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 Berlin Wall History: Checkpoint Charlie


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Checkpoint Charlie 1974 Checkpoint Charlie was Berlin's best known crossing point between West and East Berlin near by the inner Berlin sector boundary between 1961 and 1989.

Checkpoint Charlie was situated on the territory of former West Berlin in the Friedrichstraße before the junction with Zimmerstraße.

A white line on the street Friedrichstraße, drawn in the night between September 6 and 7, 1961
, marked the border between East and West Berlin and behind this line Checkpoint Friedrichstraße was located in the East. The official name of this checkpoint was Grenzübergangsstelle (GÜST) Friedrich-/Zimmerstraße (Border Crossing Point Friedrich-/Zimmerstraße).

Ten days after closing the border, from August 23, 1961 the East German authorities allowed tourists from abroad, diplomats and the military personnel of the Western Powers to enter East Berlin only via the crossing point at Berlin Friedrichstraße or Friedrichstraße Underground Station. They were not allowed to use any other of the remaining crossing points.

The Western Military Forces accepted the East German directives and soon the US Army opened the third checkpoint at Friedrichstrasse in the West.
A non permanent wooden building was erected in the middle of the Friedrichstraße. Before August 1961 there had been no US Army presence there.

The other two checkpoints were Helmstedt at the West German-East German border and Dreilinden at the West Berlin and East Germany border.
Based on the phonetic alphabet the Helmstedt checkpoint was called Checkoint Alpha, Dreilinden Checkpoint Bravo and the checkpoint at Friedrichstrasse got the name Checkpoint Charlie, even though it was never an official name.
  
The main function of Checkpoint Charlie was to register and inform members of the Western Military Forces before entering East Berlin. Foreign tourists were also informed but not checked in the West. 
The checkpoint could be passed by foot or by car. 
In generally Germans were not allowed to pass the checkpoint in Friedrichstraße.

Checkpoint Charlie was maintained by the US Army and Checkpoint Friedrichstraße by the East German border guards and the Soviet Army.

The German authorities in West and East Berlin were not allowed to check any members of the Allied Military Forces in Berlin and in Germany.

November 9th, 1989

In the night of November 9th, 1989 about 3000 West Berliners came to Checkpoint Charlie and several hundred East Berliners to Checkpoint Friedrichstraße. While the people in the West cried "Let us in' the people in the East cried 'Let us out'.
At 11.00 p.m. the Checkpoint Friedrichstraße was closed by the East German border commander.
However before midnight the border was opened completly and East Germans were allowed to enter the West.
After more than 28 years the Wall was opened for people from the East.

After November 1989

During the following months after opening the Berlin Wall the checkpoint remained an official crossing point until the end of June 1990.

On June 22, 1990 the guardhouse at Checkpoint Charlie was removed with great ceremony.
The former Allied guardhouse is now located in the Allied Museum.
A copy of the US Army guardhouse was errected on the original place on August 13, 2000.

On July 6th, 1990 the original border sign "You are leaving the US Sector" was dismantled and in November 1990 the Eastern Checkpoint Friedrichstraße followed.

Until the end of 1999 several empty properties on the area of the former Checkpoint Friedrichstraße were sold to international investors and built on with office buildings.

The original East German watch tower at Checkpoint Friedrichstraße was removed by the new property owner on December 9, 2000.

Berlin Checkpoint Charlie MemorialA 140 meter long section of the Berlin Wall was re-erected by the Checkpoint Charlie museum at Zimmerstraße on October 31, 2004 and nearby, a field of 1065 crosses represented all victims of the East German border system. The open air exhibition was cleared on July 5th, 2005.

Today Checkpoint Charlie is one of Berlin's most famous tourist attractions although no original parts with the exception of a small wall have been leftover. Nearly 900 000 tourists from all over the world visit Checkpoint Charlie every year.

Checkpoint Charlie Berlin An open-air exhibit was opened in the summer of 2006 and galleries along Zimmer- and Friedrichstraße inform with texts and photographs about Checkpoint Charlie's history.
Several souvenir stands and stores are located around Checkpoint Charlie and in front of the guardhouse pose actors dressed up as allied military policemen for tourists.

The city of Berlin plans a Cold War Museum on the area of the former Checkpoint Friedrichstraße which should be openend in 2014 or 2015.

The new museum shall complement the existing private run Checkpoint Charlie Museum which was founded in 1963 by Rainer Hildebrandt. 

  
External Links:
  
Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie Tower demolished
Could we see our own Checkpoint Charlie?
Section of Berlin Wall re-erected
'Wall Disneyland' divides Berlin
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