Barry Sheehy – Petty Tyrants

For James and Kelly

Solzhenitsyn wrote about the Gulag Archipelago but also about the scourge of the petty tyrants who tormented Soviet citizenry on a daily basis. I witnessed that myself in 1967 when I visited East Berlin through Check Point Charlie on a tour of the eastern half of the city. My first impression was that the war must have just ended yesterday as much of the eastern city remained shot up and bombed out. It was in stark contrast to modern, bustling West Berlin.

While on the tour we were husbanded about by an official guide who kept a tight grip on us. At a street crossing an east German policemen waved us across. While the guide was nattering on about this building or that, I noticed the policeman kept a crowd of people from crossing the street. He kept them there for perhaps 5 or 10 minutes.  It seemed an eternity. They were not allowed to move and couldn’t even walk away to another crossing. They were under the control of this petty tyrant. He didn’t have much power or influence within the Communist regime but what he had he would exercise to the fullest. This small group of innocent east Berliners were to be his victims this day and he would savor it. He kept them waiting an eternity before letting them cross. I never forgot it. I later joined the army and patrolled the “Iron Curtain” along its length from Germany to Czechoslovakia with its dogs, barbed wire, walls and mines. 

This was the 1960’s and skeptics would ask “why the hell would you want to join the army?” I never bothered to answer, my reasons were my own but I always hearkened back to that day in Berlin. 

Barry Sheehy


Barry Sheehy

Originally from Montreal, Canada, Barry Sheehy holds degrees from Loyola (Concordia) and McGill Universities, as well as the Canadian Armed Forces Decoration.  Mr. Sheehy’s lifelong passion for history has continued since his early years as an officer in the Canadian Armed forces.  After leaving the military, he entered the entrepreneurial world of business consulting where he acquired clients from New York to London and as far away as Dubai and Hong Kong.  Barry is the author or contributing author of several books and over fifty published papers and articles.  Barry’s ongoing interest in history eventually focused his attention America’s most complete, surviving, antebellum Southern city, Savannah, Georgia.  He was particularly interested in the city’s wartime experience. After many years of exhaustive research, Sheehy began the task of final development, aided by an all-volunteer team of skilled professionals in 2005.  With rigorous cross checking from both previously published works and newly discovered original materials, Sheehy has written the most extensive historical study of Civil War Savannah ever undertaken, including “Savannah: Immortal City” and “Savannah: Brokers, Bankers, and Bay Lane.” His latest book “Montreal, City of Secrets” appeared in September 2017.


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