At a panel discussion in conjunction with our travelling exhibition Voices of the Vigil at B'nai Israel Congregation last month, JHSGW Executive Director Laura Apelbaum met Bobbie Berger, who offered her an exciting new artifact for our collection. It is a commemorative photograph of the prisoner exchange on February 11, 1986, which is best known for the release of the dissident Natan Sharansky. After nine years in a Soviet prison, he walked over Glienicke Bridge from East to West Germany, and was brought to the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, and from there to Israel. He later became an official in the Israeli government and now serves as Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel.
The U.S. diplomat William Bodde Jr. was Consul General in Frankfurt at the time of Sharansky’s release. Bodde was involved in the prisoner exchange and met Sharansky on his arrival in Frankfurt. Later, U.S. Ambassador Richard Berg gave him this framed commemorative picture of Glienicke Bridge and an inset photograph of Sharansky walking over the bridge as a thank-you gift for working on the exchange.
Bodde later gave the commemorative picture to his close friend, Bobbie Berger. Now, we are delighted to receive it for our collection and excited to learn more about the object and event.
Glienicke Bridge was the setting for other Cold War East-West prisoner exchanges including the one depicted in the much acclaimed movie, Bridge of Spies. It’s still in the theaters, so plan on a movie night to learn more about this topic. While shooting the movie, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg had a prominent visitor: German chancellor Angela Merkel came to see them on the original set of Glienicke Bridge.