My introduction to Berlin as a young person was through books. As a teenager I discovered the thrillers of Leon Uris and I’m pretty sure the first one I read was Armageddon which was about the Berlin Airlift. (Which then led me to actually research what had happened in Berlin after World War II had ended.) Having worked my way through Leon Uris’ books, other thrillers by major and minor authors grasped my interest and the setting for many of these books was Berlin. Despite never having visited Berlin I could easily name famous landmarks in Berlin due mainly to the thrillers I read.
Cold War thrillers were particular favourites, so Checkpoint Charlie practically had mythological connotations for me. Today I was able to see what’s left of the area that was Checkpoint Charlie. Now it’s more of a tourist site, complete with person dressed as an American soldier with American flag for people to take their pictures with. (Yes really!)
Leaving the American sector side of the little checkpoint booth.
Old aerial photo of the actual Checkpoint Charlie on a fence near the site, it was quite large, more than just the little cabin for tourists now.
The signs ‘you are entering the American sector’ and leaving are there as well.
There’s a museum called Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie, which had its origins as early as 1962 collecting stories and having items relating to people’s escapes donated. This is where I spent a few fascinated hours this afternoon. The museum is very text heavy, with the same information written in English, Russian, French and German. This means that you tend to make very slow progress or when it’s crowded like today, another person is always standing infront of what you want to read. I became selective and just read the panels that had pictures and information I was interested in. (Photography is permitted in the museum if you pay 2 euros, proof I did the right thing and a way to identify me to museum staff)
Model of wall.
What came across very strongly to me was never underestimate people’s determination to achieve what they wanted. People’s ingenuity in escaping from East Berlin was amazing.
A person hidden in a false petrol tank.
This young woman spent 70 minutes like this inside 2 suitcases to escape.
They dug tunnels, cart used to remove soil as large tunnel was dug.
Certain items were banned in East Germany to try and stop people creating equipment to escape, but even that didn’t stop some people.
A terrific museum to visit, especially if you’re into post WW2 European history.