Book: The Haunted Land

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The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism

Author: Tina Rosenberg
Publisher: Random House Inc

In four newly democratic countries in Eastern Europe, communism’s former victims and jailers are struggling to make sense of their history -- and sometimes rewrite it. In this groundbreaking, stylishly reported book, a journalist travels across the battlefields of memory and asks: Who is guilty? How should they be punished? And who is qualified to judge them in states where almost every citizen was an accomplice?

In East Germany, Tina Rosenberg follows the trial of the border guards charged with the last shooting at the Berlin Wall. In the Czech Republic, she meets a heroic dissident who has now been ostracized for having once cooperated with the old regime. In Poland, she speaks with General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the one-time architect of martial law who now presents himself as his country’s savior. Out of these stories of conscience and complicity, courage and optimism, The Haunted Land delivers the final chapter of the greatest moral drama of our time.


Rosenberg’s previous book, Children of Cain, dealt with the change from dictatorship to democracy in South America. Here, she approaches a similar theme in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism, telling a series of riveting human stories to illuminate the paradox that rabid anti-Communism at times resembles Communism. In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and the former East Germany, she talks to erstwhile dissidents now victimized because they are named in old police registers; to low-level agents accused of crimes that were not crimes when committed; and to high officials who now run things just like before. She convincingly suggests that the best antidote to Communism may be, not revenge, but “tolerance and the rule of law.”

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