tv American Artifacts International Spy Museum Exhibit on Cold War Berlin CSPAN June 29, 2020 5:35pm-6:07pm EDT
>> the senate health committee holds a hearing tuesday to get an update on the coronavirus response and plans to reopen the u.s. economy. witnesses include white house coronavirus task force members dr. stephen hahn, dr. anthony fauci, and dr. robert redfield. live coverage begins at 10:00 eastern on c-span3. online at c-span.org or listen live on the free c-span radio app. >> each week american artifacts take viewers into archives, museums, and historic sights across the country. we visit the international spy museum in washington, d.c. to tour their exhibit on cold war berlin. our guide is lead curator alexis albion, who explains how the city came to be divided after world war ii and shows us artifacts used by the east germans to spy on visitors and control their own citizens. >> hello, i'm dr. alexis albion,
and i'm a curator historian here at the international spy museum in washington, d.c. we have the largest collection of espionage and intelligence-related artifacts in the world, and today we're going to be looking at cold war berlin. now, after world war ii ended, germany was divided between victors. that's the united states, france, united kingdom, and the soviet union. soviet union occupied the east and the other three countries the west. and that included the capital city of berlin, which was also divided into four sectors, one for each of the victors, again, with the soviets occupying the eastern zone of berlin, and the three western powers occupying the western zones of berlin. and this start of the division of germany, and the division of berlin after the war. now, that division became
concrete with the erection of the berlin wall in 1961. now, the wall was put up by the eastern germans offensively to keep people out. in the years after world war ii and with the occupation of east germany and east berlin by the soviets, hundreds of thousands of people in the east had been fleeing to the west. and these numbers became larger and larger. it was a terrible drain of intelligence and of skills in the east, and these numbers were reaching very, very large numbers in the months leading up to august 1961, now, the east germans called what we call the berlin wall, the anti-fascist --
it was to keep out fascists, to keep out the west. but, of course, it did keep millions of east germans in as well. what's important to realize is that the city of berlin was completely isolated within east germany. we had west berlin, which after the war was set up with a political and economic system that was democratic and capitalist, completely surrounded by communist east germany. berlin became a symbol of the division between east and west and between the communist and democratic systems within the cold war and it was a hot spot for many, many years during the cold war of that tension between east and west. now, the berlin wall itself was about 96 miles long, completely
separating west berlin from east berlin, and completely surrounding west berlin and cutting it off from the rest of east germany. we have a couple of pieces of the actual berlin wall over here that i would like to show you. we have two authentic pieces of the berlin wall here. they were donated to the museum right outside east berlin. we shipped them to washington, d.c. from germany, and we put them here. most people when they think of the berlin wall, they think of the graffiti, and the color and the designs on the wall. you can see these are completely plain. that's because they were on the east side where people were not allowed to graffiti on the wall. in fact, that would have incurred some pretty severe
penalties, and one reason why they did not want people drawing on the wall was because having the wall be completely plain actually made it easier for people, for the guards who were guarding the border to see people. it made them more visible against plain light gray or white backgrounds, so seeing them without graffiti actually should remind us of the reason why the wall was put up, and keep people in. now, before the berlin wall was built, several million, up to 3 million people actually crossed the border from east to west. after the berlin wall was put up, people didn't stop trying to get out of east germany. about 100,000 people tried to get out. about half that number were successful. we have some great stories about people who were successful in
getting across the wall. to attempt to cross the berlin wall took a lot of bravery, of course, and also a lot of creativity and imagination. in truth, the berlin wall was not just one wall, actually two walls, with a strip in the middle that was known as the death strip, which could be guarded by guard dogs, or watch towers and so on, so we actually had one wall, a death trip and another wall. getting across that was an extremely difficult feat. now, people came up amazingly creative ways to get across that wall. we have a few examples, two families who actually built hot air balloons and were able to float across into west germany. they made the balloon part out of, you know, sheets and other pieces of material which they
stitched together and two families actually were able to make that trip. we have another extraordinary story here about 3 brothers who each managed to cross the border in different ways. one brother floated across the river on an air mattress. another brother was able to zip line across the border, took fishing line, connected to a steel cable, and shot it across the border, using a bow and roar arrow and used that as a zip line to zip across to freedom. the third brother was able to fly across the border with a very small light airplane. his other brothers met him on the other side, and the three brothers were reunited. these stories are stories of success, people who managed to make it across to freedom, but of course there were many stories that ended in tragedy, and let's go and look at some of those now. at least 140 people were killed
trying to cross the berlin wall. some of those people were killed by border guards, as they tried to climb the wall. they tried to cross the river as they just approached the wall. they were sad stories about people who were shot there and died at the wall, but some of the most tragic stories were about people who tried to cross and wall and whose deaths were covered up. you see, trying to escape from east germany was a crime, and it was seen as that terrible reflection on the state, on the communism in general. so even the fact that people wanted to try to escape was something that the state needed to cover up. we have three story here about people who died at the wall and their stories were then covered up.
