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Reviewed by:
  • The Cold War in Germany: Overview, Origins, and Intelligence Wars
  • Helga Haftendorn
Otis C. Mitchell , The Cold War in Germany: Overview, Origins, and Intelligence Wars. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005. 256 pp. $37.00.

The author of this book, Otis C. Mitchell, is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Cincinnati who worked as a young soldier from 1957 to 1959 at the Bremerhaven Field Office of the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps in Germany. Intelligence and counterintelligence were at their height in this period between the outbreak of the Korean War and the construction of the Berlin Wall. Mitchell's book should thus profit from both the expertise of a seasoned history teacher and the firsthand experience of an intelligence analyst.

Mitchell's background somewhat explains the setup of the book. Part I, consisting of chapters one through eight, gives an account of the evolution of Russian American friendship from the Tsarist regime through the Soviet period, all the way to the advent of détente. In this factional history, the author sides with the "indigenous school" of Russian studies that attributes the rise and demise of the Soviet Union to long-term internal factors. Additional footnoted detail is given in three case studies (called "interpolations")—on the Berlin airlift, the June 1953 uprising in East Germany, and the building of the Berlin Wall. I suspect the author drew on articles he had written earlier. The general emphasis of this rather superficial and occasionally faulty account is on the most important international events. Some facts are slanted, names misspelled (Ruhrgebiet, Grotewohl Plan, etc.) and the copyediting and formatting are sloppy.

A new section of the book begins with chapter 7, in which Mitchell tries to explain how and why the Cold War came about. He starts with a behavioral interpretation of Communism and of American civilization and continues by detailing the post 1945 intentions of the Soviet Union and United States, concentrating on their divergent worldviews. This analysis provides the background for a second cut at Cold War history, this time focusing on major developments such as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the integration of West Germany into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This section, however, is as cursory as the first part and lacks any references. The whole section is therefore of little use to the advanced student or [End Page 167] the history teacher looking for references to major works used and documents available, either in the original or in one of the major collections listed in the bibliography. The book also would have been better if Mitchell had drawn on non-U.S. publications, many of which are available in English translations.

The third part of the book, starting with chapter 16 and titled "West Berlin and Germany: The Intelligence Battle Ground," covers the period from the beginning of the occupation to the building of the Berlin wall. Mitchell deals with the two sides' mutual misunderstandings of their political intentions and takes a third cut at the evolution of the Cold War. Chapters 19–21 then describe the formation of the East German intelligence establishment and the corresponding Western activities. Although this part does contain bibliographic references, including some to newly released U.S. Central Intelligence Agency documents, the whole section, like the other parts of the book, lacks originality.

Mitchell has missed a great opportunity to merge his reading of the historical literature on the Cold War with his experience as an intelligence analyst. An account of this crucial period in German history as seen through the eyes of an intelligence analyst detailing his work would have been fascinating. Too bad. [End Page 168]

Helga Haftendorn
Free University of Berlin
...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-3298
Print ISSN
1520-3972
Pages
pp. 167-168
Launched on MUSE
2008-10-29
Open Access
No
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