• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

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 sees 'turning point' in birth rate decline
Children at a a kindergarten in Swabia. Photo: Nikolaus Lenau/Flickr

Is Germany's three-decade decline in birth rate now over?

Trump protesters rebuild and tear down 'Berlin Wall'
The 'Stop Trump' protest at the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: DPA.

US expats gathered at the Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate on Friday "rebuild" the Berlin Wall and protest US presidential candidate Donald Trump's own proposed wall-building.

Accusation of sexism within Merkel's party creates uproar
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Chancellor Angela Merkel, two leading women in the CDU party. Photo: DPA.

A young politician from the ranks of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has caused a storm by suggesting that the party is institutionally sexist.

EasyJet 'in talks to buy German airline' to duck Brexit
Photo: DPA

EasyJet is in talks to acquire TUIfly, a board member of the German carrier said Friday, as the British no-frills airline looks for ways to keep flying freely within the EU after Britain quits the bloc.

Symbols of migrant plight to go on show in Bonn museum
Photo: DPA

A people smugglers' car, a dinghy and a life jacket are among items related to Europe's migration crisis due to go on display at a German museum.

Brexit
Green party demand 'quick and easy' citizenship for Brits
Photo: DPA

The Green party has called for Brits living in Germany to be offered a painless path to obtaining dual citizenship as to "reassure them over the future".

Berlin the new London? 10m2 flat to rent for €750 a month
Photo: Immonet.de.

This shoebox apartment in the gentrified Bergmann-Kiez neighbourhood may be a sign that the tides are turning for Berlin’s comparatively cheap housing market.

Far-right AfD reach record high in national poll
AfD leader Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) was backed by 16 percent of respondents in a new poll, which was a new high for the upstart populist party.

Bautzen youth beat up pensioner in racist attack
Photo: DPA

In the Saxon town of Bautzen, which has become a byword for racism and anti-migrant sentiment, two youths have attacked a 72-year-old man, shouting 'foreigners out'.

German lawmakers ratify landmark Paris climate accord
The German parliament (Bundestag). Photo: DPA.

Germany's lower of house of parliament on Thursday ratified the Paris agreement on climate change, following in the footsteps of 60 other countries that have committed to the landmark agreement designed to stem the planet's rising temperatures.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
5,682
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd