Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany

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9781558493858: Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany

"This work is unique and important. It is one of the very few autobiographies by a Communist activist of the generation of the 1940s. Neither a 'confession' nor a vulgar apology, it is unrepentant but not uncritical." - Alan Wald, University of Michigan

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What could impel a privileged 24-year-old American serving in the US Army in Germany in 1952 to swim across the Danube River to what was then referred to as the Soviet Zone? Why did he decide to forsake the land of his birth and build a new life in the young German Democratic Republic? These are the questions at the core of this memoir by Victor Grossman who was born Stephen Wechsler but changed his name after defecting to the GDR. A child of the Depression, Grossman witnessed first-hand the dislocations wrought by the collapse of the US economy during the 1930s. Unemployment, poverty, strikes and the fight to save Republican Spain from fascism made an indelible impression as he grew up in an environment that nurtured a commitment to left-wing causes. He continued his involvement with Communist activities as a student at Harvard in the late 1940s and after graduation, when he took jobs in factories in Buffalo, New York and tried to organize their workers. Fleeing McCarthyite America and potential prosecution, Grossman worked in GDR with other Western defectors, He was able to establish himself as a freelance journalist, lecturer and author. Travelling through East Germany he evaluated the failures as well as the successes of the GDR's "socialist experiment". He also recorded his experiences, observations and judgements of life in East Berlin after reunification, which failed to bring about the post-Communist paradise so many had expected.

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