There are many historical sites to visit while exploring Germany, but Checkpoint Charlie located in Berlin is a “must see” while traveling. Checkpoint Charlie was first set up in August 1961, when communist East Germany erected the Berlin Wall to prevent its citizens from fleeing to the democratic West.
Checkpoint Charlie, along with Glienicker Brücke (Glienicker Bridge) was the best known border-crossing of Cold War days. This check point was located in the area of Friedrichstraße at the corner of Zimmerstraße. Along with its notable location, Checkpoint Charlie was the only gateway where East Germany allowed Allied diplomats, military personnel and foreign tourists to pass into Berlin’s Soviet sector.
With that, the United States, France and Britain stationed military police to ensure their officials had ready access to the border. The guards of Checkpoint Charlie mostly spent their time monitoring diplomatic and military traffic, but they also provided information to travelers before they venture beyond the wall.
The sign, which read as a dire warning to those about to venture beyond the wall became a known symbol of the division of Cold War Berlin. The sign read, YOU ARE LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR in English, Russian, French, and German. Checkpoint Charlie was the site of many daring escapes by East Germans desperate to flee to the West. More than 100 people were killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall illegally, several of them at or around Checkpoint Charlie.
On November 9, 1989 street parties broke out around Berlin. While the people in the West cried “Let us in” the people in the East cried “Let us out”. The barrier was open completely that night by Checkpoint Charlie’s border guards after a four-hour standoff, allowing people to move freely between East and West Berlin for the first time in nearly 30 years.
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 during a ceremony attended by French, British, American, German and Soviet dignitaries. The former Allie guardhouse sits on display at the Allied Museum in Berlin, and the replica version of the guardhouse was later built on Friedrichstrasse as a tourist attraction.
On July 6th, 1990 the original border sign “You are leaving the American Sector” was dismantled and in November 1990 the Eastern Checkpoint Friedrichstraße followed. There are no original parts from the barrier, yet Checkpoint Charlie is one of Berlin’s most famous tourist attractions. Today it is considered “Berlin’s Hollywood”. Rain or shine, 365 days a year, a uniformed man stands in front of the inspector’s hut, holding the American flag in his hands. The numerous information panels and pictures help visitors to take an imaginary journey back to the time before 1989, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Have you visited the historical Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin? If so, share your experience in the comments below.