Few historical changes occur literally overnight, but on 13 August 1961 eighteen million East Germans awoke to find themselves walled in by an edifice which was to become synonymous with the Cold War: the Berlin Wall.
Spies and acts of secrecy were crucial in shaping the course of events surrounding the building, and subsequent fall, of the War. One of the greatest
examples is the story of George Blake, sentenced to an unprecedented forty-two years in jail for his work as a Soviet spy that to many positioned him as “the greatest traitor” of the Cold War. The authors on this panel reveal how his story, and many others, touch not only the depths of treachery but also the heights of heroism.
Roger Hermiston has worked as a print and broadcast journalist. He joined the BBC in the early 1990s where for many years he was Assistant Editor on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Roger is now a full-time writer, and in The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake he reveals the compelling career of Blake, who performed sterling deeds for the British Intelligence service in World War II whilst, unbeknownst to SIS, assiduously gathering important documents that were passed on to the KGB.
Drawing on hitherto unpublished records from his trial, new revelations about his dramatic jailbreak from Wormwood Scrubs, and original interviews with former spies, friends and the man himself, The Greatest Traitor sheds new light on this most complex of characters and presents a fascinating shadow history of the Cold War.
Patrick Major is Professor in History at the University of Reading. In Behind the Berlin Wall East Germany and the Frontiers of Power, Major explores how the border closure affected ordinary East Germans, from workers and farmers to teenagers and even party members, ‘caught out’ by Sunday the Thirteenth.
Party, police and Stasi reports reveal why one in six East Germans fled the country during the 1950s, undermining communist rule and forcing the eleventhhour decision by Khrushchev and Ulbricht to build a wall along the Cold War’s frontline.
Exploring the reasons for the fall of the Wall and reconstructing the heady days of the autumn revolution, Major reflects on the fate of the Wall after 1989, as it moved from demolition into the realm of memory.