In memories of the Cold War, the German Democratic Republic's (GDR) horrific environmental record casts a long shadow. According to popular memory, the East German regime cared little for the environment and its people, poisoning the water, air, and land in pursuit of “real, existing socialism.” Thirty years after the collapse, its reputation as an “ecocidal” regime endures. This story is at best incomplete and at worst misleading. Much of it is a product of the regime's sudden end in 1989 and the “green” politics of reunification that followed. In her new book, Saving Nature under Socialism, Julia Ault demands we widen the lens beyond 1989 and the borders of the GDR. Ault argues that environmentalism and environmental thought had a longer and often contradictory history that dated back to the country's founding. Ault traces how the regime's attitudes, policies, and diplomatic efforts around the environment reflected its shifting...

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