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PROJECTS | 2004 | THE SWAP OF SPIES IN THE COLD WAR

THE SWAP OF SPIES IN THE COLD WAR

Part 1 | Final Destination Glienicke Bridge

Part 2 | Attorney Vogel's First Coup

Author & Director:
Juergen Ast | Martin Huebner

Commissioning Editor:
Dr. Katja Wildermuth

Duration:
2 x 45'

Production:
astfilm productions | for MDR

Part 1: February 10th 1962. The first and probably the most spectacular swap of spies in the history of the Cold War is taking place. The showdown begins at dawn. The scene is the Glienicke Bridge between Potsdam and West-Berlin. On the bridge, two men approach each other. From the Potsdam side, which belongs to the East, comes US pilot Francis Gary Powers. He was shot down with his spy plane over the Soviet Union on May 1st 1960 and shortly after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The other man comes from the West-Berlin side. He is a spy "by trade" and a colonel of the KGB. His name: Rudolf Ivanovitch Abel. The master spy of the Soviets, who helped to prize the nuclear secrets out of the USA, he was uncovered 1957 in New York and sentenced to 30 years. In the middle of the bridge both top agents meet for the first, and for the last time in their lives. A quick glance at each other, than everything is already over.

With the swap of Abel and Powers also began the breathtaking career of a till then unknown lawyer from East-Berlin. Wolfgang Vogel was picked out by the Soviets to get their master spy out of the American prison. Under the pretext that Abel's wife is living in the GDR, in Leipzig, Vogel becomes the advocate of the KGB spy. It is the beginning of a very difficult, and long-lasting act of evaluating the value of the "hot goods" they intend to trade. A brutally calculating, sensitive deal absolutely off the record. At the end, the Americans even get one more man in exchange for Abel, the US student Frederic Pryor. Vogel himself gets Pryor out of the prison of the Ministry of State Security, where the student was imprisoned under suspicion of espionage, and drives him to Checkpoint Charlie. Vogel's efforts and his reliability made him the linchpin of those secret deals between the East and the West, and so the GDR became an international spy gate.

Part 2: June 11th 1985. Glienicke Bridge, the best guarded bridge in the Cold War. The area on the east side is sealed off by the Ministry of State Security. For hours now, a well guarded bus is standing by for further orders, containing a highly critical human charge. The 25 passengers aboard, women and men, who were uncovered in the GDR and sentenced of being CIA agents to high and even to life imprisonment. Now they hope that their fate will finally turn. Also on the west side dozens of men are on duty, disguised with sunglasses, armed with guns hidden in their jackets. Then a convoy of limousines with American license plates approach slowly the Potsdam side, assigned to check the "charge" in the bus, that soon is going to be exchanged ... Scenes like in a James Bond movie or a thriller from John le Carre. But this time it is all for real.

What went down as the biggest spy swap in the annals of the Cold War on this day in June 1985, the exchange of 25 western spies against 4 eastern spies, it is also the extraordinary story of GDR citizens, that agreed to work for the US intelligence. Adventure, money and ambition were reasons to engage in this very special "job". A job that was even more dangerous than they were told by their recruitment and their spy training. All of them lived a strange kind of life. They were torn apart between the fear of being discovered and the pride of spying as a GDR citizen for the "great" US. A bus full of spies - shattering moments already on the way from the GDR prison to Glienicke Bridge. A husband and his wife meet for the first time after many years of separation. Brothers accuse each other of being traitors. After six years in prison, a man finds out, that his wife is living with another man. Human destinies with and without "Happy End". Big politics and broken biographies from the era of the Cold War.