This week me and Teemu left the office behind and flew all the way to Cologne for the Game Developers Conference Europe. Awesome trip with good discussions and great parties - my favorite was the Paradox party with Europa Universalis IV branded glasses! But business aside, we also had time to sneak out of the conference for some real-world spy stuff.
What's that you ask? Well, we took a stroll and paid a visit to the Gestapo.
I'm sure everyone has read a book or seen a movie of the Gestapo at one time or another. But this time we were not detached by time and space, nor immersed in a softened Hollywood version on a virtual screen. No, this was the real thing with rusted bars, a depressive cellar with cramped cells for captured spies and members of the resistance. This was the actual World War 2 era Gestapo HQ at Appellhofplatz, in the center of Cologne. The source of dark terror for 12 long years between 1933 and 1945. If you're ever in town, you really should pay a visit.
It was both creepy and at the same time very touching. There were many inscriptions on the walls, made by the hundreds of inmates who passed through these bleak rooms. Captives kept diaries, counted days, made drawings and wrote desperate last messages to their loved ones. For far too many of them, the corridor leading to the small backyard was a one-way trip.
I was especially touched by the story of a sixteen year old German boy who was a member of Edelweiss Pirates, an anti-nazi group consisting mainly of boys ages 14-18. These were courageous youngsters who left their schools at age 14 to avoid being forced into the Hitler Jugend. Here was a teenager in a hopeless fight against a seemingly all-powerful totalitarian regime, and he just wouldn't give up even when captured by the Gestapo. Every evening, her mother came to knock on the window of his cellar! Fortunately he was one of the few lucky ones to be eventually released.
The Gestapo was definitely a force to be feared, and we'll be sure to make it like that in Spymaster.