In the summer of 1962, a young student named Joachim Rudolph dug a tunnel under the Berlin Wall. Waiting on the other side in East Berlin were dozens of men, women, and children--all willing to risk everything to escape. From the award-winning creator of the acclaimed BBC Radio 4 podcast, Tunnel 29 is the true story of this most remarkable Cold War rescue mission. Drawing on interviews with the survivors and Stasi files, Helena Merriman reveals the stranger-than-fiction story of the ingenious group of student-diggers, the glamorous red-haired messenger, the Stasi spy who threatened the whole enterprise, and the love story that became its surprising epilogue.
As the story builds towards the denouement, the book becomes more gripping than a thriller, because it is about real lives that were transformed or destroyed by the events described. The story arc, through betrayal and disaster to triumph, is perfect ... it is a cracking tale that deserves retelling and helps to sharpen our collective memory of the half-century of tyranny that our near neighbours endured.
Helena Merriman’s book is a tour de force ... The book focuses on the tunnel, and the story is enhanced by the other strands that Merriman weaves in. Her chapters on the East German State Police, the Stasi, are breathtaking ... The chapters on the day of the escape are possibly the most suspenseful I have ever read, in fiction as well as nonfiction.
Merriman’s story is absolutely compelling, written in the style of a novelist, but based totally on the author’s interviews with the men and women who participated in the most successful escape of the Cold War. She had access to documents that had been released from the secret police files after the 'workers’ and peasants' state' fell in 1990 ... Merriman tells the story as a fine reporter. She makes you identify with the participants ... Tunnel 29 is a riveting story about what happens when people lose their freedom. A true hero risked everything to win it back for those he did not know.