Monday, August 17, 2020

Review: Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation by Steve Vogel

Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage OperationBetrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation
by Steve Vogel
Release Date: September 24th 2019
2019 Custom House
Kindle Edtion; 544 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062449627
Genre: Non-Fiction / Cold War / Espionage
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Its code name was “Operation Gold,” a wildly audacious CIA plan to construct a clandestine tunnel into East Berlin to tap into critical KGB and Soviet military telecommunication lines. The tunnel, crossing the border between the American and Soviet sectors, would have to be 1,500 feet (the length of the Empire State Building) with state-of-the-art equipment, built and operated literally under the feet of their Cold War adversaries. Success would provide the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service access to a vast treasure of intelligence. Exposure might spark a dangerous confrontation with the Soviets. Yet as the Allies were burrowing into the German soil, a traitor, code-named Agent Diamond by his Soviet handlers, was burrowing into the operation itself. . .

Betrayal in Berlin is Steve Vogel’s heart pounding account of the operation. He vividly recreates post-war Berlin, a scarred, shadowy snake pit with thousands of spies and innumerable cover stories. It is also the most vivid account of George Blake, perhaps the most damaging mole of the Cold War. Drawing upon years of archival research, secret documents, and rare interviews with Blake himself, Vogel has crafted a true-life spy story as thrilling as the novels of John le CarrĂ© and Len Deighton.

My Thoughts
Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation was a fascinating inside look at one of the most daring espionage tunnels to be built in Berlin when events after the Second World War changed politics in the world forever.  With communism taking hold in the east, tensions mounted and the west needed some information to guide their movements during some very tense situations, but little information was coming out of Russia.  Berlin became a fertile ground for spies and the development of espionage networks and the recruitment of thousands began.  I found this book to be thoughtful and insightful and enjoyed the many hours of research that went into every aspect of it. 

First of all, if you are looking for a book about George Blake, this is not the book for you, and I could recommend other books for you to read instead.   The reason I was so interested in this book is that I wanted the step by step detailing on the Berlin tunnel and what went wrong, and that is exactly what I got.  I was fascinated by the descriptions of the details that went into building it and the coordination of effort that it took from the architects to the engineers to the translators.  I wanted the nitty-gritty of the operation and this was it.  However, I am a history teacher and very familiar with politics during this time period as well as the various players so I do think that helped a lot.

Let's face it, the Cold War was a very stressful time for everyone involved, but gosh, there are a lot of interesting stories that are coming out of this time period, and so much has come to light in recent years.  Spies, gadgets and devices used, codes, operations, and so much more have been revealed to the public as secret documents have been made available and researchers are tapping into these resources to shed light on some interesting moments in time.  And while George Blake certainly played a vital role in the destruction of the Berlin Tunnel, the Americans and the British were still able to gain valuable information from its use.  The author used his research and writing skills to explain a complicated story that was interesting, and although I knew the outcomes of some of the Russian spies, I still held my breath as I read about their demises.  I especially like how the author just lays things out for you and lets you come to your own conclusions, but reminds you time and time again that these men spend their lives deceiving others and are perhaps not so trustworthy and to take their accounts with a grain of salt, so to speak.  It's a very subtle warning to be careful when you read interviews with Blake, Philby, and some of the others.  

Betrayal in Berlin was less a story about George Blake than it was a comprehensive account of an espionage project doomed from the very beginning, but still managed to provide some good information to the West despite what happened.  Some interesting information provided on some very fascinating people during this time period: Eisenhower, Blake, Dulles, and hundreds of others are mentioned.  The author is quite skilled at explaining the different story lines of the all the people involved and bringing it all back together so it makes sense.  Even if you have limited knowledge of this time period, you would enjoy this book as the author explains things very well, but you do have to be patient.  There is a lot of stuff to go through and a lot of things that went into this operation.  I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author.  


  1. sounds like one i would love to read too. thanks for sharing
    sherry @ fundinmental