Gunfire in the Woods: A foiled escape and imprisonment in East Germany

This is part two of Henrik’s story. You can hear the first part in episode 307. https://coldwarconversations.com/episode307 It’s the late 1980s and Henrik and his friends plan to escape from East Germany via Czechoslovakia. Henrik provides a very vivid account of their discovery by Czechoslovak border guards in a forest near the Austrian border. He … Read more

Growing up in the East Germany’s Valley of the Clueless

Henrik was born in the late 1960’s near Dresden in East Germany. The area was sarcastically known as the Tal der Ahnungslosen  or Valley of the Clueless, as the area generally was not able to receive TV  from West Germany from the mid-to-late 1950s. He describes his childhood growing up in a Uranium mining area. … Read more

Cold War number stations

You might remember listening to short wave radio during the Cold War and coming across weird transmissions of metallic voices reciting random groups of numbers through the ether.  These are number stations, shortwave radio stations characterised by broadcasts of formatted numbers, which were being sent to spies operating in foreign countries. Number stations were used … Read more

Ralph – A prisoner in an East German jail

This is the third and final part of Ralph Hänel’s story of his life in East Germany. In this episode, we hear his time in the Stasi prison in Cottbus which with its dark red brick façade was often referred to as the ‘Red Misery’. It’s a chilling insight into Stasi prison conditions and the … Read more

Ralph – Arrested and interrogated by the Stasi

Ralph Hänel continues the story of his life in East Germany. We hear of Ralph’s arrest by the Stasi and subsequent interrogation for 10 months. Ralph describes in some detail the arrest and his early days of imprisonment. He also details the techniques used to try and make him break and the pressure the Stasi … Read more

Ralph – DJing and Kung Fu in East Germany

Ralph Hänel tells some unique, strange and funny short stories about childhood and youth in East Germany. We talk about the experiences of his parents in the closing stages of World War 2, his schooling, and how he became a DJ, winning a trip to the Soviet Union. Ralph is a great raconteur with virtually … Read more

My father was a Stasi spy…

Werner Stiller’s spectacular defection to the West in 1979 inflicted one of the Cold War’s most serious blows to the Stasi. At the time he was working as a case officer for the Main Directorate for Reconnaissance, the Stasi’s foreign intelligence division, where he was in charge of scientific espionage in the West. We speak … Read more

A British Journalist under Stasi Surveillance

    In this episode we talk to Mark Brayne again in a wide ranging chat about his career as a Reuters & BBC journalist including details of his Stasi file, his time in the Soviet Union, Hungary & Poland as well as the perils of editing analogue tape in a non-digital age. Among his … Read more

Stasi Infiltration of the East German Church

  When the Berlin Wall came down, the files of the East German secret police, the much-dreaded Stasi, were opened and read. And among the shocking stories revealed was that of the Stasi’s infiltration of the Church.  The Lutheran Church was the only semi-free space in East Germany, where those who rebelled against the regime … Read more