Chronology of some significant historical events
The Mauermuseum has helped write history
Chronology of some significant historical events
The Arbeitsgemeinschaft 13. August e.V. is located 80 metres from Checkpoint Charlie. This public initiative was founded by Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt – son of world-renowned art historian Dr. Hans Hildebrandt and Jewish painter Lily Hildebrandt – in 1962, and he continued to direct it until his death on 9 January 2004.
With the Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie and the Museum des weltweiten gewaltfreien Kampfes für Menschenrechte, Dr. Hildebrandt fought against the approval and acceptance of sad realities, against human rights violations in all of Eastern Europe. For 42 years!
Global division began and ended here at Checkpoint Charlie. Here, on 9 November 1989, a border that had not only divided Germany into two states but that also separated the European nations into eastern and western hemispheres, was opened. At no other location was the division between East and West more visible than at Checkpoint Charlie.
“The museum spectacularly documents the construction of the Wall and the injustice of the SED regime. It is more than a museum; as an internationally known institution of living confrontation with the history and present of human and civil rights abuses, it reminds its visitors to defend free democracy against its enemies everywhere and always.” – Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998.
Why our museum is the only one of its kind in the world
Our museum was founded shortly after the construction of the Wall (13 August 1961) and opened on 19 October 1962. “As close to injustice as possible, that is where human greatness becomes the most apparent,” said the founder of our museum Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt. This is how he came to Checkpoint Charlie, to use the museum as an expression of protest against the Wall and to help those in need. The museum grew over time and contributed to the fall of the Wall. The museum has helped write history.
An initial exhibit was held in a 2 1/2 room flat. We implored the tourists to be grateful to the border soldiers who do not aim to shoot: “Look past the uniform!” Some of the border soldiers felt that they had been understood, and became fellow fighters after their escape.
The droves of visitors encouraged us to seek out new spaces: on 14 June 1963 the “Haus am Checkpoint Charlie” was opened and became an oasis of freedom in the last building right before the border. Here, escape accomplices could see all movements at the border crossing through a small window. Refugees were always welcome and supported here. Escape plans were drafted here, and this site was always used to fight against injustice in the GDR.
Accomplices we had befriended brought us hot-air balloons, escape cars, chair lifts, a mini submarine. We have activists in the resistance to thank for a spring gun (dismantled under risk of mortal danger) and a piece of the wall of the pipe lining, chipped off by “Wall runner John Runnings”.
We are also able to refer to ourselves as the first museum of the international non-violent struggle. There are over a hundred military museums in the world. In an age of increasing responsibility for our home planet, there are sure to be more museums of the international non-violent struggle in the future. “The world is so well constructed that there are stronger, overpowering counterforces against every injustice. … In the midst of injustice, justice persists, in the midst of untruth the truth persists, in the midst of darkness the light persists.” – Words from Mahatma Gandhi.
“C” for “Charlie” is an alphabetic code: Checkpoint “Alpha” in Helmstedt (crossing point Federal Republic/GDR), “Bravo” in Dreilinden (crossing point GDR/West Berlin), and “Charlie” on Friedrichstraße (crossing point American/Soviet sector). At Checkpoint Charlie, only passable by diplomats and foreigners, the USA and Soviet Union faced each other – a situation that escalated to the point of a tank confrontation. Here, too, the Western powers became guardians for the “island” of West Berlin.
On 1 September 1961 the US Army constructed the first consultation and checkpoint. In the middle of Friedrichstraße, across from house number 207, a car was positioned to monitor visitor traffic.
The first Allied control barracks of Checkpoint Charlie, constructed 22 September 1961, were first operated by the US Army exclusively. After 1962 British and French military police were also stationed there.
Relatives of members of the armed forces had to wear a uniform when travelling to East Berlin. All American family members who wished to visit East Berlin only needed to present their valid American passports to verify their identity.
In contrast to the monstrous Wall and the structures of the East Berlin border crossing at Friedrich-/Zimmerstraße, the Western Allies had only the small control barracks.
With the fall of the Wall and Reunification, the checkpoint became irrelevant and was removed on 22 June 1990 in a festive ceremony involving the foreign ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union, the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany.
Checkpoint Charlie today
“Where is Checkpoint Charlie?”
Years after the Wall fell, it was suddenly discovered that in the euphoria of German Reunification, much that should have been preserved for posterity had been torn down and forgotten.
You are leaving the American sector
The first step toward giving Checkpoint Charlie a face again was initiated by our Mauermuseum in 1998: the display of the (true to the original) copy of the sector sign “You are leaving the American sector” at its historical location. The original sign is housed in the museum.
The faithful reconstruction of the first Allied control barracks at Checkpoint Charlie was built at the original site by our Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie as a memorial for the services performed by the Western Allies for a free Berlin. On 13 August 2000 the control barracks were inaugurated in the presence of diplomats, politicians and journalists from around the world.
Combat group against inhumanity
I love freedom more than my own life!
At an event with the slogan “Doing nothing is murder!” on 17 October 1948 in West Berlin’s Titaniapalast, Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt announced the founding of the “Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit” (KgU, “Task Force against Inhumanity”): “I have an announcement to make: an idea, sparked by Berlin’s youth circles, was made to establish a Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit. This task force aims to systematically pursue the countless crimes against humanity … Those who are suffering and dying should rest assured knowing that the world will know of their mortal plight.”
