GAROLD N. DAVIS and NORMA S. DAVIS, eds. Behind the Iron Curtain: Recollections of Latter-day Saints in East Germany, 1945-1989. BYU Studies, 1996.
THOMAS S. MONSON. Faith Rewarded: A Personal Account of Prophetic Promises to the East German Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996.
Even if they had planned it (and they did not), the publishers of these two 1996 works dealing with the Saints in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) before 1989 probably could not have produced more closely complementary volumes. They give a remarkable view of the Church in that country from 1945-1989—a unique chapter in Church history, since the GDR was the only Communist ruled country in the world with fully operational branches and districts, a mission, an indigenous mission presidency, and, ultimately, a temple within its boundaries. The personal records of President Monson give a Church leader’s view of the struggle of the East Germans striving to practice their faith under an oppressive Communist regime, while the oral histories of individual members in the Davis volume document, from the rank and file, instances of faith, sacrifice, persecution, endurance, resistance, courage, and obedience that rival many accounts from early Church history. Together they tell a marvelous tale.
While serving as missionaries in Dresden during 1989-90, Norma Davis, an associate professor of humanities at BYU, and her husband, Garold, a professor of German at BYU, began recording interviews with East German Saints. The editors returned to Dresden in 1994 and taped more interviews, to which they added written material they acquired from other members who had lived or still resided in the GDR—passages from journals, recorded personal histories, and written recollections of specific events or time periods. All this they translated into a highly readable compilation. A total of forty-four informants—some of whom contributed to more than one section—provided material arranged into thirty-one chapters.