Rick Steves’ Europe

S8 E12 | CLIP

Berlin, Germany: The Wall and Checkpoint Charlie

The Berlin Wall Memorial and Museum House at Checkpoint Charlie educate visitors about Berlin's tumultuous 20th century.

AIRED: May 19, 2015 | 0:02:56
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TRANSCRIPT

"The Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart."

That's what the East German government called this Wall.

They built it almost overnight in 1961

to stop their people from fleeing to freedom in the West.

Over two million East Germans escaped

before this Wall was built.

The Berlin Wall Memorial is a stark reminder of

the millions trapped behind this Wall before it came down.

Within its park-like grounds which were once a no-man's land

are information posts

and photos of people who died trying to cross the Wall.

The Wall was actually a complex of two walls.

The outer one was a 12-foot-high concrete barrier.

The round top was designed to discourage grappling hooks.

Sandwiched between the outer wall and an inner wall

was a no-man's land, or "death strip."

The complex circled what was West Berlin,

stretching about a hundred miles

it effectively made the Western sector of the city

an island in the middle of communist East Germany.

And always vigilant were many look-out towers.

East German guards manned about 300 towers like this

to stop anyone attempting to escape.

Only a couple of these still stand.

Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous border crossing

between the East and West, stood about here.

Once a tense and foreboding place,

its now a garish, commercial free-for-all.

Where serious military guards once stood,

today actors pose playfully with tourists.

Symbolizing the nerve-wracking standoff of the Cold War,

a young American soldier faces East,

and on the flip side, his Soviet counterpart

faces West.

The adjacent museum, the House at Checkpoint Charlie,

shows how desperation drove East Berliners to all kinds

of creative escape attempts over,

under, and through the Wall.

Escapees would hide, crammed into tiny cars.

This one drove six people to freedom

before finally being discovered.

In another car, a person was actually hidden

in a false gas tank.

And this vehicle,

armored with concrete and iron plates,

simply blasted through under a hail of bullets.

Exhibits show how tunnels were used for transporting

people to freedom.

Rooms recall the artful diplomacy of the age,

including President Reagan's famous speech.

REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.

[Cheering]

Mr. Gorbachev,

tear down this wall.

[Cheering]

STEVES: And the last room celebrates the happy ending,

the euphoric days in 1989

when people-power literally tore down the Wall.

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