Helena Merriman is an award-winning journalist, author and documentary-maker. Helena wrote, produced and presented Tunnel 29 – the BBC podcast series about a group of students who dug a tunnel under the Berlin Wall in 1962. The podcast has had over 6m downloads and was listed by The New Yorker as one of their top five podcasts of 2019. It won the Foreign Press Association’s Podcast of the Year, Rose D’Or Best Audio Entertainment and Best Radio Podcast and Moment of the Year at the British Podcast Awards. Helena has worked as a reporter all over the world, with long stints in Jerusalem, Egypt and Washington DC. She has spent time with resistance fighters on the frontline in Libya, reported on the Egyptian uprising from Cairo, interviewed protesters in Yemen, investigated illegal fishing in Sierra Leone and covered Obama’s re-election campaign. Her new book “Tunnel 29: The True Story of an Extraordinary Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall” is the true story of the most remarkable Cold War rescue mission. (amazon, 2021)
“Tunnel 29” – He escaped from one of the world’s most brutal regimes. Then, he decided to tunnel back in. In the summer of 1962, a young student named Joachim Rudolph dug a tunnel under the Berlin Wall. Waiting on the other side in East Berlin were dozens of men, women, and children—all willing to risk everything to escape. Drawing on interviews with the survivors and Stasi files, Helena Merriman brilliantly reveals the stranger-than-fiction story of the ingenious group of student-diggers, the glamorous red-haired messenger, the Stasi spy who threatened the whole enterprise, and the love story that became its surprising epilogue. “Tunnel 29” was also the first made-for-TV event of its kind; it was funded by NBC, who wanted to film an escape in real time. Their documentary—which was nearly blocked from airing by the Kennedy administration, which wanted to control the media during the Cold War—revolutionized TV journalism. “Tunnel 29” is a success story about freedom: the valiant citizens risking everything to win it back, and the larger world rooting for them to triumph.