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Burkhardt biography details history of LDS Church in East Germany

By Rosemarie Howard

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Nov. 27 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

"HENRY BURKHARDT AND LDS REALPOLITIK IN COMMUNIST EAST GERMANY," by Raymond M. Kuehne, University of Utah Press, $26.95, 208 pages (nf)

“Henry Burkhardt and LDS Realpolitik in Communist East Germany” by Raymond Kuehne provides historic insights to an era of the LDS Church in Germany that was difficult, yet filled with numerous miracles both small and large.

Heavily referencing original documents — letters, journals, personal papers, and files of the GDR Stasi — along with extensive interviews with Burkhardt and others who lived during the time period, the author documents the life of Henry Burkhardt.

Intimately intertwined with Burkhardt’s life is the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in communist East Germany.

For 40 years Burkhardt was the main representative of the church to around 6,000 East German members and interfaced with many high government officials of the German Democratic Republic.

His service began in 1944, when as a deacon he was asked to be a home teacher. This service continued faithfully without pause for the rest of his life.

In 1985 he was called as the first president of the Freiberg Germany Temple, and later continued to serve as a part-time ordinance worker.

How the Freiberg Germany Temple came to be built is one of the many faith-promoting stories documented in this book.

Rather than tell the history chronologically, the author has chosen to group information topically. The 15 chapter titles include: “Childhood and Youth in Chemnitz,” "A Temple in East Germany” and “Continued Service after Communism.”

Reference notes, along with a list of sources and an index are included. A section of black and white photos is at the center of the book. For those not well-versed in Germany geography, a map of Germany to reference locations mentioned in the narrative would be useful.

The book is not light reading, but of great interest and value to those wanting to know more about the history of the LDS Church in communist East Germany.

Kuehne was born in New York City to German immigrant parents. His was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Marburg and a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the University of Virginia.

He served in the North German Mission and the Freiberg Temple Mission. His book “Mormons as Citizens of a Communist State," referenced in this publication, won the 2010 Mormon History Association Geraldine McBride Woodward Award for the best publication in international Mormon history.

Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville, Utah. She enjoys creating multimedia content. Her website is www.dramaticdimensions.com.

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