one really tragic story, i think is about gerald thiem, he was a worker in west berlin. and one night it appears he might have had too much to drink, and he stumbled into the area near the wall, stumbled close to the wall, and the guards there from the east shouted at him, warned him to go away. he was scared off by that, and started running. he was then shot 177 times, and he died at the wall. they came in, took away his body, and covered up the whole story. his wife back in west berlin knew nothing, only that her husband had not come home that night. and she didn't find out until the records were opened in the 1990s what had actually happened to her husband. horst einsiedel is more
extraordinary because after he was killed at the wall, they made up an entire cover story for his wife as to why he had never returned. they went so far as to show her a file where they had staged photographs of her husband's car, which they said had been broken into violently. this was entirely made up. the wife didn't think it was sufficient, but again, she wasn't able to find out the truth until decades later. let's go look at another method by which people tried to escape from east berlin over here. one method for trying to escape from east to west berlin going across, and through check points was actually to hide within cars. here we have a cutaway of a very popular car in germany at the time. you can see some of the hiding spaces which people would try to fit themselves into in order to
evade border guards. can you imagine fitting yourself into the wheel well of a car. sometimes for hours on end without having to give it away. of course not everybody succeeded in this. border guards became very aware that people were trying to hide inside cars and would search them methodically, sometimes taking them apart completely, but when they did catch people, we know that sometimes they would take photos and show where they were. these could be models for other guards. we have some of the photos and you can see women, children, adults of all kind and the amazing places where they would try to hide. anybody in the country would have to be aware that they were going to be spied upon. let's look at some of the ways
in which that happened. here we are in a hotel room in east berlin, supposed to be the palace hotel, a hotel especially for foreign guests, and had rooms in the hotel that were completely under surveillance by the strasse, the nickname was the strasse nest. we have wonderful artifacts that can show you the length they 6o went to spy upon visitors at the hotel like this. this looks like an order cuckoo clock. of course it's not. it's been modified. behind the window is a tiny pinhole. now, behind that pinhole, would be this camera, a very rare piece, and a wonderful piece, it's a through the wall camera, and somebody that would be located on the other side of
this wall looking through these eye pieces here, this long section here would be going through the wall and the lens at the end would be right behind the pinhole in the clock camera here. so while you were sitting in your hotel, you would be being spied upon all the time by somebody behind the wall. there are lots of artifacts in this room, and every single one of them was some kind of a device or concealment or surveillance. now, what's the best thing to use as a concealment, something that you would never think would conceal anything suspicious. we've got a few of these pieces here. one of them is a walnut shell. a bowl of walnut shells on a table in your apartment. who would think anything suspicious about that? well, one of these walnut shells here actually contains a one-time pad.
it's a piece of paper with codes on it that could be used for communicating in code. one time pads were important ways of communicating secretly because they were completely unbreakable. only somebody who had exactly the same pad on the other side would be able to break the code and read the secret message. now, this bowl of walnuts was actually in the apartment of somebody in west germany who was -- and in fact, the restroom and security who were looking at the apartment and investigating it had an idea that this bowl of walnuts might not be what it looked like. they took a uv light and shined it over every single walnut, and from one of them, there was a glow, and that's because the glue that was used to stick the walnut together was under a uv light, and they were able to find the one time pat. here's another object you might
not suspect at all as anything other than an ordinary iron, but once again, it was a concealment device. an agent living in west germany had this iron in her apartment, maybe again and what's better about this is if somebody did come into the apartment and was looking around, they were able to get the evidence for espionage easily. we've had a number of pieces of clothing here, which is for cameras and other things. one of my favorites is the pair of gloves here,, many cameras like this were usually used with two hands.
