On June 22, 1990 Checkpoint Charlie, the iconic border basis between east and west Berlin was dismantled. Thirty years after, this crossroads for a long time like a Dysneyland” of the cold war is still looking for a future.
Five things to know about the most famous crossing point between the blocks, communist and western, James Bond, played by Roger Moore, used in the film “Octopussy”:
The border post was established by the Allies in September 1961, in the wake of the construction of the Berlin Wall which separated the German capital for nearly thirty years between his communist party in the East, and its western half. It takes its name from the phonetic alphabet of NATO, C for Charlie.
Until the country’s reunification in 1990, it was the most important crossing point for foreigners and diplomats, who could also pass in transit by train between the two Berlins via the station Friedrichsstrasse. It was also a place of exchange of prisoners.
The Checkpoint Alpha (A), the largest place of passage between the two blocks, was located at the border inter-German Helmstedt, while the Checkpoint Bravo (B) was at Dreilinden, at the entrance of West Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie was the scene of several attempts daring escape of East Germans to the west, who have inspired the film industry. It was, it is true, the only opening in the Wall of concrete and barbed wire dividing the city.
In April 1962, the Austrian Heinz Meixner was able to force the dam at the wheel of a convertible tampered with at the edge of his fiancée is in berlin and his future mother-in-law. He was so low on the vehicle and this latter passed under the barrier: the time that the guards react, he was already in the american sector.
All Berliners know his face and it appears on millions of souvenir photos.
The soldier whose portrait now stands on the site of the Checkpoint Charlie is a former tuba player with the u.s. army referred to as Jeff Harper. He was 22 years old when he was photographed for a series of commemorations of the last allied soldiers in Berlin in 1994.
His portrait was later chosen to be exhibited on the spot, next to a photo of a soviet soldier.
Deployments of floats
On October 27, 1961, dozens of tanks and soldiers on both sides faced during 16 hours, a result of a dispute over the free movement of nationals of the allied countries in the two halves of the city.
The Soviets demanded control of an american diplomat who wanted to enter East Berlin, which was contrary to the agreements then in force.
The american president John F. Kennedy and soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave finally the order to withdraw the tanks, the face of the risk that the incident does not degenerate into third world war.
Plan for the future
Following the German reunification, the site of Checkpoint Charlie has turned into a sort of theme park on the cold War, with its sellers of fake hats, gas masks, plastic, and fake american soldiers. It is a rite of passage for visitors to the capital, with an adjacent museum very “kitsch” and its sellers of sausage and soda.
The municipality of berlin has hardly enjoyed the “merchandisation” and had long and heated debates on the future of the places.
Last project in date: buildings of limited size, with the requirement that 30% of the space being used for social housing, a public square and a museum of the cold war worthy of the name.