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Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was a hotspot of the Cold War. The Allied checkpoint opposite the Friedrichstrasse border crossing served as one of the most important crossings between East and West Berlin. Here, shortly after the Wall was built, Soviet and American tanks stood directly opposite each other. Today, about four million people from all over the world visit Checkpoint Charlie every year.

Students in the Master's program Public History at Freie Universität Berlin have intensively studied the history of the Allied checkpoint as part of a seminar. In the following articles, they report on selected historical sites and objects that tell the story of Checkpoint Charlie.
The photo shows one of the “Vehicle Travel Packets” of the US Army: a green four-ring binder with the displayed page under a transparent covering. The displayed page is the title page. This contains a greeting in the name of Major General Raymond E. Hammond and signed by Provost Marshal Garry L. Pittman.

“Please Remember that You are Representing the United States Government.“

Like many Western Allied soldiers in Berlin, U.S. soldiers visited the Soviet sector, benefiting from the cheaper prices there and catching a glimpse of life beyond the Wall. These private excursions were, at the same time, deeply political: the Western Allies thus showed their presence and underlined their right to access all sectors of the city. To avoid dangerous provocations, the Army provided its excursionists with their own manual.  more
The Zimmerstraße at Checkpoint Charlie in December 1961.

The First Christmas at the Wall

Today, Checkpoint Charlie is a sought-after destination for millions of tourists every year. It used to be the centre of Monika Scheffe's life. At the end of the war, she fled with her parents from Karlsbad to Berlin as a small child. She grew up in the direct vicinity of Checkpoint Charlie in West Berlin.  more
Checkpoint Charlie on a rainy day. On the left is the sector sign with the inscription: “Your are entering the american sector. Carrying weapons off dutyforbidden. Obey traffic rules.” In the middle of the frame is the Mauermuseum. On the right is the control barracks with sandbags. In front of it is the lightbox rising above the street. It shows a larger than scale photo of an american soldier.

The Light Box Instillation by Frank Thiel at Checkpoint Charlie

For many Berliners and tourists, Checkpoint Charlie is one of the city's most famous landmarks. The site is a reminder of the divided Berlin during the Cold War and the tank confrontation of October 27, 1961, when Soviet and American tanks faced off at the checkpoint at the crossing of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße. Today, the light box installation by Frank Thiel is located there. It draws attention to the military presence of the Allies in Berlin and provides a face to the soldiers stationed there at that time.  more
The bronze-coloured memorial column for Peter Fechter. In front of it is a line of bricks representing the path of the former Berlin Wall and a round granite plate.

The Memorial Site for Peter Fechter

Peter Fechter is one of the most well-known victims of the Berlin Wall. GDR border guards shot the 18-year-old as he tried to flee to West Berlin. Today, a memorial column in Berlin-Mitte, 200 meters away from the former Checkpoint Charlie, commemorates his death. It is the result of many years of commitment to the culture of remembrance.  more
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