The tunnel under the Berlin Wall

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BBC journalist Helen Merriman publishes ‘Tunnel 29’, the chronicle of an East Berlin escape reaching bookshops after its success as a podcast

That day in October 2018, when journalist Helena Merriman met Joaquim Rudolph in Berlin, she knew she had found a powerful, powerful, unbeatable voice to tell one of the most important episodes in 20th century history. Joaquim – who was then in his 80s – had devoted half a year of his childhood to digging a tunnel that had only one goal: to save 29 strangers. And the best thing, Helena explains, is that when she remembered, she didn’t evoke her memories with hollow words.

“During my career as a journalist, I have become accustomed to most of my interviewees generalizing and summarizing their experiences by appealing to emotions,” the reporter says. In Joaquim’s case, it was not. His story was full of details. “He remembered smells, sounds, measurements, colors.” And that was the key Merriman was looking for for his journalistic project: a podcast for the BBC that would recreate those weeks in 1962 in which Joaquim and a group of colleagues dug a tunnel under the Berlin Wall through which 29 people who wanted to flee would flee. , escape from communist Germany.

That podcast became a huge success, took the form of a book and is now reaching the bookstore thanks to Salamandra, who publishes ‘The tunnel 29’, the chronicle of an ‘extraordinary’ escape.

The Berlin Wall was built (initially it was just a barbed wire fence) on the night of August 12, 1961. “By 6 a.m. on Sunday, August 13, troops had closed 193 streets, 68 border crossings and 12 stations.” train”.

That summer weekend, Joaquim was taking a bath on the beaches of northern Germany with some friends. When he returned to Berlin, he found a divided city. From one day to the next, families, couples and friends were separated, condemned to live in conflicting worlds.

Joaquim decided to do something. On a cloudy night, with hardly any light, in September 1961, he managed to ford a river and reach West Berlin. There, at the age of 22, he became acquainted with a resistance network that planned to drill into the ground of Berlin, dig a passage almost 135 meters long (barely one square meter in diameter) and already in the communist zone to the surface to rise.

The journalistic narrative uses the makings of a “thriller” to tell a performance with political derivatives. The tensions of the Cold War or successive attempts to circumnavigate the wall in order to escape parade through the pages of this non-fiction book. There is the case of Peter Fechter, who was riddled with bullets by GDR soldiers on August 17, 1962 while trying to cross the barbed wire. Or that of Hans Conrad Schumann, the 19-year-old soldier who left his lookout post on August 15, 1961, just three days after construction began, and fled to West Berlin. Between 1961 and 9 November 1989 (the date of the demolition of the wall), more than a hundred thousand GDR citizens tried to flee and 140 were killed.

Source: La Verdad

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