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Did you know that the Bridge of Spies is real? It’s true! Just 3 years ago the Academy Award nominated film, Bridge of Spies, was released and became a success! Tom Hanks played James Donovan, the Irish-American lawyer who played a big role in the Nuremburg Trials, negotiations over the Bay of Pigs prisoners, and yes, he negotiated the exchange of a U.S. Air Force pilot whose CIA U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 in exchange for a convicted Soviet spy whom Donovan represented. Francis Gary Powers was the pilot, and Rudolf Ivanovich Abel was the Soviet Intelligence Officer. Donovan went to Berlin in 1960 to negotiate the exchange, and while he was there, the Berlin Wall went up.
The Glienicke Bridge connects the Wannsee neighborhood of Berlin to Potsdam over the Havel River. After World War II and the division of West and East Berlin, the Havel River was the border between east and west, and because of this, it was the site of many exchanges between the Free World and those behind the Iron Curtain. The East Germans called it the “Bridge of Unity”. Citizens of Berlin and Potsdam used the bridge to go back and forth, and the Allies used it for missions to East Germany. In 1952 the East German government closed the bridge to West Berliners and West Germans. When the Berlin Wall was built, East Germany closed the bridge to East German citizens as well. From that time onward, only Allied Military personnel and foreign diplomats were allowed on the bridge. The Americans and Soviets used the bridge for the exchanges of “spies” and prisoners, and so it became known as the Bridge of Spies.
On my recent trip with Viking Cruises to Germany, I had the opportunity to see and stroll on the famous, and infamous, Bridge of Spies. It is quite a lovely spot, and history remains intact by showing the Eastern bridge vs. the Western Bridge. They were painted different shades of green. The bridge was opened for East and West on the very evening of 10 November 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down. After visiting the former East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, I will never forget that date as it is the date when they all celebrate their freedom.