Checkpoint Charlie

Teach Through Educational Travel: Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin

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A few minutes away from Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate is another symbol of the Cold War – Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie is the most famous of three checkpoints built at the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. This checkpoint served as a point of entry (or exit) for diplomats and allied forces to enter East Germany. By 1962, within a year of being built, Checkpoint Charlie became the only place where foreigners could cross between East and West Berlin.

In a time fraught with tension and looming war, Checkpoint Charlie was grounds for several standoffs between East and West Berlin (and the US and Russia). In 1990, when the reunification of Germany was almost complete, Checkpoint Charlie was removed. You can see the original building of Checkpoint Charlie at the Allied Museum, or a replica at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.

Teach Through Educational Travel

The Checkpoint Charlie Museum (also known as the Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie) is located only a few meters from the original location of Checkpoint Charlie, and includes the best exhibits on the many ways people attempted to escape from East Germany. Peruse the website, especially the artwork. Which is your favorite? Mine, I think, is the one of the two arms festooned in flags, holding hands across the Berlin Wall. What role can artists play in recognizing and commemorating global events? Do you think it is important for artists to do this type of work?.

  • Watch this video with “footage taken in April 1990 plus still image photographs taken in December 1989 and July 2005. There is footage on both sides of the wall, although for reasons of personal security the footage of the Eastern side of the crossing point is somewhat minimal.” 
  • Look at these vintage photos of Checkpoint Charlie during the Cold War. And listen to this ground-breaking news report from the BBC, on a visit by Edward Kennedy to East Germany.Can you believe that this sort of détente occurred within the last 25 years? Discuss how history changes so rapidly – do you think that East Germans ever thought they’d be free today? Or, that the Russian and American governments worked so hard to preserve their ideals, in a different country than their own? Can you imagine living in such a politically and idealistically divided city and country?

 

  • This blogger took a tour of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. He noted, “The Berlin Wall was a real and imaginary line around the planet. One side was Russia and China, the other side was the USA, England and France. A line was drawn, the symbol was the wall, and Check Point Charlie was the door. As long as the wall and the door existed, the imaginary wall of fuzzy misguided anger could and would exist between Russia and the USA.”Do you feel that hindsight is 20/20; that we have the advantage of knowing the history of the Cold War, and can thus make such statements? Is all history, in a way, revisionist history, depending on worldview?

 

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