Tunnel 29: A quick, arresting read about escaping East Berlin

Book review: Story of tunnel escapes under the Berlin Wall undermines real characters

An armoured truck cleans  street  debris after  construction work to strengthen the border crossing at Heinrich-Heine-Strasse  on the Berlin Wall in  1961. Photograph: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

An armoured truck cleans street debris after construction work to strengthen the border crossing at Heinrich-Heine-Strasse on the Berlin Wall in 1961. Photograph: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Germans have a saying that you can find the best stories lying around on the streets. Helena Merriman’s lively new book, Tunnel 29, proves that sometimes the best yarns lie beneath.

Take Berlin’s Schönholzerstrasse: like most locals, an office colleague of mine had no idea of its notoriety when he moved into number seven many years ago. Only in 2009, when a plaque was attached to the facade, did he learn the full story of the building’s cellar. From here in September 1962, 29 people from the communist East vanished here into a tunnel beneath the Berlin Wall and emerged, 12 minutes and 140 metres later, in West Berlin.

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