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A group of students, a secret tunnel and a daring escape from East Germany

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A day before the escape was to take place, Frank returned to Berlin and looked at more than 20 hours of footage. “As he watches the tunnellers digging, cart-hauling, dirt-emptying, sweating, shaking, exhausted . . . he knows this is unlike anything he’s ever seen.” It was nothing compared with what cameras captured the night of Sept. 14, 1962, when 29 elderly couples, young marrieds, children, babies, single men and women were filmed emerging, wet and muddy and terrified, into the West. In December, after wrestling with the Kennedy administration, which was reluctant to have an American television network meddling in international diplomacy, “The Tunnel” aired. “Over the next seventy-eight minutes, in eighteen million homes, people who so far have only seen short news reports about the Berlin Wall, people who had little understanding of what was happening in the city, watch the story unfold,” Merriman writes.

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