An escape tunnel underneath the Berlin Wall has been opened for the public for the first time as people celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the fall of Wall. Mayor Michael Mueller opened the tunnel which is situated at Bernauer Strasse, near the city’s main Wall memorial. “It’s great to see that the battle for freedom was also taken underground,” said Mueller.
The tunnel was built by people who had escaped to West Berlin and wanted to help their friends and family to flee from East Germany. But before it could get completed, East German officials somehow came to know about it and destroyed it partially.
“One can authentically experience...the courage of the women and men who tried to take people to freedom and resisted the East German regime,” said Mueller.
People can see the newly opened tunnel at Bernauer Strasse through two windows but can not get inside it. Ulrich Pfeifer, one of the builders of the tunnel, said that the Berlin Wall was tearing apart families. Pfeifer got the motivation to dig escape tunnels after her girlfriend was sentenced seven years in prison. “She was 22 years old and was sentenced for nothing other than an escape attempt,” he said.
Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to divide Germany physically as well as ideologically. The motive behind building such a wall was to stop the so-called ideological contamination of the West. It cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany including East Berlin. There was mass migration from East to West but after Berlin Wall was built, only over 5,000 people succeded to escape and many died in the attempt to flee. According to the Berlin Underworlds Association, which conducts tours of the city’s historic bunkers and tunnels, more than 70 tunnels were built in that period and around 300 people managed to escape through such tunnels.