author Peter Millar tackles the fascinating and complex story of the people at the heart of our continent.’
-The Germans And Europe
It is a pleasure to be sharing an extract with you all from The Germans and Europe: A Personal Frontline History by award-winning journalist and author, Peter Millar. The Sunday Times describes it as ‘part autobiography, part history primer and part Fleet Street gossip column, Millar casts aside the old chestnuts and sets about reporting on the reality of life’ The Germans and Europe: A Personal Frontline History will be published in paperback format on December 10th with Arcadia Books,
‘Based on a lifetime living in and reporting on Germany and Central Europe, Peter Millar’s The Germans And Europe is a zigzag ride from one side of the Germanic world to the other via the fall of the Berlin Wall through to the horrors of two world wars. Peter recollects remarkable anecdotes from his time as a young journalist in Berlin from sneaking into the forbidden city of Kaliningrad, his expulsion from Germany after getting arrested on the streets of East Berlin during the demonstrations which accompanied Gorbachev’s visit in 1989, being a target of the Stasi with 29 microphones hidden in the walls of his apartment and witnessing spectacular and transformative moments in history from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the end of the Soviet Union.‘
[ About the Book ]
Focussing on nine cities (only six of which are in the Germany of today) he takes us on a zigzag ride back through time via the fall of the Berlin Wall through the horrors of two world wars, the patchwork states of the Middle Ages, to the splendour of Charlemagne and the fall of Rome, with side swipes at everything on the way, from Henry VIII to the Spanish Empire.
Peter recollects remarkable anecdotes from his time as a young journalist in Berlin from sneaking into the forbidden city of Kaliningrad, his expulsion from Germany after getting arrested on the streets of East Berlin during the demonstrations which accompanied Gorbachev’s visit in 1989, being a target of the Stasi with 29 microphones hidden in the walls of his apartment and witnessing spectacular and transformative moments in history from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the end of the Soviet Union.
This book takes Peter – and the reader – from one side of the Germanic world to the other, from Königsberg on the Baltic (today’s Russian Kaliningrad), founded by the Teutonic Knights, to Strassburg on the banks of the Rhine (today’s French Strasbourg). We visit the restored great cities of Hamburg and Dresden, both all but eradicated by British and American bombers in World War II, to Berlin itself, the small northern city that became an imperial capital, and at the other extreme today’s capital of a small Alpine Republic, which for centuries was the German-speaking heart of Europe, while the Gates of Vienna were the last bulwark of Christendom.
The Germans and Europe includes mini portraits of German culture from sex and money to food and drink. Not just a book about Germany but about Europe as a whole and how we got where we are today, and where we might be tomorrow.
[ Extract ]
Where an empire began and ended, a city whose most famous
inhabitants changed the way we see and understand the world
The Road to Nowhere
I first set foot in Europe’s last forbidden city on an icy day in early March 1990 at a unique moment in European history when rules that had endured for half a century ceased to apply, and a timid Lithuanian taxi driver could be bribed to brave roads lined with snow and ice and trigger-happy Russian soldiers.
Early that morning we – myself and Tomas, a glum pessimist, more worried about the health of his ageing Lada than any pipe dream of democracy – pulled out of Vilnius on the frozen roads with flurries of sleet, snow and the acrid scent of cordite and revolution in the air. Our destination was Kaliningrad, the stolen red star in Stalin’s tarnished crown, the sweetest prize in Russia’s ‘Great Patriotic War’: a warm-water home for the Soviet Baltic fleet and mastery of a city that throughout its history had played a pivotal role in the creation of the German empire. It had been the final proof that not only had Stalin’s empire triumphed over Hitler’s, but that the successor to the tsars had triumphed over the empire of the Kaisers. Its conquest had such symbolic importance that Stalin had made it part of Russia herself, and not the adjacent puppet Soviet Republic of Lithuania that separated it from its new motherland. It never occurred to him that one day his empire too might fall apart at the seams.
I had been in Vilnius, still legally capital of Soviet Lithuania, for over a week, covering for the Sunday Times one of the final chapters in the story of tumbling dominoes that had begun spectacularly 16 months earlier with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Anti-Soviet riots in the streets had led to the erection of barricades and a declaration of independence by self-proclaimed parliamentary deputies. The Soviet empire was crumbling, the Kremlin was in denial. It had issued an ultimatum and was threatening to send in the troops.
But today was Sunday, publication day, which meant I had at least 48 hours before I had to concentrate on next week’s story, and there was another adventure to hand. During the three years I had spent in Moscow for Reuters during the 1980s, visiting Kaliningrad had been an impossible dream; the ancient city of the kings of Prussia was a secretive destination sealed off to all foreigners, on a par with a few cities in Siberia and the Ural mountains, home to gulag camps or secret atomic weapons facilities. Even Soviet citizens needed special permission to travel there.
For me there was magic in its original name: for nearly 800 years since its foundation in the 13th-century Kaliningrad been called Königsberg, ‘King’s Rock’. A fortress city built by the Teutonic Knights, it was the first seat of Prussian monarchs and until 1945 one of the most important cities in German history. Without Königsberg there could have been no ‘kings’ in Prussia, and without a King of Prussia, no Kaiser of Germany, no 19th-century German Reich and therefore no 20th-century ‘Third Reich’. The whole of German history, the whole of European history, would have been quite different.
Purchase Link ~ The Germans and Europe: A Personal Frontline History
[ Bio ]
Peter Millar is an award-winning journalist, author and translator. Born in Co.Down. Ireland, Peter read French and Russian at Oxford, lived in Paris , then Brussels as a reporter for Reuters .In early 1981, at the age of 26, he was sent as correspondent to East Berlin, then to Moscow, where he lived three years, from the death of Brezhnev to the rise of Gorbachev. His career, including the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and European, took him to Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest and Belgrade, as well as throughout Germany.
Peter was named Foreign Correspondent of the Year in 1989 for his reporting on the dying stages of the Cold War, his account of which – 1989: The Berlin Wall, My Part in its Downfall( 2009, 2014) – was named ‘best read’ by The Economist.
Peter’s books span both fiction and non-fiction including Stealing Thunder (1999) All Gone to Look for America (2009), The Shameful Suicide of Winston Churchill (2010), and Slow Train to Guantanamo (2013). He speaks, German, French, Russian and Spanish, as well as English.
Twitter – @peterjmillar
website – http://www.petermillar.eu/
This sounds fascinating – and is now going on the Christmas list! Thanks x
Thank you Janet. I hope you enjoy xx