Check in at Checkpoint Charlie

Perhaps one of the most iconic sights in Berlin, this monument of the former border crossing, the Cold War and the partition of Berlin is located on the corner of Friedrichstradt and Zimmerstradt. In fact, the barrier, checkpoint booth (which is actually a replica – the real thing is in the Allied Museum in Zehlendorf), flag and sandbags are all based on the original site – and the perfect place for a photo (or a cheeky Mickey D’s)!

In the middle of the night in 1961, a white line was drawn to divide Berlin into East and West Germany. This line would soon be replaced with a concrete wall with three American checkpoints built to allow access for military and foreign personnel. And so Checkpoint Charlie was born.

This famous crossing point between East and West Germany was once the only place at which foreigners visiting Berlin could cross from West to East and back again. Many Germans also tried their luck in daring escapes across to the other side, including Heinz Meixner, who removed the windshield of his car to drive under the vehicle barrier.

A particularly tragic escape attempt saw Peter Fechter, an eighteen year old bricklayer, attempt to cross the Berlin Wall illegally nearby Checkpoint Charlie. He was shot in the pelvis by guards while climbing over and was left trapped in barbed wire. As he was still technically on Soviet territory, Allied guards were unable to assist him and due to a recent incident in which a Soviet guard had been shot by the West, Eastern guards were nervous about helping him. Fechter bled to death after an hour in full view of the public. His death initiated a massive turning point in public opinion.

In November of 1989, restrictions on travel between the Allied and Soviet parts of Germany were relaxed and celebrations broke out all over the capital. East Germans flooded into the Allied sector after a politician mistakenly announced the immediate abolishment of the travel ban, rather than diffusing it over a period of time,

When the Berlin Wall subsequently came down in June 1990, the checkpoint was officially closed after nearly 30 years.

Checkpoint Charlie image by Flickr user Shadowgate and used under the Creative Commons licence.

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