Just steps from the famous crossing point between the two Berlins, the Wall Museum–House at Checkpoint Charlie presents visitors with the story of the Wall and, even more riveting, the stories of those who escaped through, under, and over it. An infamous hot spot during the Cold War, this border crossing for non-Germans was manned by the Soviet military in East Berlin's Mitte district and, several yards south, by the U.S. military in West Berlin's Kreuzberg district. Tension between the superpowers in October 1961 led to an uneasy standoff between Soviet and American tanks. Today the touristy intersection consists of a replica of an American guardhouse and signage, plus cobblestones that mark the old border.
The homespun museum reviews the events leading up to the Wall's construction and, with original tools and devices, plus recordings and photographs, shows how East Germans escaped to the West (one of the most ingenious contraptions was a miniature submarine). Exhibits about human rights and paintings interpreting the Wall round out the experience. Come early or late in the day to avoid the multitudes dropped off by tour buses. Monday can be particularly crowded because the state museums are closed on Mondays.