Glienicke Bridge

Anna Croall
Anna Croall - [email protected]
Glienicke Bridge

The Glienicke Bridge crossing near Potsdam gained its mysterious image with the 1961 exchange of a Russian agent for famous US pilot Francis Gary Powers. The checkpoint kept the name “Bridge of Spies” after two more spy exchanges in the 1980s.


Glienicke Bridge then

The Glienicke Bridge had long served as a connection between Berlin and Brandenburg when it became the Potsdam border crossing in 1961 after the Wall was built. This crossing point was to be used by members of the Western Allied forces and citizens with special permission, though it was later also opened up to East German accredited diplomats.

The bridge became notorious during the Cold War not as a crossing point, but rather as the site of famous exchanges between Eastern and Western forces. It was nicknamed the “Bridge of Spies” after the 1962 exchange of Russian agent Rudolf Abel for downed US pilot Francis Gary Powers.

Further exchanges were not carried out at the bridge until 1985 and 1986, and the less famous checkpoint at Herleshausen/Wartha was in fact the spot most often chosen for such swaps.

During the “high noon” exchange in 1985, 27 agents were exchanged. In 1986, the release of Anatoly Shcharansky from imprisonment for “anti-Soviet activities” gained great attention in the West thanks to the efforts of Shcharansky’s wife to draw attention to his plight. He was exchanged for three East German agents.

Glienicke Bridge now

Since the Wall came down, and the borders were opened, the intrigue surrounding the “Bridge of Spies” has continued, and it is still a popular stop on tourist buses. The bridge itself has stayed largely the same, and, aside from its history, offers little apart from a great view – that is, until you look closer.

“You can still see the division on the bridge in the paintwork. The whole bridge was painted green, and they intended, on each side, to make sure it was the same,” Dr Axel Klausmeier from the Berlin Wall foundation told The Local.

“But there remain different shades on Eastern and Western side – the paint was different. If you walk over the bridge you can see in the middle that the green changes.”

Checkpoint Charlie


Friedrichstrasse Station

The Brandenburg Gate


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