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Encyclopedia > Checkpoint Charlie
Allied Checkpoint Charlie. The Allied checkpoint as viewed from the GDR checkpoint (June 1986)
Checkpoint Charlie as tourist attraction. Viewed from what was the American sector, the ersatz cabin has been decorated with an image of a Soviet soldier. The reverse side shows an American soldier (June 2003)

Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to a crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War, located at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße (which coincidentally means 'Wall Street'). It is in the Friedrichstadt neighborhood, which was divided by the Berlin Wall. Many other sector crossing points existed in Berlin. Some of these were designated for residents of West Berlin and West German citizens. Checkpoint Charlie was designated as the single crossing point (by foot or by car) for foreigners and members of the Allied forces. (Members of the Allied forces were not allowed to use the other sector crossing point designated for use by foreigners, the Friedrichstraße railway station.) The name Charlie came for the letter C in the NATO phonetic alphabet; similarly for other Allied checkpoints on the Autobahn to the West: Checkpoint Alpha at Helmstedt and Checkpoint Bravo at Dreilinden, southeast of Wannsee. The Soviets simply called it the Friedrichstraße Crossing Point [citation needed]. The East Germans officially referred to Checkpoint Charlie as the Grenzübergangsstelle ("Border Crossing Point") Friedrich-/Zimmerstraße. Image File history File links Checkpointcharlie. ... Image File history File links Checkpointcharlie. ... Photo of Checkpoint Charlie at Berlin (taken June 7, 2003 by djmutex), herewith licensed under GFDL. File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... The Western Allies were the democracies and their colonial peoples, within the broader coalition of Allies during World War II. The term is generally understood to refer to the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations and Poland (from 1939), exiled forces from Occupied Europe (from 1940), the United States... East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. ... Boroughs of West Berlin West Berlin was the name given to the western part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. ... For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ... Friedrichstraße - view to north The Friedrichstraße (pronounced in IPA) (Frederick Street) is a major shopping street in (east) central Berlin. ... Friedrichstadt was an independent suburb of Berlin, and is now a historical neighborhood of the city itself. ... East German construction workers building the Berlin Wall, November 20, 1961. ... This article is about the capital of Germany. ... Boroughs of West Berlin West Berlin was the name given to the western part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. ... West Germany was the informal but almost universally used name for the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 until 1990, during which years the Federal Republic did not yet include East Germany. ...   (IPA: ) is a railway station in the German city Berlin. ... FAA radiotelephony phonetic alphabet and Morse code chart. ... This article is about the German, Austrian and Swiss road system. ... Helmstedt is a city located at the eastern edge of the German state of Lower Saxony. ... Map of Berlin-Wannsee The Wannsee is both a locality in the southwestern Berlin borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, in Germany, and a linked pair of lakes adjoining the locality. ... CCCP redirects here. ... “East Germany” redirects here. ...


Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of east and west, and — for some East Germans — a gateway to freedom. It is frequently featured in spy movies and books, such as those by John le Carré. The famous cafe and viewing point for Allied officials, Armed Forces and visitors alike, Cafe Adler ("Cafe Eagle"), is situated right on the checkpoint. It was an excellent viewing point to look into East Berlin, whilst having something to eat and drink. For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ... John le Carré is the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born October 19, 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), an English writer of espionage novels. ...


The checkpoint was curiously asymmetrical. During its 27-year active life, the infrastructure on the Eastern side was expanded to include not only the wall, watchtower and zig-zag barriers, but a multi-lane shed where cars and their occupants were checked. However the American authorities, perhaps not wanting to concede that the division of Germany might be anything other than a temporary aberration, never erected any permanent buildings, and made do with the iconic wooden shed, which was replaced in the 1980s by a larger metal structure now on display at the Allied Museum in western Berlin. In the years after reunification, a reproduction of the 1960s-era wooden shed was placed at the site of the original.

Contents

Early escapes

The Berlin Wall was erected with great efficiency by the East German government in 1961, but naturally there were many means of escape that had not been anticipated. Checkpoint Charlie was initially blocked only by a gate; a citizen of the GDR (East Germany) smashed a car through it to escape, so a strong pole was erected. Another escapee approached the barrier in a convertible, took the windscreen down at the last moment and slipped under the barrier. This was repeated two weeks later, so the East Germans duly lowered the barrier and added uprights. This article is about the state which existed from 1949 to 1990. ...


Diplomatic incident of October 1961

The four powers governing Berlin (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union) had agreed at the 1945 Potsdam Conference that Allied personnel would not be stopped by German police in any sector of Berlin. But on 22 October 1961, just two months after the construction of the Wall, the US Chief of Mission in West Berlin, E. Allan Lightner, was stopped in his car (which had occupation forces license plates) while going to a theatre in East Berlin. Army General Lucius D. Clay (Retired), U.S. President John F. Kennedy's Special Adviser in West Berlin, decided to demonstrate American resolve. Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... Harry S. Truman and Joseph Stalin meeting at the Potsdam Conference on July 18, 1945. ... is the 295th day of the year (296th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1961 (MCMLXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Lucius Dubignon Clay (April 23, 1897 - April 16, 1978) was an American general. ... Federal courts Supreme Court Circuit Courts of Appeal District Courts Elections Presidential elections Midterm elections Political Parties Democratic Republican Third parties State & Local government Governors Legislatures (List) State Courts Local Government Other countries Atlas  US Government Portal      For other uses, see President of the United States (disambiguation). ... John Kennedy and JFK redirect here. ...


