A powerful, fascinating, and groundbreaking history of Checkpoint Charlie, the famous military gate on the border of East and West Berlin where the United States confronted the USSR during the Cold War.
East Germany committed a billion dollars to the creation of the Berlin Wall in the early 1960s, an eleven-foot-high barrier that consisted of seventy-nine miles of fencing, 300 watchtowers, 250 guard dog runs, twenty bunkers, and was operated around the clock by guards who shot to kill. Over the next twenty-eight years, at least five thousand people attempted to smash through it, swim across it, tunnel under it, or fly over it.
In November 1989, the East German leadership buckled in the face of a civil revolt that culminated in half a million East Berliners demanding an end to the ban on free movement. The world’s media flocked to capture the moment which, perhaps more than any other, signaled the end of the Cold War. Checkpoint Charlie had been the epicenter of global conflict for nearly three decades.
As the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall approaches in 2019, Iain MacGregor captures the essence of the mistrust, oppression, paranoia, and fear that gripped the world throughout this period. Checkpoint Charlie is about the nerve-wracking confrontation between the West and USSR, highlighting such important global figures as Eisenhower, Stalin, JFK, Nikita Khrushchev, Mao Zedung, Nixon, Reagan, and other politicians of the period. He also includes never-before-heard interviews with the men who built and dismantled the Wall; children who crossed it; relatives and friends who lost loved ones trying to escape over it; military policemen and soldiers who guarded the checkpoints; CIA, MI6, and Stasi operatives who oversaw operations across its borders; politicians whose ambitions shaped it; journalists who recorded its story; and many more whose living memories contributed to the full story of Checkpoint Charlie.
As an editor and publisher of nonfiction, Iain MacGregor has over twenty-five years’ experience of working with authors such as Jonathan Fenby, Simon Schama, and Max Hastings, to name but a very few. He is the author of To Hell on a Bike—Riding Paris–Roubaix, The Toughest Race in Cycling and Checkpoint Charlie.
“Checkpoint Charlie is emblematic of both the tension and romance of the pivot between third World War and peace. Ian MacGregor captures brilliantly and comprehensively both the danger and exhilaration that I and other reporters, soldiers, and people experienced intersecting with the wall, and the fears and the eventual hope that flowed through it. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the Europe we have inherited.” —Jon Snow, Channel 4 News
“This remarkable book about the Berlin Wall, which has been the subject of everything from diplomatic histories to spy thrillers, is different. Based on extensive, detailed interviews with people on both sides of the wall—soldiers and civilians, Communists and anti-Communists, spies, intellectuals and ordinary citizens—it offers a riveting panorama of everyday life as it was actually lived at ground zero of the cold war.” —William Taubman,Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Krushchev: The Man and His Era
“The story of divided Berlin has been told so often that there seemed little new to say about it. Iain MacGregor's book, with its wealth of eye witness stories, proves how wrong that was - and how understanding the last Cold War is crucial for anyone who wants to understand the new one.” —Martin Sixsmith, ex-BBC News Moscow Correspondent