Regular readers of my blog will know that, from time to time, I like to highlight the careers of women who – in a culture very different from today – bucked the trend, ignored barriers and created for themselves a place in Reuters history. Annette von Broecker, who retired in 1994 as Reuters editor in Germany, was one of those women.
Five years ago, Reuters Security Correspondent, William Maclean (today Gulf Bureau Chief), looked back at von Broecker’s first scoop – in 1962 – during the height of the Cold War era. Annette von Broecker was, in her own words, a 19-year-old blonde when Reuters hired her as an editorial assistant in West Berlin in October 1959.
She would probably never have become a journalist had it not been for a story that unfolded before her eyes at a time when history was being made; “and, of course, because my mother desperately wanted to get me out of the house,” she recounted later. There was drama aplenty in the Berlin spy swap which she witnessed one chilly February morning in 1962, amid a wind that “seemed to blow straight from the North Pole.”
In a Reuters publication, Frontlines: snapshots of history (2001), von Broecker credited her scoop to a lucky guess. After Berlin bureau chief Alfred Kluehs had sent two correspondents to Checkpoint Charlie to staff both sides of the border crossing between the divided city, she stared at a big map that was hanging on the wall behind the boss’s desk.
“He sat with his back to it. My eyes wandered about. I looked at all the coloured pins that Alfred had stuck on the map to mark important sites, such as border crossings. They stopped suddenly, in the southwest corner of Berlin. There was a border. There was a bridge. It spanned the River Havel and connected the American sector of Berlin with the East German town of Potsdam. That was where the Western allies used to have their military liaison missions, which were attached to the Soviet headquarters in East Germany. Only Allied military personnel were allowed to cross the Glienicker Bridge, an elegant iron structure in two sets of concave bows across the Havel, some 150 yards wide. (more…)