One of the most well-known symbols of the cold war, checkpoint Charlie is the biggest tourist trap in Berlin today.
Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point in the Berlin Wall between the soviet east berlin and an American sector of west Berlin. Therefor it was also frequently featured in spy movies and books of that era.
Today it is maybe the most crowded places in the city and venders, pick pocketers, and silly tourist traps make it hard to explore the history of this place.
Even though there are many museums around, a lot of information is free to look at outside.
Soon after the construction of the Berlin Wall, a standoff occurred between U.S. and Soviet tanks on either side of Checkpoint Charlie.
It began on 22 October 1961 as a dispute over whether East German guards were authorized to examine the travel documents of a U.S. diplomat passing through the checkpoint to see the opera in east berlin.
By October 27, 10 Soviet and 10 American tanks stood on either side of the checkpoint, facing each other, barrel to barrel.
An emergency military alert was broadcast to bases all over the world and nobody knew what will happen if the situation in Berlin will escalate.
The standoff ended peacefully on October 28 following a U.S.-Soviet understanding to withdraw the tanks.
The security booth in the site is a replica of the original one that stood here until 1990, and behind it two pictures of young soldiers, an American facing east and a soviet facing west.
If you survived checkpoint Charlie intact with your wallet still in your bag or pocket, walk on zimmerstrasse until you reach the Berlin wall itself.
On one side of the wall is the museum “topography of terror” and on the other side, the Federal Ministry of Finance was once the headquarters of the German Ministry of Aviation, headed by Hermann Göring, one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party.
The enormous building was at the time of its construction the largest office building in Europe with 2,800 rooms, 7 kilometers of corridors, and over 4,000 windows!
It was built in the typical style of “National Socialist intimidation architecture”. And it is one of the only Nazi building that survived the allied bombing of WWII.
When we cross the wall back to the west side, we enter the museum “topography of terror”. It is located on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 was the SS Reich Main Security Office, the headquarters of SD, Einsatzgruppen and Gestapo.
Those building did not survive the allied bombing of WWII.
The museum if free to enter to all visitors without payment and two main exhibition sites are to be found:
The outdoors exhibition, shows a chronology of the Nazi terror regime in berlin between the foundation and cellars of the Gestapo headquarters, where many political prisoners were tortured and executed.
The inner exhibition is focused on the topography of the site, the buildings that stood here and the history of the Nazi regime and the genocide they committed.
On the other side of the street we see two interesting buildings:
The Martin-Gropius-Bau is an historical exhibition hull.
And the House of Representatives is the state parliament of Berlin.
The remnant of the Berlin wall here is my personal favorite one, no modern graffiti nor restoration work has been made here. We can actually see and feel the hammer strikes in the concrete at the time when the people of Berlin demolished it on their way to freedom.