When I was in high school, one of our teachers took his family (which included a girl my age) to Germany so he could teach English. Shortly after they arrived, the Wall “came down.” They were there for that historic moment and they were able to send back a piece of the wall to our high school, along with some written memoirs about what they had seen, heard, and experienced. Talk about history coming alive!
When I saw this book, The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill, written by Greg Mitchell, I was pretty intrigued. Perhaps because of that connection my old English teacher created for me. Whatever it was, this book sounded fascinating. It was.
This book covered many of the secret tunnel attempts from West Germany into East Germany in order to help family, friends, and others trapped in the East escape into freedom. Many of these tunnels were compromised and lives were lost. Many were successful and many, many lives were freed. The bravery, courage, and perseverance of those who built the tunnels is chronicled here very well.
What is also clearly in evidence here is the courage and dedication to freedom of those who escaped. They endangered themselves and others trying to get to freedom but they kept at the attempts until they were free. This is also documented well in this book and it is easy to see why they risked it all.
What was covered in this book that I didn’t really expect is the Cold War, the nuclear threat, and Cuba. One of my shortcomings in history is an understanding of the nuclear threats and the Cold War and Russia. I had no idea just how closely tied Cuba and Germany were. The book taught me a lot about the seriousness of the nuclear threat and how close we truly came to WWIII during this time frame. I have an even greater admiration for JFK than I did before. President Kennedy had to make many decisions related to Berlin and the threats of the Wall with Russia and nuclear missles clearly in his mind. He had to go against what many thought because he had a bigger picture in mind – keeping the world intact and stopping nuclear war. I did not realize just how much was resting on his shoulders.
The TV stations play into this story and how it is related to the White House in that they were trying to cover some of the sensational stories of escape from East Berlin. Some of the stations wanted to film it. The White House saw this as a potential national security threat. So it brings up the question of freedom of the press – how far should they be allowed with freedom and when should they monitor their own and make decisions for humanity, not just a dollar? All of this is deeply ingrained in the story of The Tunnels.
There is so much in this book. I learned a ton and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It was not a fast read but it was a good one. Highly researched and documented, this book is one that taught me a lot and I will recommend.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.