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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By DogLover on 12-20-17
Just a little bit too long
Would you try another book from Greg Mitchell and/or John Lee?
Would you be willing to try another book from Greg Mitchell? Why or why not?
Yes. The book was well written and provided a solid history.
What about John Lee’s performance did you like?
John Lee's reading was professional and done well.
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
Any additional comments?
The book was good, and I enjoyed it, but I was definitely ready for it to end by the time I got to the last 3 or 4 chapters.