New book on the infamous Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpointcharlie copy

Checkpoint Charlie

The Cold War, the Berlin Wall and the most dangerous place on earth

By Ian MacGregor

Published by Constable; Dist. by Hachette Aust.
RRP $32.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781472130594

This book was published to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I am, in fact, old enough to have been through Checkpoint Charlie.

My wife and I ventured through the famous border control into East Berlin in 1975, among the day tourists on foot curious to see the other side. We were intrepid young travellers then. I remember how we were regarded with great suspicion by East Germans and we struggled to spend the East German marks we were required to buy with US dollars.

It is staggering to remember how quickly the wall went up and to remember the mistrust, oppression, paranoia, and fear that gripped the city throughout this period.

And how helpless the West German citizens felt in the face of the shoot to kill policy of the East German leadership.

There is much we know about this story, but much we don’t. For instance, West Germany could ‘buy’ the freedom of East Germans imprisoned by the authorities as ‘unreliable’. West Germany bought the freedom of more than 30,000 such prisoners, bolstering the East German economy.

This is a vivid and poignant account of the history surrounding the Berlin Wall, interwoven with the first-person experiences of those who were involved.

A reminder, too, as if we needed it, of how walls divide a people.

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