Like all of the great modernist cities of Europe, Berlin had a venerable and highly developed underground infrastructure: sewers, service tunnels, subways. But unlike the Paris sewers, the London Tube, or the Roman catacombs, the German capital was not identified in any mythic or symbolic way with this infrastructure. Rather than based in a physical feature of its subterranean space, the reigning image of subterranean Berlin was metaphorical: the underworld of decadent Weimar culture, a subversive image reinforced during the 1920s by the political identity das rote Berlin. There are material grounds for this difference in underground identity, but this essay focuses on the Wall that gave the city a metaphorics of space symbolizing the global divisions it embodied in a brutally physical manner and the tunnels that, in their very invisibility, were seen both to echo and to subvert that division. After a brief discussion of the forerunners to this spatial coupling in the spy tunnels under Vienna and Berlin in the immediate postwar period, I survey the use of tunnels as escape routes after the construction of the Wall in 1961 through their depiction in fiction, memoirs, history, and film. I pay particular attention to cinema, for the depiction of the tunnels between Robert Siodmak's 1962 Germano-Hollywood thriller Escape from East Berlin and Roland Suso Richter's epic 2001 TV drama, Der Tunnel, delineates both the unvarying contours of the metaphorics of Wall and tunnel and the changing uses to which those metaphorics have been put.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.