Checkpoint Charlie - History and Facts | History Hit

Checkpoint Charlie

Berlin, Germany

Checkpoint Charlie was an important crossing point in the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin.

Lily Johnson

14 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was an important crossing point in the Berlin Wall, which separated East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Today, both the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie remain some of the most prominent symbols of the Cold War.

Checkpoint Charlie history

Following the Second World War, West Berlin was controlled by the American, British, and French forces and East Berlin by the Soviet Union.

In a bid to prevent the ongoing migration of East Berliners to the West, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev erected the Berlin Wall, closing off East Berlin from the rest of the city.

Checkpoint ‘C’, nicknamed Checkpoint Charlie in relation to the NATO phonetic alphabet, was the only place where Allied forces were allowed to cross the border. At its location at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße, it was also the most visible checkpoint along the wall.

Checkpoint Charlie was made up of a watchtower and barriers erected by the Soviet forces, while the American forces originally had only a temporary wooden shack followed by a temporary metal structure.

The checkpoint was the site of many stand offs between the Soviet and American forces, including the October 1961 dispute over the checking of the travel documents of US officials, which culminated in both sides amassing tanks there.

However, it was the tragic death of attempted East Berlin escapee, Peter Fechter, that attracted mass protest and some of the most poignant imagery of the time. The teenager was shot by Soviet guards as he tried to flee to the West, and lay dying in the no-man’s land between East and West Berlin in front of the world media.

Checkpoint Charlie today

The original Checkpoint Charlie is housed at the Allied Museum in Berlin-Zehlendorf, but the site now displays a replica border house where the original once stood, as well as information about the era.

While navigating Berlin’s busy streets, it provides visitors a reminder of what happened at the site where they stand, and how different the landscape of the city must have once looked.

Nearby is also small private museum about the checkpoint called ‘Haus am Checkpoint Charlie’.

Getting to Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie is located in central Berlin near Friedrichstraße 43-45. The M29 bus service stops at Charlottenstraße, a 4-minute walk away, while the U Kochstraße/Checkpoint Charlie U-Bahn station is a 1-minute walk away.

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