Book News – Race Against the Stasi


The Incredible Story of Dieter Wiedemann, The Iron Curtain and the Greatest Cycling Race on Earth

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Book News – Race Against the Stasi

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By Herbie Sykes
Aurum Press | 4th September 2014
£18.99| Hardback

• Incredible true story of one man’s escape from behind the Iron Curtain
• Based on interviews with Stasi survivors and spies and gives a unique insight into life on either side of the Iron Curtain
• This is the first reproduction of a Stasi file in English.
• 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Dieter Weidemann’s defection to the West
• 9th November 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

Race Against the Stasi

When the ‘Iron Curtain’ descended across Europe, Dieter Wiedemann was a hero of East German sport. A podium finisher in The Peace Race, the Eastern Bloc equivalent of the Tour de France, he was a pin-up for the supremacy of socialism over the ‘fascist’ West.

Unbeknownst to the authorities, however, he had fallen in love with Sylvia Hermann, a girl from the other side of the wall. Socialist doctrine had it that the two of them were ‘class enemies’, and as a famous athlete Dieter’s every move was pored over by the Stasi. Only he abhorred their ideology, and in Sylvia saw his only chance of freedom. Now, playing a deadly game of cat and mouse, he plotted his escape.

In 1964 he was sent, once and once only, to West Germany. Here he was to ride a qualification race for the Tokyo Olympics, but instead he committed the most treacherous of all the crimes against socialism. Dieter Wiedemann, sporting icon and Soviet pawn, defected to the other side.
Whilst Wiedemann fulfilled his lifetime ambition of racing in the Tour de France, his defection caused a huge scandal. The Stasi sought to ‘repatriate’ him, with horrific consequences both for him and the family he left behind. Fifty years on, and twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dieter Wiedemann has decided it is time to tell his story. Through his testimony and that of others involved, and through the Stasi file, which has stalked him for half a century, Herbie Sykes uncovers an astonishing tale. It is one of love and betrayal, of the madness at the heart of the cold war, and of the greatest bike race in history.

The Author:
Herbie Sykes is a freelance sports journalist and historian. He is the author of The Eagle of Canavese: Franco Balmamion and the Giro d’Italia, Maglia Rosa: Triumph and Tragedy at the Giro d’Italia, and Coppi: Inside the Legend of the Campionissimo. Sykes lives in Turin, and writes for a number of cycling publications.

About the book:
Herbie Sykes says: “The Race Against the Stasi isn’t a political book per se, and nor is it intended as a treatise on Stasi methodology or history. It’s a biographical study of a long-forgotten racing cyclist, of the sporting leviathan which was the Peace Race, and of the politicization of daily life during the cold war. The narrative, however, isn’t interpretive. Instead it’s reproduced as a series of original letters, testimonies from those who were there, official government documents and, overwhelmingly, Dieter Wiedemann’s Stasi file.

Collectively the documents form a real-time case study of the material effect the Berlin Wall had on the two populations it conditioned. Studies of the German Democratic Republic traditionally focus on those trapped in the east, but in doing so overlook the anguish of those living on the other side. They tend to disregard the profound loss visited upon the defectors themselves, but also upon the millions of West Germans millions who were cut off, at a stroke, from their families and loved ones. By revisiting the people and places on both sides of the great divide, the book redresses that balance to a significant degree.”


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