Sunday, December 22, 2013

Geopiece of the Day: Checkpoint Charlie

checkpoint charlie in 1961
Checkpoint Charlie in October 1961

Checkpoint Charlie is one of the most famous sights in Berlin and all of Germany. The original military equipment, sandbags, guard towers and anti tank barriers have long been replaced by replicas to keep the historical look and story of the place alive. It seems that the high amount of tourists visiting the place every year are not really bothered by the fakes.

The former military checkpoint and border between the Capitalist West and Communist East is probably the most famous border of the whole cold war and a symbolic representation of the iron curtain that descended upon Europe. Besides the Bridge of Glienick it is the most important checkpoint in terms of military importance and only one of three that was controlled by American soldiers.

Checkpoint Charlie today

The name Checkpoint Charlie comes from the the extended alphabet widely represented in military linguistics. Checkpoint “C” has the two companions in Helmstedt-Marienborn Checkpoint “A” Alpha and Dreilinden-Drewitz Checkpoint “B” Bravo.

Moreover the checkpoint was somewhat exclusive and could only be used by foreigners, foreign to either Germany, and government officials of both Germanies, which is mildly confusing to say the least.

The checkpoint was one of the most “frosty” of the cold war and gained its fame in October 1961. Then soviet and allied tanks were facing of on the streets stacked to the teeth with live ammunition. The place was also home to daring escapes mostly to the free West. Many of these refugees paid with their lives.

Today the historic place has been turned into a museum.

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