Checkpoint Charlie was one of the crossing points in between East and West Germany. It got its name through the NATO phonetic alphabet from C (Alpha and Bravo where the other two checkpoints). Checkpoint Charlie was first famous for being the place where many East Germans attempted to cross the Berlin Wall into the West. It is also where the two powers came closest to direct combat, during the Berlin crisis of 1961 when Soviet and American tanks faced each other in a tense stand-off, only 100 meters away from each other.
The Berlin Wall was called “the best border security system in the world” by the East German military. The Checkpoint Charlie museum contains information, photos and equipment used for many of the attempts, successes and failures, of various East Germans to cross the border. The equipment donated varies widely, and include hot-air balloons, getaway cars, chairlifts, and a mini-U-Boat. The museums also shortly talks about life under communist rule, and those who fought against it. There are many famous cases of people escaping. Pete Fechter, a German teenager, caused mass protests in Western Berlin when he was shot by East German border guards while trying to escape. He was technically in East German territory, but the NATO soldiers and the East German border guards were both too afraid to help him, as they were afraid the other side would start firing if they got too close. He lay there, cut up by barbed wire and bleeding for an hour, and when the border guards got him to him, he was already dead. Another case, successful this time, of escape happened when a man approached the barrier in a convertible, took down the windshield, and simply slipped under the gate. There are many other cases, some more conventional methods, some completely original. Tunnelling was used by many escapees for example, while hiding in luggage was also surprisingly effective. However, though the methods are very interesting, the main aim of the museum is to show the struggle that it was living under Soviet rule, and what the people of East Germany would do for their own freedom.