Eyewitness Joachim Neumann reports: 

Escape through the Tunnel

Before the winter holidays 2015, Joachim Neumann visited the Quentin Blake Europe School.

As a witness to the dramatic period of the building of the Berlin Wall, Herr Neumann has many fascinating stories to tell.  After the Wall was built in 1961, he decided to flee to West Berlin.  From some West Berlin students be was given a Swiss passport.  The photo didn’t fit him because of the hair colour, so he had his hair dyed.  With a few Swiss coins and gadgets in his pocket and without uttering a single word, since his lack of Swiss dialect would give him away, he managed to flee via the Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof (train station).

In 1962 he joined a group of students, who were digging a tunnel under the wall from West Berlin to East Berlin. Among other things he wanted to help his girlfriend escape.  Since he was studying engineering, he knew about constructing tunnels.

The first tunnel was Tunnel 24, through which 24 people managed to escape.  Pipes made of old tin cans were used with ventilators to help get air into the almost 40 meter long tunnel.  Eventually water seeped into the tunnel.  Later tunnels were up to 9 metres below the earth.

Fifty-seven people escaped in 1964 through Tunnel 57, which ran from the cellar of an abandoned bakery in Bernauer Straße in the East to a Hinterhof (rear courtyard) in Strelitzer Straße in the West.  Herr Neumann’s girlfriend was one of these 57.




Quentin Blake Illustration