A thrilling Cold War narrative exploring two harrowing attempts to rescue East Germans by tunneling beneath the Berlin Wall, the US television networks who financed and filmed them, and the Kennedy administration's unprecedented attempt to suppress both films.
In the summer of 1962, one year after East German Communists built the Berlin Wall, a group of daring young West Germans came up with a plan. They would risk prison, Stasi torture, even death to liberate friends, lovers, and strangers in East Berlin by digging tunnels under the wall. Among the tunnelers and escape helpers were a legendary cyclist, an American student from Stanford, and an engineer who would later help build the tunnel under the English Channel.
Then two US television networks, NBC and CBS, heard about the secret projects and raced to be first to air a spectacular "inside tunnel" special on the human will for freedom. The networks funded two separate tunnels in return for exclusive rights to film the escapes. In response, President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, wary of anything that might raise tensions and force a military confrontation with the Soviets, maneuvered to quash both documentaries.
Unfolding week by week, sometimes hour by hour, Greg Mitchell's riveting narrative deftly cuts back and forth from one extraordinary character to another. There was the tunneler who had already served four years in an East German gulag; the Stasi informer who betrayed the "CBS tunnel"; the young East Berliner who escaped with her baby, then married one of the tunnelers; and broadcast legend Daniel Schorr, who battled unsuccessfully to save his film from White House interference and remained bitter about it to the end of his life. Looming over all is John F. Kennedy, who was ambivalent about - even hostile toward - the escape operations. Kennedy confessed to Dean Rusk, "We don't care about East Berlin".
Based on extensive access to the Stasi archives, long-secret US documents, and new interviews with tunnelers and refugees, The Tunnels provides both rich history and high suspense. Award-winning journalist Mitchell captures the hopes and fears of everyday Berliners; the chilling reach of the Stasi secret police; US networks prepared to "pay for play" yet willing to cave to official pressure; and a White House and State Department eager to suppress historic coverage. The result is breaking history, a propulsive listen whose themes reverberate even today.
"The Tunnels is one of the great untold stories of the Cold War. Brilliantly researched and told with great flair, Greg Mitchell's non-fiction narrative reads like the best spy thriller, something Le Carré might have imagined. Easily the best book I've read all year." (Alex Kershaw, author of Avenue of Spies)
"Greg Mitchell is the best kind of historian, a true storyteller. The Tunnels is a gripping tale about heroic individuals defying an authoritarian state at a critical moment in the Cold War. A brilliantly told thriller - but all true." (Kai Bird, author of The Good Spy)
"When you have read the last page of Greg Mitchell's The Tunnels you will close the book - but not until then." (Alan Furst, author of A Hero of France and Night Soldiers)
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Horrors of a Narrator
This possibly good book is killed by a horrible narrator. Why don't they check on these narrators... just plain horrible - maybe audiobooks are not the way to go.... very VERY distracting from the story... this book is being returned.
- Amazon Customer