The End of History
By streiff Posted in User Blogs — 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.
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.