Explore History - Checkpoint Charlie
On the 22nd June 1990 almost 7 months after the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 the US checkpoint ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ was dismantled. But what was Check Point Charlie? Keep reading to discover the significance of Checkpoint Charlie, where it stood and what this historic site offers your students today, on school trips to Berlin.
What was Checkpoint Charlie?
In 1961 a concrete and wire structure began to take form in Berlin, this was the initial construction of the Berlin Wall. The structure was erected by the Communist Government in East Germany in the aftermath of WWII, in order to limit movement in Berlin. Its main purpose was to deter immigration and prevent citizens in the East leaving for opportunities in the flourishing area of West Berlin and to stop ‘fascists’ in the West from infiltrating the Eastern socialist state. Checkpoint Charlie was one of three US ordered check points requested by John F. Kennedy as a means for NATO Allied Forces to cross into the West and East areas of Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie became the most famous of the three checkpoints and shortly after the rise of the wall it became the only place where foreign visitors could cross into either side of Berlin, as well as the US and NATO crossing point it had always been.
Where did Checkpoint Charlie Stand?
Checkpoint Charlie stood along the Berlin wall at the corner of two neighbour hoods situated right in the heart of Berlin; Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße. The remaining elements of Checkpoint Charlie and some replicated elements are all situated on the original site where students and visitors will be able to view the barriers, replica checkpoint booth and other remaining artefacts.
Checkpoint Charlie’s Historical Significance
Along with the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie is one of the most recognisable and lasting symbols of the Cold War and a physical embodiment of a divisive and turbulent Germany and the fall out of political unrest felt globally. In the very early days of the Berlin Wall tensions between East and West Germany and the relevant political parties were high with altercations on the borders common place. These tensions reached their boiling point in October 1961 when a West German US diplomat was denied entry into East Berlin, which resulted in a tense 16-hour standoff between US and Soviet tanks at the site of Checkpoint Charlie. This event sent ripples across the world, which to many posed the threat of another huge global conflict reminiscent of WWII on a nuclear scale. This was to go down in history as one of the most memorable visuals of the Cold War.
When was Checkpoint Charlie dismantled?
Although the Cold War didn’t cease completely until 1991, in 1989 tensions in Berlin began to settle and the Berlin Wall came down in November of 1989. This led to the somewhat rapid disintegration of Communism in Eastern Europe, as borders re-opened and normality returned along with free elections which resulted in Communist regimes being wiped out. Several months after the fall of the wall on 22nd June 1990 Checkpoint Charlie was officially dismantled when the reunification of Germany had been realised. As a temporary structure it was easy for Checkpoint Charlie to be dismantled, a replica of the former Checkpoint booth and signs now sit on the original site with the original booth being displayed in the Allied Museum.
What Checkpoint Charlie Offers your Students
On a visit to Checkpoint Charlie your students will be able to put their textbook learning into context with an immersive experience which will aid the digestion of the topic. As the Cold War officially ended only 28 years ago it is a chance for students to understand the events in recent history which have shaped the lives of those living today, including themselves. Alongside Checkpoint Charlie is the double row of stones which cover the streets and roads of Berlin today, marking the exact route of the wall and preserving its story. This combination of visual elements will allow your students to understand the gravity and size of the wall, and the impact this had on the people of Berlin. Students can delve deeper still at the Mauermuseum located close to where the original Checkpoint stood where they can discover the story of the Berlin Wall and those impacted by its length existence from escape attempts, casualties and political unrest.