Thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, this new series reveals an amazing human story unfolding underneath this ‘edifice of fear’ - one of the most notorious symbols of division in history.Mohit Bakaya
Date: 14.10.2019 Last updated: 14.10.2019 at 11.52
Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, BBC Radio 4 is releasing a major new podcast exploring the extraordinary true story of an escape tunnel that was dug underneath it.
Tunnel 29 is the latest podcast in Radio 4’s Intrigue strand. It tells the story of Joachim Rudolph - who, in his early twenties, joined a group of people digging a tunnel from West to East Berlin, right under the feet of border guards, to help 29 others escape.
All ten episodes will be available on BBC Sounds on 16 October, before being broadcast across two weeks on Radio 4.
Tunnel 29 is based on original interviews with the tunnellers, as well as thousands of documents from Stasi archives. The podcast reveals how one member of the group was blackmailed into becoming a Stasi informant, leading the other tunnellers to dig into a trap.
Presented by award-winning broadcaster Helena Merriman, Tunnel 29 explores the against-all-odds relationships that developed between refugees who sought freedom together. We also hear about the astonishing role that American TV network NBC played in the escape.
Told through an immersive and cinematic sound design, shaped by using recordings from inside various tunnels, including Tunnel 29 itself - this new podcast is a story of love, espionage, and one of the most daring escapes of the 20th century.
Helena Merriman says: “I started interviewing the people involved in Tunnel 29 in Germany a year ago. Over apple cake and pretzels, they recounted how, as a group of young people, they’d risked everything to dig the tunnel and help others escape. In vivid detail they told me about the spy who betrayed them and the terrible price some paid when they were caught. And then there were the unexpected parts: a surprising love story and even an early attempt at reality television.
“I wanted to tell this story because it’s not just about a pivotal moment in history. As new walls and barriers are being built around the world, Tunnel 29 also feels like a story for our times.”
Mohit Bakaya, Controller of Radio 4, says: “Thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, this new series reveals an amazing human story unfolding underneath this ‘edifice of fear’ - one of the most notorious symbols of division in history.
“This is an exciting time for audio storytelling, with people discovering intricate investigations and hidden histories, whether it’s on their radio or their mobile. Last quarter, there was a record 75 million downloads of Radio 4 programmes and podcasts.
“I want Radio 4 to bring listeners fascinating stories that illuminate the past in new ways, but also resonate with what’s going on today. Tunnel 29 does both brilliantly. It’s the latest in our Intrigue series which has everything I think listeners expect from Radio 4 - brilliant journalism, compelling first-hand storytelling and rich, captivating sound design.”
Intrigue is a Radio 4 current affairs strand that aims to pull back the curtain on how the world works. It began in 2017 with Murder At The Lucky Holiday Hotel, which explored a mysterious murder that changed the course of Chinese politics, and was followed last year by The Ratline, an investigation into a senior Nazi indicted for mass murder, who managed to escape justice after the Second World War.
Podcast release date and transmission details
An introduction to Intrigue: Tunnel 29 has been released on BBC Sounds. All ten episodes will be available on BBC Sounds from 16 October and will air on BBC Radio 4 between 21 October and 1 November at 1.45-2pm.
Presenter and Producer: Helena Merriman
Sound design: Eloise Whitmore
Translation and additional research: Sabine Schereck