West Germany and the Iron Curtain | Wilson Center

West Germany and the Iron Curtain

The talk takes a fresh look at the history of Cold War Germany and the German reunification process from the spatial perspective of the West German borderlands. These borderlands emerged along the volatile inter-German border after 1945 and constituted the Federal Republic’s most sensitive geographical space. It was here that the Federal Republic had to confront partition and engage its socialist neighbor, East Germany, in concrete ways. Each issue that arose in these borderlands—from economic deficiencies to border tourism, environmental pollution, landscape change, and the siting decision for a major nuclear facility—was magnified and mediated by the presence of what became the most militarized border of its day, the Iron Curtain.

Astrid M. Eckert is Associate Professor of Modern European History at Emory University in Atlanta. Her new book West Germany and the Iron Curtain is now out with Oxford University Press (2019). At the heart of the book stands an environmental history of the Iron Curtain. She previously published The Struggle for the Files (2012), which won the Waldo Gifford Leland Award of the Society of American Archivists. Eckert held several prestigious fellowships, including a Berlin Prize Fellowship at the American Academy Berlin and a Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowship. She is currently the Vice President of the Central European History Society.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest and the George Washington University History Department for their support.




  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center
  • Eric Arnesen

    Professor of History, The George Washington University


  • Astrid M. Eckert

    Associate Professor of Modern European History at Emory University