The Tunnels: Escapes Under The Berlin Wall And The Historic Films The JFK White House Tried To Kill
An interesting look at a small piece of the Cold War.
One thing I didn’t know: Kennedy was in favor of the wall. He was convinced that it prevented WW-III from erupting over the border of East Berlin. Berlin also tied his hands during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Berlin was a trip wire and he did not want the tunnelers to trip it. It’s also interested to read about the media’s involvement in the tunneling. Even then the US press was manufacturing news. Mitchell editorializes about Israel’s wall, and Trump’s wall, but fails to see the difference between keeping people out and keeping people in. The difference between good neighbors, and a prison. The Berlin wall was built to keep Germans from fleeing the disaster that is Socialism.
The book couldn’t help but contrast between students then and students now.. our future looks very depressing. One hopes that when the time comes, someone will build a tunnel to help each of us escape.
Amazon Book Preview of “The Tunnels”
Excerpt from the book
By most accounts-and defying Stasi calculations-only about seventy-five tunnels near the Wall ever broke ground, with less than twenty judged to be successful in spiriting refugees to the West. If there were fewer escapes of any kind after the 1960s, the ones that occurred grew ever more creative. One man used a catapult to clear the Wall; another broke free with his family in a hot air balloon. (The adventure became a Disney movie.) In 1983, two men in the East shot an arrow trailing a thin nylon wire over the Wall. It landed on a rooftop in the West, where a helper strung it with steel wire, allowing the two men to slide across on pulleys. A girl in East Berlin made Soviet Army uniforms for three friends. They were saluted as they drove past the checkpoint, with her in the trunk.
In the 1980s, new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ushered in the reforms and policies known as Glasnost, introducing personal and economic freedoms in his nation and inspiring most of the countries behind the Iron Curtain to follow. The GDR, still led by Erich Honecker, lagged behind. Frustration and anger among East German youth threatened to boil over. The state started allowing huge rock concerts with Western stars in East Berlin as a safety valve.
When Bob Dylan was invited by a youth arm of the Communist Party to play in Treptower Park in 1987, the Stasi covered it in a six-page document filed under “Robert Zimmerman,” the singer’s real name. It mainly reported on logistics and security (no secret bugging of Bob, apparently). The Stasi weren’t worried that Dylan would cause “undue” emotions in the crowd; he was “an old master of rock,” with no particular “resonance” with the youth of the day. Dylan, in concert, more or less met their expectations.
When Bruce Springsteen headlined the following July, however, the story was quite different. The four-hour show drew his largest crowd anywhere, perhaps 400,000, and it was beamed to millions more via state television. Springsteen delivered an impassioned speech in crude German: “I’m not here for any government. I’ve come to play rock ‘n’ roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down.” He had decided at the last minute to change his original word, “walls,” to “barriers,” but the crowd went wild anyway, and the Dylan song that followed, “Chimes of Freedom,” made it all clear. Gerd Dietrich, a German historian, later commented that Springsteen’s concert and speech “certainly contributed in a large sense to the events” challenging the existence of the Wall. It made people “more eager for more and more change.”
“Chimes of Freedom” was a rare 3-inch CD that I bought. It is an amazing live performance by Bruce Springsteen. Maybe Bruce should get credit for taking down the Berlin Wall? -Craig.