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The Tunnels: The Untold Story of the Escapes Under the Berlin Wall

Greg Mitchell
On the 13th of August, 1961, construction began on what was to become the most iconic yet evil image of the Cold War; the costruction of the Berlin Wall. This, as we know divided East Germany from the West with devestating results for thousand of Berliners. Families were separated, workers cut off from their place of work and disruption caused to everyone. Admittedly, for a while, it was possible - under certain strictly governed circumstances - to cross from East to the West, but soon draconian measures were put in place to restrict this passage even more. Armed Border guards with orders to shoot to kill, minefields, automatic weapons that registered body heat and fired autonomously as well as free roaming attack dogs.

There were stand-offs between the West German police and the East German Grupos when shots were fired over the border, confontations between Allied troops and East German and Russian troops and a very real fear that another war could start at any moment.

About a year after the Wall was built, a group of daring young men and women began a construction project of their own, a series of tunnels under the Wall and the border in general, the whole escape project headed by an unassuming young man who had been an Olympic hope for East Germany in cycling. This man and his friends helped many, many people to escape the tyranny of the GDR.

A race began between two television companies to be the ones to film the tunnels and escapes, and the much lauded John. F. Kennedy, President of the USA ( who once declared ; 'ich bin ein berliner', which I'm given to believe declared him a doughnut!) tried to supress the documentaries in order to maintain the status quo between the two superpowers.

This is a thrilling rollercoaster of a book. A history that reads like a novel. It is informative,fascinating and illuminating. It is also being filmed, and the rights have been acquired by Paul Greegrass, the producer responsible for such films as 'United93', 'Captain Phillips', The Bourne films and many more, so it looks to be heading for safe hands.

I think most, if not all of us know of the Wall. We know that many people died trying to cross over from the East, we know that it was an affront to human kind and a symbol of a political system that not only believed in the political enslavement of people but also had the desire to control their thoughts as well as their deeds, a system that ultimately failed and yet may still try again. This book is a good lesson to learn, to remind ourselves that - as with the Nazi death camps - this must not happen again.

For historical and humanitarian reasons, 5 MH

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