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© Ron Stern

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Symbol of the Cold War

The Glienicke Bridge as last hope of the spies

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there has been a lot of traffic on the once mysterious place between Berlin and Potsdam: The Glienicke Bridge. Its English nickname is “The Bridge of Spies“. The bridge became world famous as a bottleneck in the Iron Curtain, in its function as a swap point for spies of the Great Powers.

Glienicker Bridge - "Bridge of Spies" ©Ron SternWhen in February 1986, two men meet on the bridge, there is a moment of silence on both sides, then it's all over. Between 1962 and 1986, there were three exchanges of spies who had been arrested on both sides. When important people of the opponent were arrested in both military camps during the Cold War, agents negotiated the exchange. The Glienicke Bridge proved to be particularly suitable place of exchange, because it was easily accessible for the Great Powers and because the surrounding area could be ideally secured. The nearby Villa Kampfmeyer served the KGB (Committee for State Security of the Soviet Union) as observation post. The chapter of agent transfers ended with the last exchange in 1986, in which President Reagen, President Gorbatschow, as well as Chancellor Helmut Kohl (West Germany) and State Council Chairman Erich Honecker (East Germany) were involved.

The Glienicke Bridge is a place of many facets. Before the wars, it was an important link of the Reichsstraße 1 between Aachen and Königsberg. It also served as a backdrop for the movie “Unter den Brücken” (“Under the bridges”) which was shot during bombing in 1944. Furthermore, in spring 1945, thousands of people escaped from Berlin across the bridge to the West. Eventually, the bridge was blown up by the German Armed Forces before the war ended.        
 
The “Bridge of Unity“ becomes a symbol of the division

Glienicker Bridge, Potsdam ©Bjoern RudekSince the 17th century, the Glienicke Bridge has connected the banks of the Havel River between Berlin and the Prussian imperial residence Potsdam. Initially built as a wooden structure, a stone bridge was constructed in 1831 according to the plans by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. As the bridge was unable to cope with the increasing traffic, a wider steel construction was opened to traffic at the beginning of the 20th century. The name “Kaiser-Wilhelm-Brücke” (Emperor-William-Bridge), however, could never prevail.

In the last days of the Second World War, Germans and Soviets fought on the bridge, which was heavily damaged. The Soviet occupiers soon repaired the bridge and gave it the name “Bridge of Unity”. And yet, up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bridge was the symbol of Germany's division. On the 10th of November 1989, thousands streamed across the bridge, which used to be the best guarded bridge in the world for decades, to West-Berlin. Nowadays, more people cross the bridge in one day than in 40 years of the German division.

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