Harry S. Truman Book Award

Harry S. Truman Book Award

Not all readers become leaders, but all leaders must be readers.

Harry S. Truman

2022 Harry S. Truman Book Award Recipient

Between Containment and Rollback: The United States and the Cold War in Germany

By Christian F. Ostermann


Book Talk and Award Presentation
Wednesday, September 20, 2023

6 p.m. Reception  |  6:30 p.m. Program
Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

IN THE AFTERMATH OF WORLD WAR II, American policymakers turned to the task of rebuilding Europe while keeping communism at bay. In Germany, formally divided since 1949,the United States prioritized the political, economic, and, eventually, military integration of the fledgling Federal Republic with the West. The extraordinary success story of forging this alliance has dominated our historical under-standing of the American-German relationship. Largely left out of the grand narrative of U.S.–German relations were most East Germans who found themselves caught under Soviet and then communist control by the post-1945 geo-political fallout of the war that Nazi Germany had launched. They were the ones who most dearly paid the price for the country’s division. This book writes the East Germans—both leadership and general populace—back into that history as objects of American policy and as historical agents in their own right

Based on recently declassified documents from American, Russian, and German archives, this book demonstrates that U.S. efforts from 1945 to 1953 went beyond building a prosperous democracy in western Germany and “containing” Soviet-Communist power to the east. Under the Truman and then the Eisenhower administrations, American policy also included efforts to undermine and “roll back” Soviet and German communist control in the eastern part of the country. This story sheds light on a dark-er side to the American Cold War in Germany: propaganda, covert operations, economic pressure, and psychological warfare. Christian F. Ostermann takes an international history approach, capturing Soviet and East German responses and actions, and drawing a rich and complex picture of the early East–West confrontation in the heart of Europe.

A book sale and signing will follow the program; books may be purchased in the Museum Store.

Register now for this free Signature Event.


About the Author

Christian F. Ostermann

For more than two decades, Christian F. Ostermann has served as director of the History and Public Policy Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In that capacity he has overseen the Cold War International History Project and the North Korea International Documentation Project, and has co-directed the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. He is the recipient of a Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin.


“For a quarter century Christian Ostermann has been a leader in the effort to gain access to the archives of former communist countries. Now, employing a vast trove of East German and Russian documents, as well as those from Western governments, he offers us a vivid description and penetrating analysis of the struggle to shape the future of Germany after World War II. The book beautifully illuminates the complex interactions of military occupation officials, policymakers in Moscow, Washington, London, and Paris, and German actors in the eastern and western zones. Everyone interested in the early Cold War should read this volume.
—Melvyn P. Leffler, University of Virginia

“Between Containment and Rollback is a model of outstanding historical research and argumentation. It is that rare work of scholarship that truly captures the contingency of events and circumstances leading to the division of Germany, as well as the different perspectives and motives which animated the United States and the Soviet Union. The description of the covert psychological campaign against East Germany illuminates both the potential and the very real limits of American power, with important lessons for contemporary foreign policy. A genuine tour de force!”
—Thomas A. Schwartz, Vanderbilt University


Now Accepting Submissions

Books written about Harry S. Truman or the period of his presidency and published between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2023 are eligible for the 2024 Harry S. Truman Book Award.

Submission Deadline: January 20, 2024

Contact: Lisa Sullivan, Lisa.Sullivan@TrumanLibraryInstitute.org or 816.400.1216

Harry S. Truman Book Award

The Harry S. Truman Book Award is presented biennially by the Truman Library Institute. Established in 1963, the Harry S. Truman Book Award recognizes the best book published within a two-year period dealing primarily and substantially with some aspect of the history of the United States between April 12, 1945 and January 20, 1953, or with the life or career of Harry S. Truman.


2022      Between Containment and Rollback: The United States and the Cold War in Germany by Christian F. Osterman

2020      Grand Improvisation: America Confronts the British Superpower, 1945-1957 by Derek Leebaert

2018       A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949 by Kevin Peraino

2016       Potsdam: The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe by Michael Neiberg

2014       Henry Wallace’s 1948 Presidential Campaign and the Future of Postwar Liberalism by Thomas W. Devine

2012       The War for Korea, 1950-1951: They Came from the North by Allan R. Millett

2010       Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953 by Steven Casey

2008       From Roosevelt to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima, and the Cold War by Wilson D. Miscamble

2006       The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis

2004       Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations by Stephen C. Schlesinger

2002       The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968 by Kari Frederickson

2000       Downfall: The End of the Japanese Empire by Richard B. Frank

See all recipients since 1967 here.


Lisa Sullivan, Book Award Administrator