Monday, 22 August 2016

Plötzensee - Nazi execution site 1933-1945

John and Michael visited Plötzensee last week and have reported back to us about this harrowing site.

Part of an already existing jail, this courtyard complex was used to murder conscientious objectors, resistance fighters, alleged looters, those involved in the July 20th coup, and others. Almost 3.000 people, from 22 nations, though mostly Germans, were murdered here. During the early years those sentenced were beheaded by axe, thereafter by guillotine until it was damaged by Allied bombing in 1942. Then a steel beam was erected from which 8 hooks were employed for mass hangings. Prisoners were mocked before their deaths and piano wire was used to add cruelty. The durations of their demise was assiduously noted down to the second.
execution complex

This is a small but important memorial close to Berlin's centre. The site is well maintained and most of the information on display is also in English. It is a poignant visit.

execution room

Friday, 19 August 2016

Just 1 day...

Many people write to us asking what to do with just 1 day in the city. I wrack my brain each time, how to choose! Finally, I believe I have found a sufficient answer. This walk concentrated to one area (almost one street) offers so much, from history to startup culture, authentic food, bars and even an urban farm. So, if you have just one day in Berlin, after your morning Insider tour of course, my official recommendation centres around Bernauer Straße. Along this street one can experience and start to comprehend Berlin's most recent history, how the Berlin Wall truly cut the city and its population in two, how Berliners have coped with and digested the era, and how the city never ceases to stop transforming itself.

Nordbahnhof - Ghost Station - Third Wave Coffee - Craft beer

Bernauer Straße - If Walls Could Talk: Mural - The Berlin Wall Memorial - Startups galour

Mauer Park - The history - Sunday flea market and Karaoke - Urban Farm run by Local Children

Eberswalder Straße - Authentic Currywurst (vegan now too!) - Former Brewery/New Musuem: Everyday Life in the DDR - Berlin's Oldest Biergarten

Monday, 6 June 2016

Espionage, Superpowers and their Spies: Insider goes Undercover!

The Bridge of Spies, Glienicker Brücke

Battleground Berlin, from 1945 to 1989, countries with opposing ideologies honed their espionage skills in this geopolitical hub. From the turning of individual informants, to hoovering up information en mass, the two superpowers, and their satellites, vied to get the edge on the other – knowledge is power. From the mundacity of sifting through shed loads of correspondence, to daring missions behind enemy lines, no stone was left unturned in the struggle for world dominance.

Insider guides took some time to retrace the sites of these operations, and the fascinating stories behind them, in and around Berlin.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – post WWII, Berlin becomes the world's spy capital.

George Blake's residence on Platanenallee.

Charlottenburg Palace – site of the KGB defection of Alexai Myagkov in 1974.

ECHELON on Teufelsberg. British Military Hospital in the foreground, location of Hess's autopsy in 1987.

The Teams

MI (Military Intelligence) 6 / Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) a.ka. Box 500

Deuxieme Bureau (until 1982) & Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE)
FMLM et al.

KGB (Commitee for State Security) and GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate) et al.

Strategic Services Unit (SSU) then (from 1947) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
C.I.C. (until 1961), A.S.A. (until 1977), then A.S.A., INSCOM, USMLM, FCA et al.

East Germany
Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA) and Hauptabteilung II

West Germany
Organisation Gehlen and (from 1956) Bundesnachrichtendienst

'London House', British Military Sector HQ and counter intelligence hub.

A spy

Mission House, BRIXMIS liaison location in Potsdam.

KGB Forbidden City, Potsdam, 3rd Directorate military counter intelligence

First CIA HQ location in Dahlem

Allied Museum Dahlem

Hastings TG503 bomber used in the Berlin airlift

Former Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science. Site of the the first nuclear fission by Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann and Lise Meitner.
Site of Allied Control Council walkout 1948.

Him again!

Site of the La Belle Disco bombing 1986.

Looking for Operation Stopwatch Gold.

Found it!