Clay responds

Clay sent an American diplomat, Albert Hemsing, to probe the border. While probing in a diplomatic vehicle, Hemsing was stopped by East German transport police asking to see his passport. Once his identity became clear, military police were rushed in. The East German Transport Police escorted the diplomatic car as it drove into East Berlin. The shocked GDR police got out of the way. The car continued and the soldiers returned to West Berlin. A British diplomat — apparently either out of the loop or attempting to conciliate — was stopped the next day and just handed over his passport, and Clay was furious.


Perhaps this contributed to his decision to make the attempt again: on 27 October 1961, Mr. Hemsing again approached the zonal boundary in a diplomatic vehicle. But Clay did not know how the Soviets would respond, so just in case, he had brought tanks with an infantry battalion to the nearby Tempelhof airfield. To everyone's relief the same routine was played out as before. The US troops and Jeeps went back to West Berlin, and the tanks waiting behind also went home. is the 300th day of the year (301st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1961 (MCMLXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Exterior of Tempelhof Airport. ...


Tank stand-off

Soviet tanks face U.S. tanks at Checkpoint Charlie, 1961-10-27
Soviet tanks face U.S. tanks at Checkpoint Charlie, 1961-10-27

Immediately afterwards, 33 Soviet tanks drove to the Brandenburg Gate. Curiously, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev claimed in his memoirs that as he understood it, the American jeeps had seen the Soviet tanks coming and retreated. Col. Jim Atwood, then Commander of the US Military Mission in West Berlin, disagreed in later statements. Image File history File links Checkpoint_Charlie_1961-10-27. ... Image File history File links Checkpoint_Charlie_1961-10-27. ... CCCP redirects here. ... For other uses of terms redirecting here, see US (disambiguation), USA (disambiguation), and United States (disambiguation) Motto In God We Trust(since 1956) (From Many, One; Latin, traditional) Anthem The Star-Spangled Banner Capital Washington, D.C. Largest city New York City National language English (de facto)1 Demonym American... Year 1961 (MCMLXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 300th day of the year (301st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... The Brandenburg Gate The Brandenburg Gate (German: Brandenburger Tor) is a former city gate and one of the main symbols of Berlin, Germany. ... Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (Russian: , Nikita Sergeevič Chruščiov; IPA: , in English, , or , occasionally ); surname more accurately romanized as Khrushchyov[1]; April 17 [O.S. April 5] 1894[2]–September 11, 1971) was the chief director of the Soviet Union after the death of Joseph Stalin. ...


Ten of these tanks continued to Friedrichstraße, and stopped just 50 to 100 yards (46 to 91 metres) from the Checkpoint on the Soviet side of the sector boundary. The US tanks turned back towards the Checkpoint, stopping an equal distance from it on the American side of the boundary. And they just waited. From 27 October 1961 at 17:00 until 28 October 1961 at about 11:00, the respective troops faced each other. As per standing orders, both groups of tanks were loaded. The alert levels of the US Garrison in West Berlin, then NATO, and finally the US Strategic Air Command (SAC) were raised. Both groups of tanks had orders to fire if fired upon. This article is about the military alliance. ... For the film of the same name, see Strategic Air Command (film) The Strategic Air Command (SAC) was the operational establishment of the United States Air Force in charge of Americas bomber-based and ballistic missile-based strategic nuclear arsenal from 1946 to 1992. ...


Stand-off resolved

Khrushchev and Kennedy agreed (according to one source, via a channel established just a month before) to reduce tensions by withdrawing the tanks. The Soviet checkpoint had direct communications to General Anatoly Gribkov at the Soviet Army High Command, who in turn was on the phone to Khrushchev. The US checkpoint contained a military police officer on the telephone to the HQ of the US Military Mission in Berlin, which in turn was in communication with the White House. Kennedy offered to go easy over Berlin in the future in return for the Soviets removing their tanks first. Thinking they had won a political victory, the Soviets agreed. In reality Kennedy was very much in favor of the Wall: "It's not a very nice solution, but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war."[1] Anatoly Ivanovich Gribkov was at Soviet Army High Command during the Cold War era. ...


