Glienicke Bridge in Potsdam

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The Glienicke bridge (Glienicker Brücke) is a bridge on the edge of Berlin that spans the Havel River to connect the cities of Potsdam and Berlin near Klein Glienicke. The current bridge, the fourth on the site, was completed in 1907, although major reconstruction was necessary after it was damaged in the Second World War.

Bridge of spies

During the Cold War, Glienicke Bridge was one of the few places in the world where the Soviet Union and the Western powers stood directly opposite each other. Thus, “deals” could be made here without any of their allies having any say in the matter. The bridge lies at an isolated point where US-occupied West-Berlin met Soviet-occupied Potsdam, which was in East Germany.

The United States and the Soviet Union used it four times to exchange captured spies during the Cold War, and the Bridge was referred to as the Bridge of Spies by reporters.

The first prisoner exchange between the superpowers took place on February 10, 1962. The U.S. released noted Soviet spy Colonel Rudolf Abel in exchange for U.S. 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.

On June 12, 1985, there was a hurriedly arranged swap of 23 American agents held in Eastern Europe for Polish agent Marian Zacharski and another three Soviet agents arrested in the West.

The final exchange was also the most public. On February 11, 1986 the human rights campaigner and political prisoner Anatoly Sharansky and three Western agents were exchanged for Karl Koecher and four other Eastern agents.

In popular culture

The Glienicke bridge as a venue for prisoner exchange has also appeared in fiction, most notably in the 1966 Harry Palmer film, Funeral in Berlin, starring Michael Caine, 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 popular kid's TV show ', 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.

Similarly, in the James Bond film Die Another Day, 007 takes part in a prisoner exchange on a bridge as a reference to Glienicke and the historical practice. The scene is set, however, on the border of North and South Korea – supposedly spanning the DMZ in a thick jungle. In reality, no such bridge exists; Panmunjom, the only point along the border where one can walk between the two nation states, is open country. However, this is presumably intended to be a fictionalised Bridge of No Return.


The Glienicke Bridge is 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. Both Potsdam and Wannsee stations are served by the Berlin S-Bahn and by longer distance trains.

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