Karlshorst, site of German unconditional surrender in May 8th, 1945.

HQ of the KGB/GRU/SMAD, residence of Marshal Zukov.

KGB prison '45-'63.
The Players
Lavrenty Beria – Petrov
Robert Bialek – Bruno Wallman
George Blake – Diamond
Anthony Blunt – Tony/Johnson
 Alexei Myaglkov – n/a
Guy Burgess – Mädchen/Hicks
John Cairncross – Liszt Jeffrey
Carnney/Jens Karney – Kid/Uwe
Nigel Dunkley – Hotspur
Allen Dulles – Mr. Bull
Musbath Eter – n/a
James Hall III – Paul
William 'Wild Bill' King Harvey – n/a
Gennadi Titov – n/a
Donald Maclean – Homer
Adjutant Chef Philippe Mariotti – n/a
Erich Mielke – Fritz Leissner (1936-39)
Major Arthur (Nick) Nicholson – n/a
Harold (Kim) Philby – Sony/Stanley
Geoffrey Prime – Rowlands
Alexander Schalk Golodkowski – Schneewittchen
Manfred Severin – Hagen/Canna Clay
Wolfgang Vogel – Eva
Huseyin Yildirim – Blitz
Marcus (Mischa) Wolf – Michael Storm (1945-49)
Günter Guillaume – Hansen
Rainer Rupp – Mosel/Topaz
Anne Christine Bowen – Turqoise
Gabriele Gast - Leinfelder

George Blake 
Mission House and Glienicker Bridge 
KGB Potsdam,_Potsdam
Allied Museum
La Belle Disco Bombing
Operation Stopwatch Gold
Marshal Zukow

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Insider goes to Teufelsberg

From a Nazi Military Technology Faculty building to 25 million cubic metres of WWII rubble to American Cold War listening post, Teufelsberg has a rich and odd history.  After years of abandonment, it seems this unique location has hope for a rich future too.  Under new management  the space is embracing its identity as an infamous location for graffiti.  With art as the magnetic draw, Marvin Schütte is busy building an atmosphere of inclusion and ingenuity, from solar and wind power, to an urban garden, beer-garden and pizza shop.  A designated museum area is also in development which will highlight the voices of people who worked at the listening station during the Cold War.   Insider guides and staff enjoyed a great adventure full of art and stunning views, along with fascinating memories from our colleague Nigel's time spent working at the listening post.  Take a look, and then take a hike up there for yourself!
photo by Jared Pool

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

photo by Maria Bergman

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Insider goes to Check Point Alpha

Here are some fotos from a recent Insider guides' foray to the German-German border crossing point Marienborn/Alpha. This was a major East/West crossing point where the DDR controlled all traffic through their territory and en route to Berlin. This is an expansive 35 hectare complex with access to many original buildings which retain their authenticity and are now being used for excellent exhibitions (although unfortunately not all in English). This complex once employed 1.000 with millions of people controlled here over a 45 year period, some unwittingly with X-ray.  Oh, how Europe has changed!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Field trip to the Humboldt Forum

Insider guides got a sneak preview into the bowels of Berlin's 'new city palace (Stadtschloss) this week. Our indomitable guide, Christian, was at pains to explain that this is indeed no new palace, but instead 'The Humbolt Forum'. Unwilling to rebuild an icon of the monarchy, the German state would pay only for something else, to use for matters of state and visiting dignitaries/delegations. The Prussian trappings would have to be funded by the City of Berlin and private donations.
This has led to the project being a sum of compromises between government functionality and the visions of those harking of days gone by. Still, it is getting done, not like our new airport. Oddly enough the results to date are quite striking. The traditional and the modern blend nicely. There are huge rooms for receptions, even a small concert hall, and enough space for Dahlem's fantastic Ethnological museum to move there in 2019. There will of course also be some shops.
The views from the Forum over the historical centre are outstanding. One thinks that despite some Berliners reservations about this new building it might just indeed become a roaring success.