• Tunnel 29

  • The True Story of an Extraordinary Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall
  • By: Helena Merriman
  • Narrated by: Helena Merriman
  • Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (410 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

He escaped from one of the world’s most brutal regimes.

Then, he decided to tunnel back in. 

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 brilliantly 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.

Tunnel 29 was also the first made-for-TV event of its kind; it was funded by NBC, who wanted to film an escape in real time. Their documentary - which was nearly blocked from airing by the Kennedy administration, which wanted to control the media during the Cold War - revolutionized TV journalism.

Ultimately, Tunnel 29 is a success story about freedom: the valiant citizens risking everything to win it back, and the larger world rooting for them to triumph.

©2021 Hugely Limited and the BBC (P)2021 PublicAffairs

Critic Reviews

“A fascinating account of a daring escape from a repressive regime as well as a vivid portrait of life in Berlin in the early days of the wall - and of the international impact of events in that city. Merriman effectively maintains the pace and suspense, giving readers a novelistic narrative with a solid foundation of fact. An entertaining real-life Cold War thriller following a group of students who escaped under ‘the Wall of all walls.’” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A gripping, real-life page turner, packed with great characters stuck in impossible situations. This is nonfiction at its very best, and more dramatic and incredible than any fiction I have read for a very long time.” (John O’Farrell, cohost of the We Are History podcast)

“Merriman takes us inside not only the tunnel, but also the personal lives of those who dug it. We feel we’re experiencing history as it happens. It’s a gripping story of bravery, determination, and, ultimately, love.” (Lindsey Hilsum, author of In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin)

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What listeners say about Tunnel 29

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  • Overall
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Gripping

Great book on a subject I think much of the world has moved on from but shines a bright light on history’s heroes and villains.

17 people found this helpful

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Outstanding

Excellent on all counts. Highly recommend for 20th century European history buffs and personal courage sagas

17 people found this helpful

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Riveting

Amazing story and narrative. I couldn’t put it down. It almost reads like a spy novel.

16 people found this helpful

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This book sucks.

Affected, cliche and dis-jointed. Finished out of spite. I’d recommend a VERY hard pass.

7 people found this helpful

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Should be mandatory reading in high school.

This book reads like a book of fiction - but it is an incredible true story. For those who may believe that living under socialism or communism is an alternative to democracy, listening to this book will be humbling. A group of everyday citizens risk everything to bring their loved ones, and even people they have never met, to freedom. These historical events prove that heroes come in many different shapes and sizes. I can only hope that if I was faced with similar circumstances, I would rise to the occasion and fight for the freedom of others.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent presentation of meticulous research, an incredible story.

This was such an enjoyable exploration of the history of east/west Germany. It reads like a spy novel. All of the detail! But it’s all true! Thanks to the meticulous notes kept by the East German intelligence agents. Utterly fascinating.

2 people found this helpful

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Cancer

This book illustrates very well the hideousness of the political left. An absolute cancer on humanity. This should be required reading for every child on the planet.

1 person found this helpful

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Tunnel 29

I was 5 in 1961. I remember talk of Sputnik and having air raid drills in school. The Berlin wall always seemed to exist in my childhood, until it was taken down. I was an adult with children then. I understood more about freedom and oppression. This history lesson adds depth and the humanity of another atrocity of war. I am grateful to the author for bringing this story to long overdue light.

1 person found this helpful

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Wow!

This was so good. Sometimes you just want a book to end. Not this one for me. Just amazing the story, the context, and the delivery.

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Amazing should be read by all Americans

This book brings to life a period too many have forgotten. It is a story about overcoming overwhelming odds and a warning against any philosophy that would turn neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, or parents against children.