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Friday, 8 December, 2000, 22:37 GMT
Checkpoint Charlie tower demolished
Checkpoint Charlie in 1989, before the Wall came down
Checkpoint Charlie was a Cold War flashpoint
Developers have torn down an old East German watchtower at the former Checkpoint Charlie crossing point in central Berlin - one of the most famous symbols of the Cold War.

The watchtower - demolished on Thursday night - is to make way for offices and shops. City officials said they could not save it, as it was not classified as an historic landmark.

They waited until it was dark, and we were told nothing in advance. We had often discussed how the tower could be moved, but now it is too late

Rainer Hildebrandt, Checkpoint Charlie Museum director

Since the Berlin Wall was removed after the city's reunification in 1989, the watchtower had attracted tens of thousands of visitors each year.

A director of the Checkpoint Charlie museum dedicated to the Berlin Wall, Alexandra Hildebrandt, said the decision to bulldoze the watchtower was a "barbaric act".


A spokesman for the property developers who own the land said the office complex they planned to build would include a multi-media memorial to the tower.

Tourists by Cold War sign at Checkpoint Charlie
The area is now visited by tourists and shoppers

The concrete watchtower by the Berlin Wall was once used by Soviet and East German soldiers guarding the east-west border.

Since reunification, the main Friedrichstrasse avenue running north from the former border has been lined with glitzy boutiques and car showrooms.

Checkpoint Charlie - which divided the US and Soviet sectors in Berlin - was used as a crossing for foreigners such as Allied diplomats and soldiers.

It came to symbolise the drama of the Cold War, and was the scene of several escape attempts. The Berlin Wall divided the city from 1961 to 1989.

Nearly all of the former 155km (97-mile) Berlin Wall has been torn down, except for a few scattered sections.

About 190 East Germans were killed trying to reach the West before the country's Soviet-backed government - and the Berlin Wall - collapsed in 1989.

About 5,000 made it across, while a similar number were arrested by the East German authorities.

The original checkpoint buildings were dismantled and reassembled at the Allied Museum in the west of the city.

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See also:

03 Oct 00 | Europe
Germans mark decade of unity
07 Sep 00 | Europe
Berlin Wall officials freed
09 Nov 99 | Europe
Memories from the Wall
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