Edited by Merrilyn Thomas
Foreword by John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral
Preface by Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher
Publisher: Medlar Tree Publishing
ISBN: 10 0957649118
ISBN: 13 978-0-9576491-1-8
First published 2015
Second edition 2016
Stepping Off the Map is one of the hidden stories of the Cold War. Four years after the building of the Berlin Wall a group of young British men and women crossed through the Iron Curtain. Their mission was to help rebuild a war bombed hospital in Dresden, East Germany. The project was organised by a man with a vision, the then Provost of Coventry Cathedral. In this account of a unique event in Cold War history, some of those who took part recall their experiences and reveal how they were unwittingly caught up in a secret political strategy aimed at maintaining peace in Europe.
Edited by Merrilyn Thomas with a Foreword by John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral, and a Preface by Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher
This book offers a unique and highly personal glimpse into a world, and a time in history, which was close by, but hidden from view – behind an ‘Iron Curtain’. The opportunity for a small group of young people to peep behind the Curtain, and encounter profound difference is recorded beautifully in these memoirs which offer an insight not just into a political system, but into our human experience of growing up, of relationship, and of looking back.
There is undoubted historical value in these chapters, especially as they are set within the context of Merrilyn Thomas’ research into the political negotiations behind the apparently innocent ‘journey of reconciliation’. They reveal something of the reality of life in the German Democratic Republic in the mid 1960s – both exploding some myths, and substantiating others. They are valuable for this alone.
However, I find the real treasure of these accounts in what the participants learned of themselves – and beyond that, the human condition. You will find here not just political observation, but personal, philosophical, and theological reflection. Lives were changed, irrevocably – and there is something especially poignant about the way that the participants look back with the perspective of fifty years at their younger selves, aware of how their own history was shaped by what happened in a few months in 1965. They learned something of what it means to be human, and they have shared it with us.
(Very Revd John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral)
These are stories of the joyful discovery of better values in life and of better ways to shape the future. .. There is fear and pain, physical and emotional, but ultimately deep gratitude for the life lessons learned … .[This] is a very big story and should be more widely known.
(Malcolm Bell, The Friend)
I am delighted to have looked through the doors of experience contained in this slim volume of not so much studied scholarship as unstudied living diary records of interesting characters. As we look at the wars around the world today this compilation is an important companion.