Sunday 5 August 2018

Going "drüben"

Drüben, which in German means "over there", is frequently used by Werner Volkmann and Bernard Samson in the Game, Set and Match books as a cover for going behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, bailiwick of one Erich Stinnes, KGB Colonel.

This last weekend, the Deighton Dossier - with Shane Whaley from Spybrary and some other spybrarians - went "drüben", even though the Wall is now, to most Berliners, a hazy memory. Our objective was to visit a few of the places that feature in Berlin Game, the opening novel of the Game, Set and Match ennealogy, to help listeners gain insight into why these books are landmarks in spy fiction, why Bernard Samson is the most unconventional and conflicted of spies, and why Berlin makes such a great location for spy fiction (and for podcasts).

So, we went to Checkpoint Charlie (venue for the marvellous opening scene in Chapter One which tells us so much about Bernard and Werner's relationship), Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn (Bernard's frequent route "drüben", Tante Lisl's house in Charlottenburg (at least, the one portrayed in the mini-series from 1988), and Normannenstrasse. Along the way we read passages from the books, talked about the characterisations, mixed in some general spy fiction chatter, all of which should lead to a great edition of the Spybrary podcast.

Our secret weapon, our man on the inside: Deighton Dossier reader Peter Hegenbarth, a West Berliner who remembers the divided city well and offered up many fascinating contemporary stories from the period in which Bernard Samson was, in the fictional city, chasing down the mole in London Central and escaping the clutches of Stinnes and Moskvin behind the Iron Curtain.

Below are a selection of photos from the podcast trip - do make sure to catch it when it's up, soon.

We discovered a wonderful DDR consumer goods emporium - Stinnes would have felt at home

Spybrarians waiting to meet with Brahms Four. He didn't show.

Spybrary interviews our man in the West, Peter Hegenbarth

Spybrarian David Craggs had story after story about the Samson series

Stinnes' HQ - the model of the Stasi complex at Normannenstasse
Check out this Twitter moment for a flavour of the online discussion around the day

1 comment:

  1. For me, Berlin visit was worthwhile whether it was in early 1980s or after the Wall came down. In the case of the former, the opportunity to visit West Berlin and East Berlin provided the whiff of the Cold war feel, where in the case of the latter, to witness the transformation that was taking place in unified Berlin. For those who have read thrillers written by Le Carre and Deighton, Berlin provides the opportunity to visit places and landmarks that appear in the narratives of the above thrillers, and live again albeit briefly in the scenarios the authors so beautifully crafted in those pages. It is very much similar to visiting the moor near Haworth, North Yorkshire, not far from Bronte Parsonage, and reliving the pages of Emile Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Hence, these visits are quintessential nostalgic walkthroughs.
    It would have been great to learn from the rich experience of Peter Hegenbarth, who as a Berliner lived through the divided Berlin. Visitors then could only experience a tiny fraction of what it was like living in the shadow of the Wall. Interesting that Peter helped to locate in Berlin. the landmarks and places that appeared in Funeral in Berlin (
    I am interested to hear from him, even in a Q and A session, his research in linking Berlin locations to Deighton’s novels like Funeral in Berlin for example, the daily experience of living in the shadow of the Wall, and the process of re-integration of Berlin.
    From what I read then, and during my visit to Berlin in 1990, Chancellor Kohl moved very fast as soon as America, Britain and France as the 3 post-WW2 powers gave consent for the re-unification of Germany (interesting to read about the squeeze put on Kohl by Mitterand in respect of agreement on a single currency for the emerging EU in return for his consent!) , and ofcourse, Gorbachev gave consent after receiving billions of DMs in return for development plans for his country. By the beginning of October 1990, massive construction and reshaping work linking East Berlin seamlessly to West Berlin took place. On a visit to Berlin in the Summer of 1990, I could see how fast the territorial integration of the formerly divided City was taking place and , and the swift disappearance of landmarks straddling the divide which I saw in my early 1980s visit.