Border between two worlds | The mail

Glienicke Bridge, which links the Wannsee district of Berlin with Potsdam, the former residence of the Prussian kings.

Bridges with history

In that of Glienicke, which united both Germanies, hostages were exchanged during the Cold War

The Glienicke Bridge spans the River Havel, connecting the Wannsee district of Berlin with Brandenburg’s capital, Potsdam, since 1907. Despite taking its name from the nearby Italian-inspired neoclassical palace that served as the residence of Prince Charles of Prussia, it is a bridge without any charm. So modest that just a slight wink in its arches reminds us that it was built when art nouveau forced to embellish every detail. Nothing would bring tourists closer to him if it were not for the fact that for forty years at one end the flag of the Federal Republic of Germany waved while the other the Democratic one. Crossing its 128 meters was little less than changing the world.

It was designed by the engineer Johann Caspar Harkort VI, a pioneer in the construction of large iron bridges in Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

glienicke bridge | Berlin

It almost emerged intact from World War II, but in April 1945 a projectile damaged its structure and forced a reconstruction that was not completed until 1949, after the creation of the two Germanies. The pro-Soviet government of the GDR then called it ‘the bridge of unity’ because it was crossed by the route of the new frontier. If ever there was any warmth in the name, it turned into cruel irony in 1961 when, after the erection of the Berlin Wall, it was closed to the public. Since then its name became ‘the bridge of spies’.

It was there, as Spierberg’s film recounts, that American pilot Francis Gary Powers, whose plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, was exchanged for US-imprisoned KGB member Rudolf Abel. It was the first of only three exchanges – real, let alone those described in John le Carré’s novels – that reached their peak on June 11, 1985, four months after Mikhail Gorbachev became the Party’s general secretary. Communist of the Soviet Union; With the bridge decked out with Soviet and American flags, before journalists from all over the world and after eight years of negotiations, four spies from Eastern Europe and 23 from the CIA crossed the white lines that marked the border between West and East. The cold war was coming to an end and the thaw began in Glienicke, which one day after the fall of the wall, on November 10, 1989, was declared free and again open to circulation.


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