The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill

Greg Mitchell. Crown, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-1-101-90385-8
Journalist Mitchell (Atomic Cover-Up) illuminates a half-forgotten but nasty episode in the annals of Cold War history. In August 1961, infuriated by the exodus of its citizens, Soviet-backed East Germany built a 96-mile-long barrier around West Berlin. In response, Berliners, mostly students and ordinary workers, set to work tunneling underneath. Local American TV journalists loved the idea, paying tunnelers who needed money for supplies and sending cameramen. Warning that the stories would poison Soviet-American relations, the Kennedy administration pressured CBS to drop its planned coverage. NBC persisted, however, and Mitchell delivers a gripping, blow-by-blow account of one grueling dig and dramatic rescue of 29 East Germans, all caught on film. Despite the intense appeals from the Kennedy administration, which soft- pedaled the suppression of free speech in favor of deploring “checkbook journalism,” an Emmy Award–winning documentary eventually appeared. NBC had gotten lucky. Most of the tunnels failed as a result of ubiquitous East German informers and technical difficulties. More East Germans were caught and imprisoned than escaped, and by 1970 the practice of tunneling died out. Mitchell’s tense, fascinating account reveals how the U.S. undermined a freedom struggle for the sake of diplomacy. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2016
Release date: 10/18/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 608 pages - 978-0-7352-8583-5
Compact Disc - 978-0-7352-8584-2
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