Hanging out beside Berlin’s corporate-encrusted Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz is perhaps the last place one would expect to contemplate the vibrant world of Iron Curtain black markets and international spy games.
In a city where dramatic gaps still yawn between buildings like missing teeth, bombed out during World War II and never rebuilt, the mountainous, neon complex is one of Berlin’s few symbols of conspicuous, state-sanctioned capitalism.
Yet on one recent gloomy Saturday morning on Berlin Walks’ “Nest of Spies” tour, a group of about 20 history-lovers gathered to uncover the covert histories of this Berlin landmark.
Potsdamer Platz, which lies in the center of the city near its famed Tiergarten, was a unique area in post-World War II Berlin. So bombed out after the war that an American soldier reportedly said it “looked like the face of the moon,” the district was also the only place in Berlin where the borders of the American, Russian and British sectors met – making it a hotbed for underground economies, as well as for spying.