Monday, December 26, 2016

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

A few weeks ago the Facebook page for The Tunnels shared this post: "Monica Crowley, Trump's pick today as a top National Security adviser, tweeted quite seriously "Walls work" a few months ago in standing in front of and endorsing Berlin Wall (with this photo of her below)." 

I had been reading The Tunnels for over a week when I saw this post. First, it was a nonsensible quip since the Berlin Wall was meant to keep citizens in East Germany, not to keep people from entering East Germany. And the wall that President-elect Trump has proposed is meant to keep foreigners out and not to keep Americans in America.

But it also showed how little we remember the Berlin Wall and the war zone it created--the young people, trapped in East Germany, desperate to join family or to continue their university studies, who tried to climb over the wall only to be shot by Soviet guards. East German boys were instructed to open fire on their own people; those who wanted to leave East Germany were made into criminals, and the East German news media covered up the truth behind the shootings. I don't see how the wall "worked."

Greg Mitchell's book is the story of the brave men and women dedicated to bringing people out form East Germany. It is the story of American newsmen who recognized the Berlin Wall was the story of the decade and who wanted to document the building of escape tunnels.

It is also the story of President Kennedy juggling the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Wall , endeavoring to prevent the nuclear war that some thought inevitable. If America attacked Cuba, and the Soviets attacked West Berlin, America would be drawn into nuclear war. Kennedy said of the military, "These brass hats have one great advantage in their favor. If we listen to them, ad do what they want us to do, none of us will be alive later to tell the that they were wrong." We were that close.

I was inspired by the selfless heroism of the men and women who risked their lives to help people escape East Germany. I was interested in how NBC and CBS fought to have their films of tunnel building and escapees brought to television. The White House used political pressure to suppress the films as damaging to American-Soviet relations. And I was appalled to read that in a 2009 poll early half of eastern Germans believed that the former state had 'more good sides than bad.'

I appreciate a book that is a great historical read that also sheds new light on events we are forgetting. It is even better when the subject is also of contemporary relevance. Walls have been going up across the world. Mitchell's book reminds us that walls do not solve our problems.

I received a free book through Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review.

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