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Checkpoint Charlie: Symbol of Division

On August 13, 1961, Berlin was divided in two overnight.


The Berlin Wall in 1961 at Bernauer Strasse

    On August 13, 1961, the city of Berlin was literally divided in two overnight. At one a.m. on that day, East German soldiers began rolling out barbed wire across the city under a secret plan dubbed "Operation Rose".
      Berliners awoke that Sunday morning to find themselves cut off from families, friends and jobs. The ruling Communists in the eastern part of the city wanted to stop the exodus of its citizens to the West.
        Prior to the Wall, thousands of East Berliners fled the Soviet-controlled sector to enjoy the benefits of capitalism under the allied powers. Communist East Germany also felt the need to seal off its nation from capitalist influence to ensure its ideology.

        Just a few weeks later, on September 22, 1961, the United States allied powers set up Checkpoint Charlie. It was to become the Cold War's best-known border crossing between East and West.

        The move responded to attempts by the East German regime to limit the free movement of the western allies solely to the sector crossing point at Friedrichstrasse. This was a violation of the "Four Powers" status of Berlin - ruled by the United States, Britain and France in the West and the Soviet Union in East Berlin.

        Symbol of the Cold War

        Until the 155-kilometer Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it was the definitive symbol of the Cold War. The impermeable barrier was reinforced with minefields, dogs and guards who shot to kill. Thousands tried to flee East Germany to the West and hundreds of people died in their attempts to escape.

        Today, there are very few reminders of the Wall in central Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie was removed on June 22, 1990. Only concrete sandbags and a reconstructed checkpoint mark the site next to the Checkpoint Charlie museum.

        Remnants of the Wall itself are mainly found in Berlin's outer regions. In central Berlin, people began tearing down the historical structure in 1989. All that's left there is a line painted on the street, showing where the Iron Curtain once slammed down with all its might.

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