A Soviet tank moved 5 yards (4.6 metres) backwards first; then an American tank followed suit. One by one the tanks withdrew. But General Bruce C. Clarke, then the Commander-in-Chief (CINC) of U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR), was said to have been concerned about Clay's conduct[citation needed] and Clay returned to the United States in May 1962. Gen. Clarke's assessment may have been incomplete, however: Clay's firmness had a great effect on the German population, led by Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. This does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... General Bruce Cooper Clarke was a commander of Continental Army Command from 1958-1960 and Commander, U.S. Army Europe from 1960-1962. ... Shoulder Sleeve Insignia of the U.S. Seventh Army. ... Willy Brandt, born Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm (December 18, 1913 - October 8, 1992), was a German politician, Chancellor of West Germany 1969 – 1974, and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) 1964 – 1987. ... The head of government of Germany is called Chancellor (German: Kanzler). ... For other uses, see Konrad Adenauer (disambiguation). ...

Checkpoint Charlie (April 2005)

Photo of Checkpoint Charlie at Berlin (taken June 7, 2003 by djmutex), herewith licensed under GFDL. File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Photo of Checkpoint Charlie at Berlin (taken June 7, 2003 by djmutex), herewith licensed under GFDL. File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ...

Death of Peter Fechter

On 17 August 1962, a teenage East German, Peter Fechter, was wounded in the hip, shot by East German guards while trying to escape from East Berlin. His body lay tangled in a barbed wire fence, slowly bleeding to death, in full view of the world’s media. American soldiers could not rescue him because he was a few yards inside the Soviet sector. East German border guards were reluctant to approach him for fear of provoking Western soldiers, one of whom had shot an East German border guard just days earlier. Over an hour later Mr. Fechter’s body was removed by the East German guards. is the 229th day of the year (230th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1962 (MCMLXII) was a common year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1962 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Portrait photograph of Peter Fechter Peter Fechter (14 January 1944 – 17 August 1962) was a bricklayer from East Berlin, who at the age of eighteen became one of the first victims of the Berlin Walls border guards. ...


A spontaneous demonstration formed on the American side of the checkpoint, protesting the actions of the East and the inactions of the West: a few days later, the crowd stoned Soviet buses driving towards the Soviet War Memorial, located in the Tiergarten in the British sector. The Soviets tried to escort the buses with Armoured Personnel Carriers ("APCs"). Thereafter, the Soviets were only allowed to cross via the Sandkrug Bridge crossing point (which was the nearest to Tiergarten) and were prohibited from bringing in APCs. Armoured personnel carriers (APCs) are armoured fighting vehicles developed to transport infantry on the battlefield. ...


Western units were deployed in the middle of the night in early September with live armaments and vehicles, in order to enforce the ban. None of this ammunition was ever expended, although East German border guards in 1973 opened fire with automatic weapons, leaving bulletholes in Checkpoint Charlie, but no US personnel were hurt.


Checkpoint Charlie today

The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum opened two years after the wall was erected
The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum opened two years after the wall was erected
Replica of the famous sign at the former East-West Berlin border

Although the wall opened in November 1989, the checkpoint remained an official crossing for foreigners and diplomats until German reunification in October 1990 when the booth was removed; it is now in the Allied Museum in Zehlendorf. The course of the former wall is now marked on the street with a line of bricks. A copy of the booth and sign that once marked the border crossing was later erected where Checkpoint Charlie once stood. Near the location of the booth is the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, a private museum opened in 1963 by Rainer Hildebrandt, which was augmented with a new building in the 1990s. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1600x1200, 331 KB) Photo by User:Adam Carr, May 2006 I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1600x1200, 331 KB) Photo by User:Adam Carr, May 2006 I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Year 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link displays 1989 Gregorian calendar). ... This article is about the 1990 German reunification. ... Year 1990 (MCMXC) was a common year starting on Monday (link displays the 1990 Gregorian calendar). ... Zehlendorf is the southwestern-most district in Berlin. ...


Developers tore down the East German checkpoint watchtower in 2000. This famous symbol of the Cold War was removed in a clandestine manner so as to attract a minimum amount of attention. The watchtower, which was the last surviving original Checkpoint Charlie structure, was demolished to make way for offices and shops. The city tried to save the tower but failed as it was not classified as a historic landmark. As of January 2006, nothing has been built at this site and the original proposals for development have been shelved.


References

  1. ^ Gaddis, John Lewis, The Cold War: A New History (2005), p. 115.

External links

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  Results from FactBites:
 
Checkpoint Charlie - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1557 words)
Checkpoint Charlie is at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and - amazingly - Mauerstraße ('Wall Street') in the Friedrichstadt neighborhood, in the heart of Berlin, which was divided by the Berlin Wall.
Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of east and west, and – for the East Germans – a gateway to freedom.
Checkpoint Charlie was initially blocked only by a gate; a citizen of the GDR (East Germany) smashed a car through it to escape, so a strong pole was erected.
BBC News | EUROPE | Checkpoint Charlie tower demolished (372 words)
A director of the Checkpoint Charlie museum dedicated to the Berlin Wall, Alexandra Hildebrandt, said the decision to bulldoze the watchtower was a "barbaric act".
Checkpoint Charlie - which divided the US and Soviet sectors in Berlin - was used as a crossing for foreigners such as Allied diplomats and soldiers.
The original checkpoint buildings were dismantled and reassembled at the Allied Museum in the west of the city.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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