Daily Life behind the Iron Curtain

by Jim Willis


Before the fall of the Iron Curtain, over 40,000 people living in Communist East Europe risked their lives trying to flee across the Berlin Wall and its extensions between 1961 and 1989. More than 900 of these individuals lost their lives in the attempts. Once nearly 90 miles long, only a small portion of the Berlin Wall still exists today, but the effects of forced isolation over three decades still linger today in reunified Germany.

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Cover image for Daily Life behind the Iron Curtain

January 2013


Pages 243
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics World History/Culture

This compelling book describes how everyday people courageously survived under repressive Communist regimes until the voices and actions of rebellious individuals resulted in the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe.

Part of Greenwood's Daily Life through History series, Daily Life behind the Iron Curtain enables today's generations to understand what it was like for those living in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, particularly the period from 1961 to 1989, the era during which these people—East Germans in particular—lived in the imposing shadow of the Berlin Wall.

An introductory chapter discusses the Russian Revolution, the end of World War II, and the establishment of the Socialist state, clarifying the reasons for the construction of the Berlin Wall. Many historical anecdotes bring these past experiences to life, covering all aspects of life behind the Iron Curtain, including separation of families and the effects on family life, diet, rationing, media, clothing and trends, strict travel restrictions, defection attempts, and the evolving political climate. The final chapter describes Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin wall and the slow assimilation of East into West, and examines Europe after Communism.


  • Offers a unique treatment on an important subject that is often studied from a political perspective
  • Presents anecdotes of defection attempts and stories of family separation that help readers relate to, and think critically about, the material
  • Includes a print and nonprint bibliography that directs users to a multitude of additional sources, including websites, blogs, and films
Series Description

Daily Life

What was life really like for ordinary people in other cultures throughout history? How did they raise their children? What did they do for fun? From sexual mores in ancient Egypt to resistance music in modern Latin America, and from the fashion sense of the Mongols to the importance of film in modern India, the world comes alive in the indispensable hands-on volumes of this award-winning series. A truly interdisciplinary resource, the Daily Life series covers arts; religion; food; literature; language; romance; rites of passage and coming of age; marriage customs; social and government structure; sickness and cures; warfare; sports and games; holidays; festivals; and more. With direct ties to the curriculum and supported by the most current research, these authoritative volumes are organized in an accessible narrative chapter format, and supplemented with photos, maps, and other ready-reference materials, Daily Life volumes are ideal sources for general readers and students of world history, United States history, social studies, anthropology, religion, literature, arts, and more.

Each volume provides:
• An exploration of complex eras in history on a level accessible to students and general readers
• Authoritative coverage stemming from the most current scholarship and recent discoveries
• A focus on social rather than political history in key curricular areas, providing an in-depth understanding of the nuts and bolts of daily life
• Interactive, exciting details such as recipes, sheet music, rules for games, song lyrics, and more
Author Info

Jim Willis, PhD, is professor of journalism at Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA. He is a former chair of the Department of Communication at Boston College, and the Department of Journalism at Ball State University. His published works include 100 Media Moments That Changed America; The Mind of a Journalist: How Reporters View Themselves, Their World, and Their Craft; and The Media Effect: How the News Influences Politics and Government. Willis holds a doctorate in journalism from the University of Missouri.



"For curriculum support, this exploration of a central theme in twentieth-century European history will serve well."Booklist Online

"This work will serve as a useful introduction for those desiring basic background on the lives of everyday individuals behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold war."ARBA

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