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Berlin’s top 5 Cold War sites

posted on 30/11/17

No single location was more significant than Berlin in the 40-year state of aggravated tension between the USA and USSR that became known as the Cold War.

While the two nations waged many proxy wars during that time, such as those in Greece, Korea and Vietnam, it was in the German capital that they came the closest to direct and catastrophic conflict (aside from the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962). The city played host to the first major crisis of the War in 1948, when the Soviet blockade of West Berlin provoked the Western Allies to airlift up to 9,000 tons of necessities each day. Following another crisis in 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected, and thereafter the city became an increasingly physical symbol for the divergent interests of West and East.

Though it is approaching thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there are still a number of sites in the city which serve as reminders of a time when Berlin was a hotbed of geopolitical tension and espionage – in this article we pick out a few highlights.


1.Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie, 1963.

The most famous of Berlin’s Cold War locations, Checkpoint C or "Charlie" was the name given by the Western Allies to the crossing point between West and East Berlin. It gained notoriety in 1961 when during the Berlin Crisis, US and Soviet tanks briefly stood off against each other on either side of it. A copy of the original guardhouse stands in the same spot today.


2. Karl-Marx-Allee

Berlin, Karl-Marx-Allee, Straßenverkehr.

East Berlin’s showcase of Soviet architecture, named Stalinallee until 1961, Karl-Marx-Allee runs for 2km and was designed to contain spacious and luxurious apartments for workers. The street was the focus of a workers’ uprising in 1953 against the communist government, which was quashed ruthlessly by Soviet tanks and troops, resulting in the loss of at least 125 lives.


3. Hohenschönhausen Memorial

Watchtower, Hohenschönhausen Memorial.

The Hohenschönhausen Memorial is a museum on the site of the Stasi’s secret prison. Between 1946 and 1990 the prison was used to house and torture so-called ‘enemies’ of the East German state. The permanent exhibition depicts the everyday lives of convicts and displays a range of artefacts including prison clothes and letters from inmates.


4. Glienicke Bridge

Glienicke Bridge.

More widely known as the "Bridge of Spies", Glienicke Bridge was used various times during the Cold War for the exchange of political prisoners between West and East Germany. The first of these occurred in 1962 when the Soviets exchanged Gary Powers; the U-2 pilot shot down in 1960, for Rudolf Abel, who had been convicted by the USA for spying for the Soviet Union in 1957.


5. The Allied Museum

Allied Museum Berlin: Berlin Spy Tunnel.

The Allied Museum is located in the former US Army Garrison cinema: The Outpost Theater. Its impressive collection includes a 7-metre segment of the original US spy tunnel which ran for 450 metres between West and East Berlin, as well as artefacts and accounts from participants in the Berlin Airlift of 1948.


By Miles Rowland, Digital Marketing Assistant


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