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Why Berlin remains an espionage hot spot

March 30, 2024

Berlin is THE hot spot for spies. Nowhere else did the secret services of East and West clash as closely as in this city on the front lines of the Cold War. Arts Unveiled delves into the shadows of Berlin and uncovers incredible stories from ex-agents.


Berlin has been at the center of countless spy stories — both real and fictional, from the Cold War right up until today. Berlin's rise as an espionage hot spot began after World War II. The erstwhile Allies put an end to Nazi rule and divided the capital into four sectors.

Former Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin
Image: Marc Vormerk/picture alliance / SULUPRESS.DE

Nowhere else did the superpowers of the East and West clash as they did in the divided city — a perfect scenario for spies. Some operated undercover, with secret identities while spying on the other side.

West Berlin, essentially an island surrounded by communist East Germany, inspired countless spy movies such as Steven Spielberg's "Bridge of Spies," the James Bond film "Octopussy," or "The Bourne Conspiracy."

We embark on a journey through "secret" Berlin, tracing spy scenes. We visit Checkpoint Charlie, the Friedrichstrasse train station, the Teufelsberg listening post and the Glienicker Bridge.

Former spy couples Thies ] Schevitz
Image: Andrea Horakh/DW

We meet ex-agents with incredible stories, such as the American couple, the Schevitzes. For years, the two lived in West Germany as top spies for East Germany.

Bea Schevitz's high-value target was no less than the German chancellor. We reveal how infamous double agent George Blake betrayed the Western powers' surveillance tunnel code-named "Operation Gold."

And we show why Berlin remains a scene of espionage: In recent years, there have been wiretapping scandals by the American National Security Agency (NSA) and Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), which was allegedly to blame for a dramatic assassination. And in 2023, a Russian double agent was exposed at Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND).

German museum of espionage: front sticker silhouette of a spy
Image: Andrea Horakh/DW

Berlin is, and will remain, a popular field for secret services. These and other stories can be discovered at the German Espionage Museum, which opened in 2015, near Potsdamer Platz, in the heart of Berlin.

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DW Arts Unveiled (Serienlogo Composite)

Arts Unveiled — Experiencing and understanding the art world

Arts Unveiled dives deep into the international creative scene, uncovering new ideas and explaining cultural phenomena that shape our history, present and future. Who are the artists? What are their greatest works of art? And how are they having an impact? Where can we find their exciting projects?