When someone sees something so horrific that the only think left to do is to act, drastic measures must be taken. Juan Pujol Garcia (aka Garbo), is one of the most successful intelligence agents in the annals of warfare. That is an amazing statement, but it is true. Garcia was a Spanish hotel manager who fiercely hated fascism and Germany. Garcia could see the horrific things that the Germans were doing, and he could not tolerate it. Garcia knew what he had to do, so he offered his services at the British embassy. Strangely, the British embassy staff laughed him out of the building, convincing the Spaniard the only way to impress the British was to infiltrate the German intelligence service, Abwehr.
Without the help of the British government, Garcia decided that he had to take matters into his own hands. He headed to Lisbon, involved himself in the intrigue of the Portuguese capital, and was soon sending Abwehr a stream of bogus intelligence supposedly gleaned while traveling through Britain. In truth, he never left Lisbon, and was concocting information from films, newspapers, and even phone books. It was a drastic plan, but the stream of information earned him the trust of the Germans, and the British government finally gave Garcia some missions. With this success to his credit, he talked his way into an interview in Britain with MI5. He was given the code name Garbo, after actress Greta Garbo, for his ability to spin convincing narratives out of thin air, and was put to work sending credible disinformation to the Germans.
Now under cover, Garbo’s crowning achievement was his involvement in the operation to deceive the Nazis about the location of the Normandy invasion. He not only mislead the German high command about the location, but convinced them the D-Day landing was a diversion for an attack elsewhere. Garcia was such an important asset to the Nazis…or so they thought. The Germans even awarded him the Iron Cross, Second Class in July 1944. He also received the MBE from the British in November 1944. He had been a very successful double agent. After the war, Garbo deliberately faded into obscurity, fearing Nazi reprisals, and relocated to Venezuela, where he died in 1988.
Imagine a world in which you could go to sleep living in freedom, and wake up behind prison walls…and you didn’t leave your home. That is exactly what happened to the people who lived in East Berlin. The Berlin Wall was erected overnight on August 13, 1961. The people of East Berlin were prisoners in their own city. Many of them had friends and family members who lived in West Berlin, but they were no longer allowed to go and see them, nor could the West Berliners come to East Berlin to see the inhabitants of that part of the city. The people in East Berlin were in a panic, and yet nothing could be done to free themselves from their plight. At least, not until they began to get very creative.
Many attempts were made in an effort to escape their captors, and many of those failed, but it would be the successful attempts at escape that would stay in our minds all these years. It was the successful attempts that were written about and celebrated in history, because those people won against a tyrannical government. One such escape was captured in pictures. Early in the construction, before most people even knew what was going on, Willy Finder figured it out and took steps to get his family out. His was a daring plan,but the people of West Berlin were willing to help pull it off. Willy’s wife was the first to go. I con only imagine how she must have felt. The plan required her to jump from the window ledge of their 4th story apartment, into a net held by residents and firemen in West Berlin. These apartments were along Bernauer Straße (street) in Berlin. The building actually saddled the border between East and West Berlin. After the wall was first constructed in 1961, many residents escaped through these apartment blocks, in this manner. So many, in fact, that the Soviets finally bricked up the windows and raided the apartments, evicting the people who lived there. After his mother jumped, four year old Michael Finder was tossed by his father to the waiting net below. There was no time to explain all this to his son…no time to reassure him. His daddy simply had to toss in out the window. Then Willy Finder made the jump himself. Theirs was a successful escape, one of many, and this infuriated the Soviet Union, because this was a part of the Soviet occupation zone formed after the reconstruction that followed World War II.
The Soviet occupation zone in Germany, and in Berlin, was suffering from numerous movements of educated individuals from their sectors toward the West throughout the 1950s. This movement, thought to be a brain drain, encouraged the Soviet Union to begin construction of a “Fascist Protection Wall” that was supposed to keep East Germans protected from “Fascism” that the Western Allies had “not eradicated in their sectors.” Of course, the reality was that the wall, later called the Berlin Wall, was designed to keep East Germans from emigrating to the West. The apartments where the Finders lived were later torn down and the Berlin Wall that most of us picture in the news reels, and have chunks of in our museums all over the world, was erected. Nevertheless, between 1945 and 1988, around 4 million East Germans migrated to the West. The majority…as many as 3½ million people left between 1945 and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Of those, most simply walked across the border. After 1952, they exited through West Berlin. After the border was fortified and the Berlin Wall was constructed, the number of illegal border crossings fell drastically. The numbers fell further as border defenses were improved over the following decades. In 1961, 8,507 people fled across the border, most of them through West Berlin. The construction of the Berlin Wall that year reduced the number of escapees by 75% to around 2,300 per year for the rest of the decade. The Wall changed Berlin from being one of the easiest places to cross the border, from the East, to being one of the most difficult. The wall was finally torn down on June 13, 1990, and the German people were again free to move around the country.