you needed to use a second hand to wind the film on. it was able to adapt to the next camera used by one hand. what's important about that is it was sealed, and it could be activated with just one hand, and therefore if you have a camera, you can activate with one hand. even when you're visiting the national spy museum in east berlin, that surveillance can be seen in our staffing office down here. here we are in our office, where a person could actually watch surveillance feed taking place in the hotel room. we have a lot of different
artifacts down here, all which reflect the study critical expertise in doing surveillance. one of my favorite artifacts here is our camera. it was actually the invention of four female officers. we have a file on how this was invented. it's absolutely critical, because it says especially in the summer months there wasn't something clear that helped women conceal surveillance cameras on their bodies, which would be an intrusive. you can see the lens is right in the middle. a wire comes up from behind, and the camera can be activated. it would be in the pocket of your summer dress. we have some surveillance
photos that were taken in the back, and the four women were given an award. the camera was used. we have a number of other artifacts here, some of our really exceptional artifacts. the chief of the intelligence brand was, he ran the foreign intelligence department, and he was a master of doing so. one of the techniques he developed was developing what he calls romeo spies. men and women trained to target. maybe not so young, but maybe
woman holder in their 30s, they would seduce them and get lots of intelligence out of them. the foreign intelligence service has extraordinary success infiltrating the government. even up to the very highest levels. he also had a reputation for being extremely elusive. a man without a face is how he's been described. they didn't know what he looked like. they were coming out of east germany, until the very end of the cold war that's when they were able to identify. we have some artifacts, we have
uniform here. we also have these el coren's. what do they say here? he had a summer house outside of berlin that he liked to use, as a place to bring people so they feel comfortable and he could debrief them and find out all that kind of information from them. while they were perhaps having a beer on the terrace, they were being courted all the time. they had a bug planted right on the back. they also have the beer posters here, the leadership in east germany all had bunkers, where they could retreat to if there was any kind of threat of nuclear attack. he turned it into a beerhouse. he had the beer coasters specially made, there was a
cartoonish figure here, which was his nickname. you have to undergo quite a bit of training. he had a wonderful artifact here which all officers would've received as part of the training. let's have a look. we have on our display here, espionage was the crime. so how do you catch criminals with this kind of kit? anyone who was training to be a spy catcher in east berlin would have taken a course in east berlin, and at the end of it they would have received this complete kit which is everything you need to catch a spy. you can see in it pretty mundane articles, hammer, a screwdriver, a pair of pliers,
rubber gall's, to test tubes we may be able to store hair or fiber samples. basically, an entire kit for a sky creature. if you were caught as a sky, spy there were consequences. let's look at the interrogation room for what would happen. >> this is the actual door for one of the prison cells. this person holds local prison winners, that could be anyone from somebody who tried to escape from east berlin, for
having ideas or thoughts that might not be compatible with the communist itself. links to the west, anything of that nature. people would be brought into the prison for interrogation and could stay there for days. they did not only physical torture, someone could be subjected to torture, or perhaps they wouldn't be allowed to sleep for long they'd have to my on a hard bed in a specific position. they had to maintain that same
position. it was all part of the strategy of keeping someone down, getting information, perhaps confessed to crimes. even after someone was released for prison, they might still remain a suspect, they had a unique way of keeping tabs on them. someone was brought in for questioning, one other piece of information they may see collected was, they might have the person sit on the chair. they would collect that piece of material and store it in a jar on the shelf with my name
on it just in case. perhaps in the future they need to track it. specially trained to track smells, you can see the yellow material inside them, he had hundreds of these from different people stored in the headquarters. we have another artifact here of a similar nature called a courtroom kit. if they wanted to track someone around the city they might spray the female dog hormones outside the door, they would get the dog hormone on their suit, and specially trained guard dogs could track the smell even through days.
in 1989 the berlin wall fell. i remember very well when the berlin wall fell. but i know increasingly that visitors to museums that remember the berlin wall, that still remember the cold war, here at the museum we have an exhibit on cold war berlin, which too many of our visitors will be learning about something that they don't know anything about at all, and i think it's important for us to remember that time when physical barriers divide people from the same country, into different societies and remember the difference between the two societies. if germany is an example of surveillance based, we talk about the balance between maturity and freedom. and east germany is an example
where the emphasis was certainly on security over freedom. we think this is important for people to remember what a state like that was like, what it must have felt like. the artifacts here are giving people a taste of what it would have felt like to live in east germany. we have hundreds of artifacts in the cold war exhibit. we hope you come to washington d.c., visit the museum and see other aspects of international espionage. >> you can watch this or other american artifacts programs anytime by visiting our website c-span.org slash history. first lady, influence and image
on c-span examines the public lives and private worlds of the first ladies, we look at edith roosevelt and taft. the first lady to travel abroad while in office, they made a trip to panama. and she was the first president first lady to, watch it on american history tv and c-span 3. every saturday night american history tv takes you to college classrooms around the country for lectures on history. >> reason your hand if you had ever heard of this murder, the jean harris murder before this class. where we find the true meaning
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origins of the cold war. up next he talks about the origin of inter logistics gathering from world war ii. the establishment of the cia in 1947. allies from president truman case were instrumental. the international spy museum recorded the event in november of 2017. >> we're very fortunate to have an old friend with us tonight. a former officer with the cia clandestine service. he was in the directors operations, as well the office of congressional affairs, and the study of intelligence review as the deputy director. ages you 1972. >>