The period 1945-1949 is generally acknowledged as a critical period for the German people and their collective history. But it did not, Manfred Malzahn argues, lead inevitably to the construction of the Berlin Wall. As in 1989, so in 1945 the German people were prepared to break away from established patterns, to reassess, if need be, what it meant to be German. Then, as now, Germans East and West wanted order and stability; food, shelter, clothing and work. Using numerous documents from the immediate post-war years, Malzahn rescues the period from the burden of selective hindsight and nostalgia that has obscured the contemporary situation. The documents, which have been fully annotated, reflect life at all levels from politics to fashion, and contain both Allied and German viewpoints. They are bound together by an emphasis on communication, on Allied/German interaction, and on the Germans' dialogue with their past and expressions of their aspirations.