The Trade of Agents During the Cold War

Author & Director:
Juergen Ast | Martin Huebner

Commissioning Editor:
Dr. Katja Wildermuth


astfilm productions | for MDR | ARTE // ARTE

The time after the 2nd World War - the height of the intelligence services, of spies and agents, and of the so called "scouts for peace". The stakes were high. All involved knew what they were doing, what kind of risk they were taking. Career or prison, medals or execution. Who got caught by the enemy, he could not hope for any pity, especially not after the Iron Curtain was finally set up. But towards all, there were loopholes in the Iron Curtain. Top spies could hope that they was not completely forgotten and left behind. The former director of the CIA, John Schlesinger, explains in his exclusive Interview: "If intelligence services fail to get their people back, the moral of the service suffers ..."

February 10th 1962 - Glienicke Bridge. Two men are walking up to each other, soon they'll pass the sides. On the side of the city of Potsdam: Francis Gary Powers, the U.S. Pilot of a U2 spy plane, shot down on May 1st 1960 over the Soviet Union and convicted to ten years jail. On the side of West-Berlin: Rudolf Ivanovitch Abel, the master spy of the Soviet Union and officer of the KGB. He was sentenced to 30 years after he was uncovered and arrested for espionage in 1957 in New York City.

With the swap of Powers and Abel, a totally new and often strange confrontation between the hostile powers has started. The swap of spies and agents - a very complicated, highly sensitive trade. And a hard bargaining finding the adequate "exchange value" for the "hot goods". The list of cases is long. The documentary sets the focus on a few outstanding secret deals between the East and the West. It is an in-depth look at the philosophy and the necessary procedures, the process and its history, the evaluation of possibilities and impossibilities. In the center of the story stands the protagonists, who managed the secret deals: politicians, diplomats, lawyers, employees of the intelligence services ... Beside the spectacular cases of Abel and Powers, Felfe, Guillaume, Sharansky, the film also tells of rather unknown spy swap actions in the Cold War.