The End of History

By streiff Posted in Comments (25) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Bloomberg news reports:

A demolition crew began taking apart a memorial at Checkpoint Charlie, one of Berlin's most visited tourist sites, after the bank that owns the land sued to remove the field of black crosses commemorating each of those who died trying to escape East Germany.

With this obituary an irreplaceable reminder of the inhumanity of socialism slips into the memory hole to be eradicated within a generation.

Read on.

Checkpoint Charlie was one of three checkpoints on the official ground corridor between West Germany and East Berlin. Named for the first three letters in the phonetic alphabet, it's lesser known siblings were Checkpoint Alpha where the A2 autobahn crossed the inter-German frontier between Helmstedt and Marienborn and Checkpoint Bravo where the A2 entered West Berlin at Dreilinden.

Checkpoint Charlie is one of those rare places that occupies two distinctly different places in history. The mythical Checkpoint Charlie was the objective of myriad fictional spies, both in movies and novels,  who, with cover blown and the Stasi on their heels, tried to regain the western zone of Berlin. In reality, it was the portal through which generations of American soldiers became acquainted with communism.

Leaving the glittering Kurfurstendamm minutes behind you could see, up close and personal, the worker's paradise of the DDR. Plastic soccer shoes. Alt-bau buildings still scarred from Hitler's goetterdaemmerung. People walking fast and studiously averting their eyes from others.  Monotonous fleets of miserable little Trabants. Crappy food (with notable exceptions like Restaurant Gannemede).

It was a time warp where World War II never ended and where the DDR didn't exist. Allied military personnel and dependents could enter East Berlin via Checkpoint Charlie anytime they wished, military personnel had to be in uniform. You registered with Allied military police and you were in. Once in East Berlin, East German authorities were not allowed to have contact with you. In a worse case scenario they could detain you until the arrival of a Soviet official who would turn you over to Allied authorities.

From the other side of the checkpoint, East Germany was alive and well and its citizens were doing everything possible to leave. Checkpoint Charlie was the sole transit point through the Berlin Wall. A wide variety of schemes were attempted. Imitation Allied uniforms. A homemade car designed to pass beneath the barriers. False bottoms in cars.

As the Cold War progressed the East Germans became increasingly proficient in preventing escapes that were not sanctioned as a means of embarrassing the Allied Kommandantura. Twice during my assignment to the Berlin Brigade, the Stasi recruited American soldiers to smuggle East Berliners out of the Eastern Sector then had them detained during transit.

While it is true that this demolition doesn't affect the museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie it is also like saying the Vietnam Memorial could be replaced by a 3,000 sq.ft. building. The field of  1,065 crosses, symbolizing the deaths of Germans who valued the possibility of freedom more than a life under Honecker's regime will be sorely missed and one would hope BAG Bankaktiengesellschaft Hamm feels at least a pang of shame at placing money-grubbing above a celebration of human dignity.

This is a shame; Germany in general is pretty good about keeping the past alive with memorials and museums.

I've visited Berlin a few times and was struck by the tremendous amount of construction. However, even a decade after reunification the divide between East and West was striking.

Germany is going to be an interesting country to keep an eye on for the next few years, as they struggle with immigration, unemployment, and their role in the EU and the world. FWIW, in astronomy they are among the most influential and productive countries.

I haven't been to Berlin since the wall came down. In my days with Pan Am I had occasion to visit a number of times and there are two things still vivid in my memory: the approach and departure at Tegel airport; and the view across the wall into the East.

The simply mind-numbing starkness of the no-man's land between East Germany and West Berlin as the flight crossed from the corridor into or out of Berlin. And the contrast of the lights and life on the West and the darkeness and dullness of the East.

It's sad to see the memorial go away; the fear and terror, and death, of people trying a last desperate dash for freedom. Another bit of non-history.


Oh, come now, streiff.  The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie signed a lease with the Bankgesellschaft.  They (the museum) then failed to pay.  This is a private museum.  If there was enough public enthusiasm to pick up the 43 million Euro purchase price, then it would have been done.  We're talking about some prime real estate in the new Berlin here.  Just off the Leipziger Straße.

"Where are the Berliners? "Wilfried Gordan, a 59-year-old resident, said as a crane moved to unearth a bleached-white section of the notorious barrier. "It's such a disgrace - there should be 100,000 people out here in protest."

link:  (Herald Tribune)

The free market has spoken.  There's no mandate for keeping this property out of the market for development.

Or are you talking like a Socialist?  Does the free market in property have no meaning to you?  Are you proposing limits to the free trade in property?  Government limits, by any chance?

What I am proposing is a since of propriety which seems sadly lacking here. And I missed the part where I said anything against markets, property, trade, or in favor of government limits. But I guess you just didn't bother to read.

difference you shouldn't assume others don't.

I didn't know the difference, I merely stated the obvious it is a distinction without a difference.

you don't know the difference. If you think that communism and socialism are basically the same it means you really don't know what each of them are.

It means that you don't know what they are.

you start with a basic intro to politics book. heck even wikipedia will be an improvement.

I suggest you take your suggestions down the road.

and you won't post high school level material like saying there is no difference between socialism and communism.

There are so many courses on politics you could take. Maybe a local community college?

suggestion and you wouldn't draw distinctions between chattel slavery and serfdom.

taken from the Houghton Mifflin encyclopedia:

"All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists. "

gee that settles it I guess.

Nah by GT

you need to read a lot more. But you are so confused that this should help a little. It's not a good idea to learn political theory and concepts from talk radio.

I thought when I read your commentary. Too much Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, and Al Franken and no real experience in life.

(well I did read Franken's book on Limbaugh once on a plane, really funny). But I did manage to go to school and read books on politics.

As I read your post and look at other posts here I am beginning to understand why conservatives are underpresented in univerisites and why scientists are leaving the GOP.

It's not just that you don't know what you are talking about when you simply equate socialism with communism. It's not just that you clearly have never read any large amount of literature on these topics. It's that you seem to actually enjoy having strong opinions about topics you don't understand and are unwilling to learn in detail.

Your stay will be short.

the US has elements of socialism but is not a communist country.

China is supposedly a communist country but is more free market than the US in many areas (partly due to reduced regulation).

Your argument sounds much like Tom Cruise arguing to Matt Lauer... Matt, Matt, Matt, you know nothing about psychiatry. Me I've read the great everything the Church of Scientology has to say about psychiatry and I can tell you, you know nothing. I'm the expert here.

I'm just pointing out the parallel here when someone likes to say, I've gone to college and read books, therefore any argument you make is invalid.  Especially when Al Franken is the only literary work you cite.

Here's the problem as I see it. There are as I write this 24 comments in this diary. 20 of them have to do with this off-topic "dispute" concerning the terms communism and socialism. Merits of the case aside, that's hijacking the diary.

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