• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Berlin museum brings spies in from the cold
Displays inside the Spy Museum Berlin including a still from '24' starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. Photo: Spy Museum Berlin

Berlin museum brings spies in from the cold

Tom Barfield · 17 Sep 2015, 18:00

Published: 17 Sep 2015 18:00 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Sep 2015 18:00 GMT+02:00

The building that stands in the former "Death Strip" on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall at what is now Leipziger Platz will house relics from the long Cold War duel of encryption, assassination and eavesdropping across the Iron Curtain.

At €18 for an adult ticket, entry certainly isn't for the faint of heart or wallet.

But the aspiring international man of mystery or femme fatale willing to pay will gain access to a trove of never-before-seen information and over 1,000 artefacts ranging from ancient Babylonian cipher techniques to parachutes used to supply agents behind enemy lines with carrier pigeons during the First World War.

A parachute used to send carrier pigeons to agents behind enemy lines during the First World War. Photo: Spy Museum Berlin

Curator Franz-Michael Günther told The Local that he was inspired by his work as a television journalist reporting on the War on Terror to find out the pre-history of the job the spies he encountered were doing.

"Technologies that have existed for a long time are now being improved, compressed – like the analogue way the Stasi [East German secret police] operated, Google could now do the same thing in a month."

As The Local toured the museum on Thursday, technicians armed with laptops cabled into open floor hatches and rolls of blueprints worthy of Q Branch were putting the finishing touches to the displays.

The museum features a wealth of historical spy tools that look like the work of James Bond's beloved quartermaster, including bras or umbrellas designed to conceal tiny cameras, and a radio direction finder disguised as a watch.

Interactive games and interviews with former top spooks are also part of the exhibition.

A camera designed to be concealed in a woman's bra. Photo: Tom Barfield

And real spies ranging from Mata Hari to Edward Snowden are put under the spotlight to examine how the profession has changed.

Story continues below…

"Romance and the human factor are no longer the main question, but rather this digital eavesdropping," Günther explained.

"Berlin was the capital of spies historically, but I think that nowadays the focus is no longer on any one city, it's so globalized through the networking of the world."

Those wistful for the days of microdots, wiretaps and fake passports may not find their fantasies reflected in the world of espionage today – but the wealth of relics now on display in Berlin are a comforting window into some of the greatest spies of history and fiction.

The Spy Museum Berlin is located at Leipziger Platz 9 and opens on Saturday September 19th.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Barfield (tom.barfield@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germany says 'won't let anyone take Europe from us'
Steinmeier called the European Union “a successful project of peace and stability”. Photo: DPA

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday that the EU would weather the shock of the British vote to leave the union as he convened crisis talks.

Brexit vote
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
A sign in Berlin's tech giant and startup-building company Rocket Internet. Photo: DPA.

London is currently thought of as the main hub for startups in Europe, but that will all turn around when the UK leaves the EU, tech industry experts say.

Brexit vote - Analysis
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
British Leave campaigners celebrate Brexit result. Photo: DPA

Britain leaving the EU means trouble ahead for Germany - and its hardest task will be convincing the Brits to drop a self-defeating ideology, a leading foreign policy expert told The Local.

How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Photo: DPA.

Considering a change of passport after the UK's vote to ditch the EU? Here’s how to do it.

Germany makes fracking verboten
A sign in North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA.

German lawmakers approved a law that essentially bans fracking, ending years of dispute over the controversial technology to release oil and gas locked deep underground.

Brexit vote
German far right 'cries for joy' after UK votes to leave EU
Left to right: AfD's Beatrix von Storch and Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA

The far-right AfD party called for a "new Europe" and the resignation of the EU's top two politicians in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Brexit vote
Merkel: Brexit has cut into European unity
Angela Merkel at a press conference after the Brexit vote on Friday. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that the UK's decision to leave the EU has created a "cut in Europe" and the project of European unity.

Couple copulating on bridge shut down Autobahn
Kaiserlei Bridge in Frankfurt. Photo: Dontworry / Wikimedia Commons.

It was a highly unusual choice of location for a romantic rendezvous, police in Frankfurt point out.

Brexit vote
Germany: Brexit vote is a 'sad day for Europe'
A British flag along with other flags of European Union member countries flies in front of the European Council building in Strasbourg, France. Photo: EPA.

Top German leaders declared that it was a "sad day for Europe" after British voters opted to leave the European Union.

Viernheim hostage-taker wasn't carrying lethal weapon
A police officer stands guard in front of the cinema in Viernheim. Photo: DPA

The 19-year-old German man who took over a dozen people hostage in a cinema in western Germany on Thursday was carrying replica weapons, prosecutors have confirmed.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Gallery
7 photos which show the aftermath of Bavaria's Autobahn bridge collapse
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sport
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
Society
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
National
Bayer's Monsanto takeover would be 'diabolical': environmentalists
7,902
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd