The Haunted Land Essay - Critical Essays

Tina Rosenberg

The Haunted Land

When the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union splintered, and the satellite nations became free, it was supposed to be over. At least some thought so and went off to write books about the “end of history.” Unfortunately, they forgot that history is a journey, never an arrival, and that the past may be gone but it is never lost. In eastern and central Europe, the past is not even gone and that lingering presence is the subject of Tina Rosenberg’s book, THE HAUNTED LAND: FACING EUROPE’S GHOSTS AFTER COMMUNISM.

How do you rebuild a society, or personal relationships, after half a century of life under Communism? How do you separate those who collaborated willingly from those who only pretended to go along because they had families, personal needs, or flickering dreams that, in the end, socialism might yet work? When the prison gates are finally opened, how do you deal not only with the guards but also with the prisoners? And what about the stool pigeons among the prisoners? These challenges are precisely what citizens have been struggling with in Germany, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic and are the problems Rosenberg examines.

She does this by having individual men and women tell their stories. Readers learn how dissidents served for years as double agents of the secret police; how authoritarian leaders, such as General Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland, imposed martial law to save their nation from Soviet invasion; and how dozens of others now seek to come to terms with their past to fashion their future.

Their stories are sobering, incredible, inspiring, and thought-provoking. They reveal this telling fact about the fall of the Soviet system: that Marx’s boast that the specter of communism is haunting Europe yet remains true.

Sources for Further Study

Los Angeles Times Book Review. August 13, 1995, p. 11.

National Review. XLVII, August 14, 1995, p. 48.

The New York Review of Books. XLII, July 13, 1995, p. 21.

The New York Times Book Review. C, May 14, 1995, p. 8.

The Wall Street Journal. May 23, 1995, p. A20.

The Washington Monthly. XXVII, June, 1995, p. 48.