Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Did you know that despite the rumours the famous East-West German inner-city crossing in Berlin known as Checkpoint Charlie is NOT placed in the borough of Mitte?
It cannot be for pretty obvious reasons: Berlin-Mitte belonged to East Berlin while the checkpoint as it is today was built by the Allies in West Berlin. And the southern side of Zimmerstrasse belongs to Kreuzberg.
Ironically, the other street that reached Checkpoint Charlie´s East German side (which would be indeed in Berlin-Mitte if it still existed) was Mauerstrasse – Wall Street. The name it was given in 1720.
Checkpoint Charlie (for C in NATO phonetic alphabet; Checkpoint Alpha for A was at Halmstedt and Checkpoint Bravo for B could be crossed at Dreilinden in Berlin-Wannsee) became famous, or rather infamous, in October 1961 when for five days the tanks of the Allies and the Soviets stood facing each other in an event that came to be known as Berlin Crisis, triggered, sadly, like most serious conflicts by a trivial incident: the all this sabre-rattling was over the question was whether East German guards were authorized to examine the travel documents of an American diplomat on his was to East Berlin to watch an opera.
Checkpoint Charlie became infamous again when only a year later Peter Fechter, a young East Berliner who attempted to flee to the West was shot by East German Guards and bled to death under the Wall under the eyes of both East and West Berlin soldiers. Neither side dared help him lest the opponents had chosen to use their weapons against them.
Something that many tourists eagerly posing for photos at Checkpoint Charlie today are not aware of is that nothing about the place is real. The wooden shed is a copy of the first shed put there in 1961 – they were exchanged for different models several times over the years and the last one, a metal one, standing there in 1989 when the Wall fell can be seen at the Allied Museum in Berlin-Dahlem today (and so can parts of the original shed).
Apart from the shed nothing is left of the huge structure that Checkpoint Charlie used to be (especially on the Eastern side where a literal fortress was put in place). The watchtower – the last original element of the checkpoint – was demolished in 2000 to make space for an shiny new office building that was never built.
So here´s another misunderstanding straightened out: just like Karstadt at Hermannplatz is NOT in Neukölln (you can read all about it in the following post ), so is Checkpoint Charlie no part of Mitte. Both are part of one of the most fascinating districts of Berlin: Kreuzberg:-)