Glienicke Bridge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Glienicke Bridge, looking east.

The Glienicke Bridge (German: Glienicker Brücke) is a bridge across the Havel River in Germany, connecting the Wannsee district of Berlin with the Brandenburg capital Potsdam. It is named after nearby Glienicke Palace. The current bridge, the fourth on the site, was completed in 1907, although major reconstruction was necessary after it was damaged during World War II.[1]


The bridge spans the Havel narrows south of the Jungfernsee lake near Glienicke Place and Jagdschloss Glienicke in the west. It is part of the Bundesstraße 1 highway and the terminus of Potsdam tram route 93 from Potsdam main station, and of Berlin bus route 316 from Wannsee station. The two routes interconnect at a tram stop just on the Potsdam side of the bridge. The respective Potsdam and Wannsee stations are served by the Berlin S-Bahn and by longer distance trains.[2]


Glienicke Bridge, painting by Franz Xaver Sandmann, 1845

A first wooden bridge across the Havel River at this location was built about 1660, in order to reach the hunting grounds around Stolpe. By the early 1800s, a new, non-wooden bridge was needed to accommodate the massive increase in traffic on the chaussee between the Prussian capital Berlin and the Hohenzollern residence in Potsdam. The architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed a brick and wood bascule bridge, which was finished in 1834. By the early 20th century, Schinkel's bridge was no longer able to handle the increased volume in traffic, and operating the moveable sections of the bridge caused delays in steamer traffic on the Havel River.

In 1904, the Prussian government held a design competition to replace Schinkel's bridge with a modern, iron bridge. The Johann Caspar Harkort Company of Duisburg submitted the winning design, and the present-day bridge was inaugurated on 16 November 1907.

The German film studio UFA shot the film Unter den Brücken (Under the Bridges) at the Glienicke Bridge in 1944 and 1945. At the end of April 1945, an unexploded shell severely damaged the bridge. The reconstruction of the steel bridge was not completed until 1949, after the establishment of West Germany and East Germany. The East German government named it the “Bridge of Unity" as the border between East Germany and Western Allied-occupied West Berlin ran through the center of the bridge.

Cold War[edit]

During the early years of the Cold War, the bridge was mainly used by the Allies as a link between their Berlin sections and the military liaison missions in Potsdam. German residents of the two cities more frequently used the S-Bahn suburban rail to travel between Berlin and Potsdam. On 27 May 1952, East German authorities closed the bridge to citizens of West Berlin and West Germany. The bridge was closed to East German citizens after the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961.

East German border crossing, 1987

By the 1970s, the bridge had outlived its projected lifespan and needed significant repairs. The cost of these repairs became a focus of a dispute between the government of West Berlin and the government of East Germany. In 1980 the West Berlin government repaired its half of the bridge, and in 1985 the West Berlin government paid for repairs to the East German half of the bridge in exchange for formally renaming the bridge "Glienicke Bridge" from "Bridge of Unity."

On the evening of 10 November 1989, one day after the opening of the Berlin Wall, the Glienicke Bridge was reopened for pedestrians. Border fortifications and barricades were dismantled as a part of German reunification in 1990.

Bridge of Spies[edit]

Because the Glienicke Bridge was a restricted border crossing between the Eastern Bloc (namely Potsdam in East Germany) and territory affiliated with the Western powers (namely the American sector of West Berlin), the Americans and Soviets used it for the exchange of captured spies during the Cold War. Reporters began calling it the "Bridge of Spies."[3]

The first prisoner exchange took place on 10 February 1962. The Americans released Soviet spy Colonel Rudolf Abel in exchange for American spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers captured by the USSR following the U-2 Crisis of 1960.

The next swap took place on April 1964, when Konon Molody was exchanged for Greville Wynne.[4]

On 12 June 1985, there was a swap of 23 American agents held in Eastern Europe for Polish agent Marian Zacharski and another three Soviet agents arrested in the West. The exchange culminated after three years of negotiation.[5]

The final exchange was also the most public. On 11 February 1986 the human rights campaigner (refusenik) and political prisoner Anatoly Shcharansky (later name: Natan Sharansky) and three Western agents were exchanged for Karl Koecher and four other Eastern agents.

Midpoint of the Glienicke Bridge; site of East/West prisoner exchanges.

In popular culture[edit]

Lining up to cross the bridge after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989

The Glienicke bridge as a venue for prisoner exchange has appeared frequently in fiction, most notably in John Le Carré's novel Smiley's People and the related BBC miniseries, as well as in the 1966 Harry Palmer film, Funeral in Berlin, based on the novel of the same name by Len Deighton.

The popular nickname 'Bridge of Spies' was used by the British band T'Pau as the name of the title track on their first album. The usage is metaphorical, referring to a 'walk to freedom' but in the context of long dreamt-of relationship.

The bridge is also referenced in the children's TV show Codename: Kids Next Door, specifically when a bridge in a local mall is used to exchange a spy from the KND in return for a spy from the Teenagers, a clear parody of the real-life prisoner exchanges.

There is a brief reference to the bridge in episode six, season one of Archer, when Mallory Archer and her long-time lover (and head of the KGB) Colonel Nikolai Jakov mention meeting there "one moonlit night" when they both worked on covert operations in Berlin, presumably during the Cold War.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Structurae [en]: Glienicke Bridge (1907)
  2. ^ "Stadtplan Berlin". Berlin Transport Authority (BVG). Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  3. ^ According to James M. Markham of The New York Times, the bridge was one "East German Communists call 'the bridge of unity,' but which might better be called 'the bridge of spies.'" Markham (11 February 1986). "Shcharansky to Be Released In a Berlin Exchange Today". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ От Абеля до Анны Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 12 July 2010.
  5. ^ Curry, George E. (June 12, 1985). "U.s. Swaps 4 Spies For 25 Prisoners". The Chicago Tribune. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°24′48″N 13°05′24″E / 52.413431°N 13.090114°E / 52.413431; 13.090114