Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie and The Berlin Wall

It is so easy to forget that once upon a time, not that long ago Germany was in fact two countries. In no place is that more obvious then at Checkpoint Charlie. Today marked by a replica of the American booth where people had to pass through to go to the GDR and a tall pole with a photo of an American soldier on one side and a Soviet one on the other, this was once the place that diplomats and others with permission to cross the wall could cross. Nearby is a museum that chronicles all of the various ways people tried to get over this wall. The museum itself is a bit disorganized, but reliably presented in four languages. It is really crazy to see the wide variety of ways that people used to get over, under and around this wall. The GDR banned all inflatable canoes and such things for fear people would use them to paddle their way around the borders by water. This didn’t stop some people from making their own. A few soldiers simply deserted, giving up their gun as they crossed the border to show that they meant no threat. One man designed an ingenious lifting mechanism with harnesses. Another man created a pair of suitcases that were actually more like a large trunk for his girlfriend to hide in. An American modified a car so that someone could hide in it undetected and rescued people from the GDR for about 10 years, filling his passport with stamps.

Now, I have to say that if as a country, you are concerned about people leaving, enough that you shoot anyone who leaves rather than let them go live somewhere else, you have control issues. Work on them and the reasons why people want to leave your country so much rather than wasting money keeping up a high-security militarized border. But what do I know about running a country? I could be wrong.

What was interesting about the museum as well was an exhibit about peace and all the ways that people around the world have called for peace, from the call to tear down the wall to Gandhi’s peaceful resistance.

Today the Wall is only seen really as a cobblestone line where it once stood. Life goes on around it and it is invisible.

A piece of the Berlin Wall with a me next to you, obligingly taken by a woman I was watching try to balance her camera on things. The wall is covered in graffiti, but still impressive when you think about what it stood for, the desperation for control and that it was death to try to cross it.


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