BOOK REVIEW: Struggling With the Past

“Who can establish a borderline between guilt and innocence when that borderline runs somewhere right down the middle of each person?” wrote Czech writer Ivan Klima last year, in an attempt to address the problems of Eastern Europe’s communist legacy. Although many know how the emerging democracies are coping with the massive political and economic changes sweeping across the former East bloc, little has been written about the important moral issues facing Eastern Europeans as they attempt to confront their past: Was I a victim, or was I complicit in the day-to-day workings of a totalitarian state? In her new book, The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism, Tina Rosenberg examines Czech, Slovak, Polish, and German attempts to confront the past as she explores the human response to the many faces of totalitarianism.