An East German propaganda poster depicting Western capitalists and the armed forces trying to take over the DDR (German Democratic Republic). The German caption reads: Our Answer!

The Cold War became personal for me in the 1960s. This is how it happened.

In 1961 Communist East Germany built the Berlin Wall, dividing the city into two halves, East and West, and imprisoning its people behind it. Four years later, while in my late teens, I crossed through that Wall into the East. I lived in Dresden for several months, working as a volunteer, helping to rebuild a hospital which had been partially destroy during the 1945 bombing of Dresden.

The project was organised by Coventry Cathedral as an act of reconciliation. Thus I became one of a handful of Westerners to have lived behind the Iron Curtain at that time.

With friends looking towards West Berlin from the Eastern side of the Berlin Wall in 1965.

Since then the Cold War has been a theme that has run through my life. In the late 1990s I started work on a PhD at University College London, researching the hidden background to the project I had taken part in. I was able to access the archives of the Stasi where the secret political agenda which lay behind the project was revealed and this – eventually – led me to a meeting with the top Stasi agent who had helped to mastermind it.