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...~Goodreads Blurb
I was concerned that this was going to be a tough one to slough through. As a 90’s kid (specifically 1991) I have no real emotional attachment or memory of the Berlin Wall. You have that standard universal knowledge that there was a wall, and someone told some Russian to tear it down.(I Googled it, Reagan to Gorbachev) Other than that I didn’t have much starting knowledge. My other fear was that it was a nonfiction book, and therefore boring. As an ardent historical fiction reader, I tend to stay away from the nonfiction. This one blew me out of the water.
With author Greg Mitchell’s use of the narrative voice, I found myself being drawn into the story. Instead of simply a black and white story, Mitchell has formed all these facts into a multi faceted gem that takes all these different nations’ and governments’ views and hands you a story. He doesn’t just stop there, instead of leaving readers in the past, he brings them forward to present time to compare it to modern day walls. Though today we spend more time talking about keeping people out with our walls(i.e. Trump) rather than the East Germany goal of keeping them in.
I would recommend this book for anyone who likes history and a good spy novel. Though it’s nonfiction I think this is going to rank very high on my list of favorites. I’m going to have to go back and give nonfiction another try and definitely anything by Greg Mitchell will be on the list. I rarely give books 5-stars, yet this one had me intrigued from the first chapter.
*This book was provided by BloggingForBooks and Crown Publishing in exchange for honest feedback*
Notes about the author: Mitchell has blogged on the media and politics, for The Nation. and at his own blog, Pressing Issjes. He was the editor of Editor & Publisher (E&P), from 2002 to the end of 2009, and long ago was executive editor at the legendary Crawdaddy. His book "The Campaign of the Century" won the Goldsmith Book Prize and "Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady" was a New York Times Notable Book for 1998. He has also co-authored two books with Robert Jay Lifton, along with a "So Wrong For So Long" about the media and Iraq. His books have been optioned numerous times for movies (including "Joy in Mudville" by Tim Hanks). He has served as chief adviser to two award-winning documentaries and currently is co-producer of an upcoming film on Beethoven with his co-author on "Journeys With Beethoven."