Fake ‘soldiers’ banned from Checkpoint Charlie

Nov 8, 2019

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For almost 20 years, tourists visiting Berlin could pose with an actor dressed up as a Cold War-era American soldier. Now, German authorities have revoked the actors’ licenses and prohibited them from performing at the landmark.

During the Cold War, when Germany was still divided into East Germany and West Germany, Checkpoint Charlie was the most recognizable border crossing. Dating back to the 1960s, Checkpoint Charlie stood as a visible reminder of the separation of Germany. Depending on how you view the deconstruction of the wall, it wasn’t until 1989 or 1990 when the wall “came down” and the two halves of the nation were reunited.

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In the absence of the wall, and the need for a border crossing, actors very ably filled the historical gap. The site became something of a focal point of tourism in the city of Berlin. Tourists frequently pose for pictures with the “soldiers” and even receive a passport stamp (though not a real one). It was mostly in good fun.

But according to the BBC, the actors were harassing tourists (though the actors say they got thrown out on a technicality). The actors were reportedly hassling tourists for “donations” to take a picture with them, similar to some of the performers found wandering around Times Square in New York City. Either way, a visit to Checkpoint Charlie today isn’t likely to get you a picture that looks like it’s from 50 years ago. With the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall upon us, that’s likely to be a bit of a bummer for folks celebrating the historic event.

Unlike the Soviets on the other side of the Berlin Wall, the U.S. never built a large fortification at Checkpoint Charlie. Instead, a simple shack occupied the site for nearly 30 years. As part of the tourist experience, the shack was recreated on the site. There’s no word from Berlin authorities at this point if the shack will maintain residence in its iconic location.

Feature photo by AFP / Stringer / Getty Images.

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