During the era when Berlin was divided into two parts by the wall there were only a few places where you could cross between the different sectors of the city. The most famous place you could cross was at the intersection between Friedrich Strasse and Zimmer Strasse where you could cross between the Soviet sector of the city and the American sector of the city at the famous Checkpoint Charlie.
The checkpoint was one of the checkpoints between the American and Soviet sector – other checkpoints were named alpha and bravo. During the time of the Berlin Wall more and more obstructions were built on the soviet side of the checkpoint making it impossible to drive a car from East Berlin to West Berlin without stopping – hence making it extremely difficult to escape by car across the border.
Checkpoint Charlie was the scene of some of the most famous standoffs between the two superpowers during the cold war. In October 1961 shortly after the construction of the wall there was a situation where American and Soviet tanks drove down Friedrichstrasse to take up position only a hundred meters apart with the risk of a wrong move leading to full-scale war between the two powers. The tanks and there crew stood at the checkpoint for 18 hours before they finally turned around to go back and the immediate threat were avoided.
A later episode took place about a year later when Peter Fecther tried to escape across the wall to reach the freedom of the west. He was shot by East German border guards and fell down still alive a couple of meters from the American zone. The American border guards couldn’t go to the rescue of Peter since he was still inside the soviet sector – and the East German border guards were also hesitant to go and retrieve Peter so he could get much needed medical attention. Apparently an East German border guard had been shot by the west a few days earlier in an incident at the wall. It took an hour before Peter was finally getting help by the East German border guards – by which time it was too late and he died. The episode gave rise to huge demonstrations off protesters on the American side that was unhappy with the lack of help from the American border guards.
Today the wall has gone and you can freely go down Friedrichstrasse without stopping at the checkpoint. But a copy of the checkpoint is placed at the original location and the sign with message you are leaving the American sector is also present. Next to the checkpoint is a big museum of the checkpoint and at the corner are free displays you can visit and read about the story of Berlin during the separation into two different parts.