From Octopussy to The Spy Who Can In From The Cold: the history of espionage in Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie.
The history of Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie was the setting for many thrillers and spy novels, from James Bond in Octopussy to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
Located on the corner of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße, it is a reminder of the former border crossing, the Cold War and the partition of Berlin. The barrier and checkpoint booth, the flag and the sandbags are all based on the original site – and are a popular subject for photos. It’s no wonder that Checkpoint Charlie is one of the sights of Berlin that you really should see.
Where did Checkpoint Charlie get its name?
The name Checkpoint Charlie comes from the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie). After the border crossings at Helmstedt-Marienborn (Alpha) and Dreilinden-Drewitz (Bravo), Checkpoint Charlie was the third checkpoint opened by the Allies in and around Berlin.
What happened at Checkpoint Charlie in 1961?
It became the most famous crossing point between East and West Germany. On 22 September 1961, Allied guards began registering members of the American, British and French forces before trips to East Berlin and foreign tourists could find out about their stay there. Once the checkpoint was designated a crossing point for members of the Allied armed forces, a month later in October 1961 it became the scene of a tank confrontation. American and Soviet tanks took up position and faced each other with weapons primed.
Checkpoint Charlie as the scene of numerous escape attempts
Checkpoint Charlie was not only an important Cold War site, but also witnessed numerous attempts to escape from East Berlin. An open air exhibition on the corner of Schützenstraße and Zimmerstraße tells the story of those that failed and those that succeeded. An installation by the artist Frank Thiel and a commemorative plate also mark the memorial.
Checkpoint Charlie today
Nearby to the former border crossing at Checkpoint Charlie you can find out more about the Berlin Wall: in the informative museum, in the panorama of an autumn day in 1980 or with a fast-paced tour in a Trabant along where the wall used to be.
For a very special view of Checkpoint Charlie and the city’s scenery, you can go up in the Hi-Flyer tethered balloon.