March Book Review- 'Betrayal in Berlin' by Steve Vogel

Mar 10, 2020

Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation, by Steve Vogel, is a "Spy vs. Spy" story that is set in the 1950s Berlin, Germany--a city divided between the Allied Powers of France, England, Russia and the United States. Jerry Hubbell has this month’s KPCW book review.

Steve Vogel is a veteran journalist who has written extensively for The Washington Post about military affairs and the treatment of veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

His earlier book, Through the Perilous Fight  Six Weeks That Saved the Nation, is about the terrorist attack of 9-11 and the six weeks following.

Betrayal in Berlin is really two stories.  The first is about the construction of "The Tunnel,” one of the West's greatest espionage operations of the Cold War.

The second story is the most vivid and accurate account of George Blake: one of the most highly placed Soviet moles in the British MI-6 and the betrayer of the tunnel operation.

The tunnel was the joint effort of the Americans and the British and was dug in the American sector of Berlin in the Rudow District.  It stretched beneath patrolling East German troops and was as long as the Empire State Building is tall.  The tunnel allowed the Americans and the British to tap into critical KGB and Soviet military phone lines and learn details of the Soviet nuclear and conventional forces in East Germany and the Soviet Union.

George Blake learned of, and revealed the plans for, the existence of the tunnel to the Soviets at the tunnel’s inception. But the leadership of the KGB was afraid to do anything about the tunnel for fear of revealing the existence of Blake as being a Soviet spy.

The Americans and the British were able to listen into the Russian conversations for 18 months before the Russians found a pretext in 1956 to "discover the phone tap.” A pretext that would not reveal George Blake as a Russian spy.

Steve Vogel was able to draw upon documents that have been secret for the past 50 years as well interviews with many of the principle players of the tunnel incident from both sides of the Cold War, including George Blake himself.

Betrayal in Berlin is a very well researched, written and informative spy story in Cold War Berlin. The book can be found in our local libraries. This is Jerry Hubbell for KPCW.