The Goethe-Institut Washington welcomes journalist Victor Grossman for a discussion of his new memoir, A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee.
The circumstances that impelled Victor Grossman, a US Army draftee stationed in Europe, to flee a military prison sentence were the icy pressures of the McCarthy Era. Grossman — a.k.a. Stephen Wechsler, a committed leftist since his years at Harvard and, briefly, as a factory worker — left his barracks in Bavaria one August day in 1952, and, in a panic, swam across the Danube River from the Austrian US Zone to the Austrian Soviet Zone. Fate — i.e., the Soviets — landed him in East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic. There he remained, observer and participant, husband and father, as he watched the rise and successes, the travails, and the eventual demise of the GDR socialist experiment. A Socialist Defectoris the story, told in rare, personal detail, of an activist and writer who grew up in the U.S. free-market economy; spent thirty-eight years in the GDR’s nationally owned, centrally administered economy; and continues to survive, given whatever the market can bear, in today’s united Germany.