When the Soviet army occupied eastern Germany at the end of World War II, more than 6,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fell under the control of the totalitarian and openly atheistic regime of the German Democratic Republic. Due to the relative isolation of the LDS Church in East Germany, a young missionary, Henry Burkhardt, became the official representative of the church to the communist government, a position that lasted for 40 years. Told largely through original documents and interviews, Henry Burkhardt is a documentary biography that contains two stories: Burkhardt's life story and a case study of church-state relations in the GDR.
After two decades of government efforts to curtail the LDS Church, Burkhardt became the foundation upon which church leaders in the United States would eventually build an improved relationship with the government. Despite the improved relationship with key government offices, Burkhardt was viewed negatively by the Stasi, who watched and reported his every movement. Kuehne uses Burkhardt's Stasi file to present an interesting contrast to the accounts of a working church-state relationship that saw the construction of the only LDS temple ever built in a communist country.
Raymond Kuehne studied as a Fulbright Fellow at Marburg University in Germany and as a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Mormons as Citizens of a Communist State (University of Utah Press, 2010), winner of the 2010 Mormon History Association International Book Award.