Tue, Apr 24, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Checkpoint Charlie was once Cold War flashpoint

The Guardian, LONDON

Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point in the Berlin Wall at the junction of Friedrichstrasse, Zimmerstrasse and Mauerstrasse, between East and West Berlin. The wall was built in 1961 to prevent escapes from the eastern bloc.

Charlie was named after the third letter in the NATO alphabet and was the only crossing point for foreigners and members of the Allied forces. Immortalized in many a spy movie and novel, and mentioned in the Elvis Costello song Oliver’s Army (“There was a Checkpoint Charlie/He didn’t crack a smile”), it was the stage for one of the most dramatic moments in the Cold War, when US and Soviet tanks faced each other at a distance of 100m following a dispute about whether East German guards were allowed to inspect the travel documents of a US diplomat who wanted to attend an opera in East Berlin.

The six-day confrontation ended peacefully, but historians say it might have triggered a third world war. The site has continued to be referred to as Checkpoint Charlie since the fall of the wall, when it found itself in the center of a reunited Berlin on land considered to be prime real estate.

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