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Bridge of Spies, Berlin, Germany
Glienicker Brücke August 2003. Photo: SBL
Glienicker Brücke in Berlin is connecting the Wannsee district of Berlin with Potsdam. The bridge is crossing Havel River. During the Cold War the Havel River formed the border between West Berlin and East Germany in this area. The bridge was used several times for the exchange of captured spies and thus became known as the Bridge of Spies.
During the early years of the Cold War, the bridge was mainly used by the Allies as a link between their Berlin sections and the military liaison missions in Potsdam. Glienicker Brücke was the only checkpoint between West Berlin and East Berlin, not only having Soviet presence, but also of being under full Soviet control. All other checkpoints were under East German control and had no Soviet presence.
The Americans and Soviets used Glienicker Brücke for the exchange of captured spies during the Cold War. Reporters began calling it the "Bridge of Spies". The first prisoner exchange took place on 10 February 1962. The Americans released Soviet spy Colonel Rudolf Abel in exchange for American spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers captured by the USSR following the U-2 Crisis of 1960.
On 12 June 1985, there was a swap of 23 American agents held in Eastern Europe for Polish agent Marian Zacharski and another three Soviet agents arrested in the West. The exchange was the result of three years of negotiation. The final exchange was also the most public. On 11 February 1986 the human rights campaigner and political prisoner Anatoly Shcharansky and three Western agents were exchanged for Karl Koecher and four other Eastern agents.
Glienicker Brücke during the Cold War
Today there is nothing to see from the history of the bridge, but I have tried to walk over the bridge and crossing the line on the middle of the bridge imagining the Cold War-time where Soviet spies were passing Western spies in the strange exchange, asking yourself if you would be shot in the back.
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