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.
"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
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.
tear down this wall.
STEVES: And the last room celebrates the happy ending,
the euphoric days in 1989
when people-power literally tore down the Wall.