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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Berlin Travel Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall

A wall divided Berlin into two very different parts, east and west.  As tourists visit Berlin there is a memory of the separation throughout the city in the trail of a brick wall.  The construction began in 1961 to stop Eastern Bloc emigration because twenty percent of the East Berlin population fled to the west from 1949 to 1961.  Many were engineers, teachers, lawyers, and skilled workers.
Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the west as the best known crossing point during the cold war.  
Photographs are displayed to show the timeline,

The name Charlie came from the letter C in the Nato phonetic alphabet.  There was also a Checkpoint Alpha and Bravo.  The border crossing has been featured in films, and books for its location on Friedrichsstrasse, a historic street in the American occupied city center.  It was the only gateway for allied diplomats, military personnel and foreign tourists to pass in to the Berlin's Soviet sector.  

The United States, France and Britain stationed military police at Checkpoint Charlie to make sure their officials had easy access to the border.  The Allied guards spent most of their time monitoring diplomatic and military traffic.  A tiny shack and a few sandbags kept the operation simple on the western side to symbolize the wall was not permanent.  The East German side has cement barriers and guard towers to prevent people from illegally crossing.  
On October 22, 1961,Allan Lightner, a diplomat from the United States tried to cross to attend the opera in East Berlin.  The East Berlin Guards demanded to see his passport, but he refused on the grounds that only Soviet officials had the authoritiy to inspect his papers.  He finally got through with the help of U.S. soldiers and military jeeps.  This started a 16 hour stand off with M-48 tanks facing each other on both sides.  President John F. Kennedy contacted Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and convinced him to withdraw his tanks.
Occasionally Checkpoint Charlie was used for prisoner swaps.  A captured American U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers was traded for Rudolf Abel, a convicted spy for espionage.  
East Germany finally eased travel restrictions on November 9,1989.  The new policy was leaked out by a government official at a press conference.  That night street parties broke out around Berlin to celebrate freedom.  
Graffiting on the wall became popular for artists from all over the world.  

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