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22gigantes.com - 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.
Best Review of The Tunnels: Escapes Under The Berlin Wall And The Historic Films The Jfk White House Tried To Kill:
Most helpful customer reviews 2 of 2 people found the following review helpful. Berlin in the Cold War By Daniel Weitz Greg Mitchell has written an exciting and informative story of a forgotten piece of the Cold War. This book recounts the story of attempts to escape from under the Berlin Wall by the construction of escape tunnels, some of which were subsidized or otherwise aided by American television networks. In some ways this book is more relevant than a work on the Cold War of the 1960’s; as the Stasi were the willing and eager tools of the KGB, which under the name of the FSB is still the agent of an autocratic tyranny.This is not just the story of escape tunnels; it is also the story of spies, double-agents, informants, infiltrators and heroes; and of course, the story of manufactured news. It is also the story of how the United States government during the most dangerous period of the Cold War (think Cuban Missile Crisis) deliberately tried to suppress NBC from broadcasting the TV specials on the construction of the escape tunnels which they had subsidized; eventually it was televised, endorsed by Edward R Murrow and in May of 1963 won three Emmys. That was a time period in which networks like NBC didn’t toady up to the State Department of a popular president like JFK, but stood its ground; interestingly the New York Times took the line of the State Department establishment. This story would make a great modern TV series.While the book has excellent notes, bibliography and maps, the examination copy merely made a reference of photos ‘to come’. 1 of 1 people found the following review helpful. Tunneling to freedom By N. B. Kennedy After the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, some 75 tunnels were dug as escape routes for East Germans, although fewer than 20 were successful in their purpose, according to the author of this book. Mr. Mitchell examines in great detail some of these tunnel escapades through exhaustive research into the "fluchthelfer," the escape helpers, who masterminded them and carried them out.Far from being shadowy, underground characters, these tunnel diggers were known to the American media and the White House. Tensions arose as American television outlets paid the tunnel diggers in exchange for exclusive rights to their stories. The Kennedy administration wanted these stories quashed and the media reigned in.Mr. Mitchell starts right in with one of the more notable and fearless tunnel diggers, Harry Seidel, a former bicycle racing champion for East Berlin. Yet he repudiated Communism, which cost him his racing career, and began to build tunnels to help friends, family and total strangers to freedom.As I was too young to take note of the building of the Wall, I knew almost nothing about it, except for the day it came down in 1989. Because Mr. Mitchell starts right in with tunnel stories, I struggled a little to understand why the country was divided and why people wanted to flee. I would have liked a broader focus on escape attempts of all sorts before zeroing in on tunnels. It is not covered in much depth in the first chapter. The author goes into more detail in the Epilogue (which I really enjoyed reading), but some background might have been better placed at the beginning of the book.In structure, The Tunnels reminds me of a book I recently read by Ben MacIntyre, Rogue Heroes, about the forming and actions of the British SAS during World War II. It is another book that examines one small part of a bigger story through the individual stories of participants. 1 of 1 people found the following review helpful. A Stunning and Poignant Historical Tale By David Ross As a child who was turning 9 when the Berlin Wall went up in August 1961 I was well aware that East Berliners were risking death in their attempts to escape to the west and that at least some were successfully escaping through tunnels. Mitchell's book is a wonderfully told story based on interviews of tunnelers and escapees, previously secret White House tapes and East German Spy Service (Stasi) records. Among the most telling details are those dealing with the informant who infiltrated one of the "flight helper" groups and betrayed several escape efforts to the East Germans. When a tunnel was found out the goal was to kill or capture the tunnelers when they broke through on the East Berlin side and round up as many as possible of those attempting to escape and the couriers from the West. By using Stasi records Mitchell is able to give details of the interrogations of some of those who were apprehended. The travails and details of the escapes were fascinating to me including cooperation from the West Berlin government in fixing a water main leak that threatened one tunnel and the stories of the couriers who traveled to East Berlin to give the all clear to the escapees The nearly successful suppression of the CBS and NBC tunnel documentaries is well documented with President Kennedy and Secretary of State Rusk both explicitly involved. The tunnel financing by the Networks did provide a significant boost to the tunnels but so did a degree of local CIA coordination. The suppression story comes to a culmination as the Cuban Missile crisis unfolded in October 1962 with risk of both a Soviet invasion of West Berlin and nuclear war both on the table. A highly recommended and well told tale for students of Cold War history. See all 6 customer reviews...
“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 "Greg Mitchell has written a riveting story focusing on one of the most powerful documentaries ever broadcast on television, NBC’s The Tunnel. Those of us who saw it that December night in 1962 have never forgotten the experience. Now Mitchell, an exemplary journalist, goes beyond what the cameras saw, deep into the political dynamics of Cold War Berlin. John Le Carré couldn’t have done it better." —BILL MOYERS “The Tunnels uncovers an unexplored underworld of Cold War intrigue. As nuclear tensions grip Berlin, a whole realm of heroes and villains, of plot and counterplot, unfolds beneath the surface of the city. True historical drama.” —RON ROSENBAUM, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars “A compelling look at a wrenching chapter of the Cold War that chronicles the desperate flights for freedom beneath the streets of post-war Berlin and the costs that politics extracted in lives.” —BARRY MEIER, author of Missing ManFrom the Hardcover edition. About the Author GREG MITCHELL is the author of nearly a dozen books, including Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady (a New York Times Notable Book); The Campaign of the Century (winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize, hailed by Christopher Hitchens as "enthralling"); and, with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America ("Devastating and persuasive"--Los Angeles Times). He blogs actively about media and politics, has produced several acclaimed film documentaries, and won numerous awards as the editor of Editor & Publisher.
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