Underground Explorations: A Look into the Cold War

Picture 2 Dome ChurchName: Katrina Anderson
Home University: University of Michigan
DIS Copenhagen Summer Session 1 Course: The Enemy Within: Spies and Espionage in the Cold War
DIS Copenhagen Summer Session 2 Course: Food and Identity
DIS Copenhagen Summer Session 3 Course: Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

I’ve just finished my first DIS course, The Enemy Within: Spies and Espionage in the Cold War, and what a great time it was. I grew up watching the Bourne Ultimatum series, a modernized representation of the Manchurian Soldier, so the idea of spies and espionage as an entire course immediately appealed to me.

On day one, our two professors Matthias and Jørgen stole the show as they laid out the following three weeks of class in an almost Thelma and Louise fashion. It was obvious that they enjoyed working together, and even if some of their Danish jokes didn’t translate to us American students, they were still hilarious. Matthias, a historian, was so knowledgeable in the field, drank more coffee than I thought possible, and got through sixty years of material in three weeks of class time. Jørgen, who has decades of experience in the Danish Navy, could identify any boat, gun, weapon, or military personnel at the drop of a hat. Together, they had the academic and personal experience that really made the course fresh. And with such a small amount of time to cover a large amount of history, this teaching style kept us out of any droning lectures.

In class, we analyzed the Cold War through the lens of an intelligence analyst. Spies and espionage (the course’s title) were the backbone of the Cold War. Through a few small research assignments, readings, and a movie critique of the brilliant The Lives of Others (a must-see for any history buff), we unpacked the overarching theme of the ‘neighbor versus neighbor, trust no one’ mentality that pervaded this time period.

The coolest aspect of this course was the field studies. We got to see the inner workings of Denmark’s role in the Cold War at the Stevnsfortet Cold War Nuclear Bunker Museum, and also went to the Carlsberg Cold War Room.

1
Our walk into the Stevnsfortet Cold War Nuclear Bunker began with these big guys. Long range missiles, long since deactivated, so not to worry. (Pretty imposing, though).
2
The Stevnsfortet Museum has a door that opens out onto beach cliffs. This is the whole class enjoying the incredible view.

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At Stevnsfortet, our entire class trucked down into the main Danish bunker used to support and protect the Baltic Sea during the height of the Cold War. It was wet and cold, but we got a tangible look into how the Danes took part in the war. At Carlsberg, we had both a tour of the old Brewery, and the secret war bunker underneath it. It was awesome and felt like it was straight out of a 1950’s war movie. At the end of the tour, we also got a free beer, which was another plus.

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Our professor, Jørgen, sharing some military wisdom at this surreal Carlsberg bunker
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Yes, we really went to Carlsberg

 

We drank said free beer together, out on the Carlsberg patio, enjoying the lovely weather and paying homage to the end of the class, with Jørgen and Matthias cracking jokes. While learning about the Cold War from a European perspective has been fun, the most rewarding part of this course has been bonding as a class. Three weeks is not a lot of time to forge relationships, but, sitting around that picnic table, I realized that our class has managed to laugh at some weird Danish jokes, speed through decades of Cold War history, and get along quite amicably in the process.

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