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The Haunted Land

by Tina Rosenberg

Choice Freelance journalist and scholar Rosenberg, presently a fellow at the World Policy Institute, has turned her superior talents to a profound question facing Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism. How does society-- its people and its leaders--restore the truth and the historical past after communism? The need to come to terms with history after any war or revolution is problematic and is not always a matter of restoring truth. The legacy of living in communist societies makes this task perilous and necessary. Eastern Europeans have had to adjust their sense of the historical past to a reconstituted present on several occasions in this century, as new orthodoxies replaced old. With depth, and a style appealing to general readers as well as scholars, Rosenberg weaves a tapestry of stories, personal and public, gathered since 1991. She concentrates on the four previously communist nations of Poland, Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, where the ghosts of the haunted lands raise profound ethical dilemmas. Rosenberg suggests that these countries are not truly dealing with the past, because of the way it lives within them. One great challenge is for democratic societies to purge themselves of a communist past, and punish old villains (yesterday's heroes?) without violating democratic ideals. A powerful text. All levels. A. R. Brunello; Eckerd College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Book list Rosenberg, the first freelance journalist to receive a MacArthur "genius" grant, has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and The New Yorker; her first book--Children of Cain: Violence and the Violent in Latin America (1991)--was widely praised. In this study, Rosenberg investigates another kind of violence: the repression and coercion that were, until recently, an inescapable part of daily life for most citizens of Eastern Europe. Focusing on Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Germany, and Poland, Rosenberg humanizes her description of the aftermath of Communism's collapse with tales of three individuals: Rudolf Zukal, a longtime Czech dissident, denounced in 1991 as a collaborator; Wojciech Jaruzelski, the general who headed Poland after the first Solidarity uprising; and Michael Schmidt, an East German border guard who was tried, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, for killing the last person who attempted to escape to the West. Rosenberg compares totalitarianism in Latin America and Eastern Europe, suggesting that trials and punishment are vital for Latin America's "regimes of criminals" but are clumsy tools at best in coming to terms with Eastern Europe's "criminal regimes," which drew most citizens into their operations. A provocative study of a critical component in building the world's newest democracies. --Mary Carroll

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Freelance journalist Rosenberg's frequent trips since 1991 to eastern Europe and the former Soviet empire led to this trenchant report on the moral, political and legal dilemmas confronting Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia as they face their Communist pasts. She focuses on Czech dissident/human rights activist Rudolf Zukal, whose parliamentary career was shattered in 1989 by the revelation that he had been an informer for the secret police in the early 1960s. She also interviewed Polish Communist leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who, at his 1992 impeachment trial, argued that his imposition of martial law in 1981 was a necessary evil to save Poland from a Soviet invasion. Documents and testimony presented here contradict that rationale, showing that Jaruzelski was anxious to undercut Solidarity's growing power. Rosenberg also profiles Berlin Wall border guards and East German secret police informers now condemned for their unquestioning obedience to the old regime. Rosenberg wrote Children of Cain: Violence and the Violent in Latin America. (May)

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