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The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK… (2016)

by Greg Mitchell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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13127167,589 (4.14)None
"A thrilling Cold War narrative exploring two harrowing attempts to rescue East Germans by tunneling beneath the Berlin Wall, the U.S. 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 U.S. 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's the tunneler who had already served four years in the East German gulag; the Stasi informer who betrays the 'CBS tunnel'; the young East Berliner who escapes with her baby, then marries 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 U.S. 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; U.S. 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 read whose themes reverberate even today"--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
An extraordinarily important book so we do not forget those who died for freedom, and those who risked their lives to dig tunnels. The epilogue is disturbing: there is a growing nostalgia for east Germany, that it wasn’t so bad. Americans showed practically no interest in the anniversary of the fall of the wall. And the book divulges the beginnings of our abhorrent government practice of surveilling citizens and controlling the press. Slow in the chapters about the way American media succumbed to intervention by the president to “stop the presses,” it took a long time and willpower to stick through lots of detail. But it pays off in the end about lessons learned. And don’t skip the epilogue. ( )
  KarenMonsen | Jan 22, 2020 |
After watching The Same Sky on Nextflix, I became really intrigued by what was happening during the time of the Berlin Wall. Enter in Greg Mitchell and his book The Tunnels to continue to stoke the fire. Subtitled, Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill, this book is part thrilling narrative and part history lesson. It’s a great book that manages to do a great job of enlightening it’s reader but not talking down to them. I like how it integrated Cuba and the US government, while also keeping the focus on those risking their lives to change their way of life. The one minus I had for this book was that there is a ton of facts so sometimes it slows the read down, but it’s so interesting that you make your way through. ( )
  Terence_Johnson | Apr 3, 2018 |
Do you ever read the description and think you can handle it? Then when you pick up the book, you get an eery feeling when you read inside, "A NOTE TO READERS".

Well, this happened to me when I picked up "The Tunnels".

This is not to say that I did not find a hint of humor in the writing that at times was very graphic. I actually thought the example of Adam and Eve was going to be humorous but instead, it turned out to be a daunting reminder.

I wanted so much from this read and early on it hit me. I'm not 10 pages in... and yet I am having difficulty. The realization is, even when I complete this story...this compilation of accounts of the Cold War... there is not a thing I can change.

Frankly, I have never faced the inclination to escape and the only time I have seen jumpers is footage of people fleeing burning buildings. And as I read these accounts and weep, I think this was indeed a "Street of Tears".

When you pull and push dirt with purpose, to create a pathway, it's possible you may not realize how exhausting and terrifying it can be. I mean, if your purpose is to save another, perhaps it all becomes a blur and the sound of noisy tools goes unnoticed. With a gain of only 6 feet a day, promises to watch each other back and the fear of lettings others down are likely things you'd have to acknowledge.

One can only hope if ever in a position remotely similar to this that one would wait in silence and be steadfast in the knowledge that somewhere in the distance rings the bells of freedom.

Reviewed for Blogging for Books ( )
  LorisBook | Dec 13, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall-and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill by Greg Mitchell is a non-fiction book about the infamous Berlin Wall and the tunnels being dug during the Cold War. Mr. Mitchell has wrote many non-fiction books on US politics and history.

The book supplies is a thrilling narrative, written in an exciting format exploring the attempts to rescue East Germans by building tunnels under the Berlin wall. The book specifically follows two attempts and the international politics during the time.

When the Soviets put up the Berlin wall to “protect” the East Germans, the Kennedy administration actually breathed a sigh of relief because they were being accused of luring people to the west. Those who wanted to come to the West had to find creative means to do so including swimming, making a run for it, being smuggled out, hot air balloons and, of course, tunnels.

The tunnels needed much corporation though. The authorities in West Berlin had to turn a blind eye, whoever had the tunnel’s end in East Berlin needed to be brave and accept that they could be arrested any day (families included), and of course fit people to manually, and quietly, dig hundreds of yards.

The author tells the story of the two tunnels incorporating the diggers, spies, an American TV network that sponsored a tunnel along with the rights to film the work and rescue (under strict secrecy), the Kennedy administration’s dilemma of how to handle the refugees while dealing with Russian politics.

For more reviews and bookish thoughts please visit http://www.ManOfLaBook.com (less) ( )
  ZoharLaor | Nov 18, 2017 |
It's a time that's hard to fathom now. A country divided, a capital divided, a people divided.

In East Berlin, there were people desperate to leave, and the building of the wall in 1961 just steeled their resolve.

This is the story of those who tried to get away, and how NBC and CBS raced to have the chance to film such an escape ... and how the Kennedy administration tried to stop them.

Betrayal, arrests and killings are all part of the story of those to attempted to breach the wall, and that's documented here.

Interesting to see an unfettered look at Kennedy, without the afterglow of sentiment. He was more of a hawk than we remembered, but also more timid. But considering nuclear war was always minutes away, maybe that's understandable. He also told the CIA to begin investigating American journalists - a huge betrayal of the CIA's stated job.

The aftermath of the tunnel crossing wasn't always sunshine and roses, either. One crosser brought his wife ... and promptly lost her to another man.

Lots of twists and turns here, like a good novel - but it's all real.

Thanks, Blogging For Books, for the book.

For more of my reviews, go to Ralphsbooks. ( )
  ralphz | Jul 25, 2017 |
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Greg Mitchellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dutheil de La Rochère, CécileTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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« Seul mérite la liberté celui qui repart à sa conquête chaque jour. »

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1.
Le cycliste
Février-mars 1962

Harry Seidel aimait l’action, la vitesse et le risque. Toutes choses que concentrait la course cycliste. Il aurait pu être champion olympique – il pouvait encore l’être –, il suffisait qu’il change d’attitude puisqu’à vingt-trois ans, doué de mollets d’acier, il était dans la fleur de l’âge. [...]
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"A thrilling Cold War narrative exploring two harrowing attempts to rescue East Germans by tunneling beneath the Berlin Wall, the U.S. 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 U.S. 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's the tunneler who had already served four years in the East German gulag; the Stasi informer who betrays the 'CBS tunnel'; the young East Berliner who escapes with her baby, then marries 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 U.S. 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; U.S. 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 read whose themes reverberate even today"--

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