For those of us “born free” in America, we have a limited understanding of what it means to crave freedom. The German Studies Department at the U of A recently showed in a class the 2001 film “The Tunnel” (“Der Tunnel”) on September 10. I missed it but my native born West German husband saw it and encouraged me to rent the DVD. He grew up an hour west from the Wall (two barbed wire fences separated by landmine fields, & guard towers every 200 meters ) that used to separate East and West Germany. The department is celebrating the twenty years since reunification happened. (The Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989).
This is a true and extremely gripping story of East Berliners trying to escape into West Berlin in 1961 as the Berlin Wall was being built. Harry Melchior, East Germany’s swimming champion defects (using a false passport), and then starts digging a tunnel 145 meters under the border to help his sister and husband and their daughter escape. He enlists the aid of other German political refugees who want to save their family members as well.
Growing up in a free country, we normally only hear of what it was like to live in a fascist country where one can be imprisoned for exercising free speech or criticizing the government. That point is well made in this movie, as well as the desperate attempts others made to cross the border wall. Some got shot trying to run for freedom.
Casa Video (www.casavideo.com) at 2905 E. Speedway, my favorite video store for foreign flicks, has this DVD “The Tunnel” (in German, with English subtitles) in stock. It will really make you appreciate just being born free, and not having to flee a country with only what you can carry with you.
Coming up this Thursday October 8, as part of an undergraduate class is “Trace of Stone” (“Spur der Steine”), a 1966 movie about “living and working conditions in the GDR (German Democratic Republic- East Germany) of the 1960′s”, including a love story of a construction foreman. This movie will show at 7:30 p.m. at the Integrated Learning Center (ILC) 150 and the community is invited to join the class and discussion.