His flat in Nikolassee became a contact point for the persecuted and those returning home from prison. They reported on prison conditions in the Soviet special camps and brought signs of life from missing persons. With this information, the search service organised by Rainer Hildebrandt searched for political prisoners.
Public enemy number 1
The commitment by the head of the KgU created trust in broad circles within the Soviet occupation zone, and won sympathy among the citizens of West Berlin. His parlour was overflowing with desperate people seeking aid.
Rainer Hildebrandt continuously caused alarm in the press and became Enemy No. 1 for the GDR. Three kidnapping attempts, one of which was nearly successful, were carried out by the Stasi to dispose of him. Regardless, he continued his work.
Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt
ddress from Hans Dietrich Genscher
A life for freedom
In order to be able to understand Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt and his work, it is worth looking back on the nineteenth century, to his parents and grandparents, and then following the course of his life year by year. The pioneering spirit of his parents, art historian Dr. Hans Hildebrandt and painter Lily Hildebrandt, shaped Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt. The political work with his lifelong friend Dr. Albrecht Haushofer, the anti-Hitler resistance fighter who was murdered in the final days of the National Socialist terror machine, paved Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt’s path after the end of World War II.
Through his friendship with the family of Theodor Heuss he got acquainted with the values of the Free Democratic Party of Germany and became a member.
In the face of increasing political persecution in the Soviet occupation zone after World War II, Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt founded the Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit in West Berlin, and thus a search service for undeclared missing persons in the Soviet NKVD camps. In the late ’50s the German Red Cross received around 900,000 names of these people.
Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt spent his life drawing attention to the fates of persecuted people: those who, with their desire for freedom and justice, revolted against oppression in the Soviet occupation zone and the eventual GDR, who dared to flee from the GDR with the mortal risks that this entailed, who asserted opposition in the GDR itself and exposed themselves to persecution.
Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt founded the Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie in 1962. It is located at the former border crossing Checkpoint Charlie and documents the fates of many people associated with the escape from East Germany to the West. It also shows the global non-violent fight for human rights.
The life’s work of Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt is a constant reminder for all who enter of those who are subjected to persecution and the denial of human rights – the known and the unknown.
Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt
Biography of the founder of the Mauermuseum - Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt
1914 Rainer Hildebrandt was born in Stuttgart, Germany on 14 December.
Father: Hans Hildebrandt, art historian at TU Stuttgart (first monographs about Alexander Archipenko and Oskar Schlemmer; lost professorship during NS era, as his mother was of Jewish background). Mother: Lily Hildebrandt, painter (master student under Adolf Hölzel; banned from painting during NS era due to non-Aryan background). Childhood andyouth in Stuttgart.
August 1934: Fatigue duty
1934-1935 College internship training in the Fortuna-Werken, Bad Cannstatt.
1935-1936 Spring to autumn: working, sometimes independently, in the laboratory for applied physics at Robert Bosch AG, Stuttgart.
1936 First semester (summer semester) at the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart, studying physics.
Move to Berlin
1936-1938 August to February: Student employee at Telefunken.
1938 Starting in March, employed as an engineer at Telefunken. Worked independently, registering patents for Telefunken and multiple patents outside of his work area. Left of his own accord in September 1938.
1939-1940 Employed in the inventor division of Radio-Löwe AG Berlin.
since 1938: Numerous articles about electroacoustics in the scientific papers Funktechnische Monatshefte, Funk, Funkschau.
1937-1939 Studied physics at the Technische Hochschule Charlottenburg, then at the Universität Berlin.
since 1939 Expanded university studies to include philosophy, psychology, political science, political economics. Acquainted with Albrecht Haushofer.
1942 Promotion at Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität Berlin in occupational psychology with Prof. Rupp and Eduard Spranger, minors in philosophy and physics; student and friend of Albrecht Haushofer, also working as his postman, friendship with Horst Heilmann, loyal assistant to Harro Schulze-Boysen; meeting between Haushofer and Schulze-Boysen in Rainer Hildebrandt’s flat.
Preliminary work for a new, larger publication in the field of political science.
Summer: Drafted into the Wehrmacht, training in Schneidemühl.
As of late summer 1942, worked at an intelligence interpreting division in Meißen.
1943 January: Relocated back to Schneidemühl, in February deserted the troop following a denunciation, arrested.
1944 Arrested for the second time, again due to “subversion of the armed forces” (total 17 months).
After end of the War, worked as a publicist, first concerning Walther Rathenau; published Albrecht Haushofer’s Moabiter Sonette in 1946, in 1948 first book publication Wir sind die Letzten. Aus dem Leben des Widerstandskämpfers Albrecht Haushofer und seiner Freunde.
1948 Founded the “Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit” (KgU), an organisation that formed a search service for missing prisoners, spread information about NKVD and GDR imprisonment, and also resisted the regime in the Soviet occupation zone / GDR.
1951 Five-month trip with 40 presentations in the USA, in particular about imprisonment, justice and resistance in the GDR.
1952 Departure from KgU, after which it performed acts of sabotage under Ernst Tillich’s leadership. Founding of the “Freiheitsbund für Deutsch-Russischer Freundschaft”, honorary chairman Ernst Reuter, co-chair Alexander Truschnowitsch, who was violently kidnapped and murdered.
Until 1961 Mainly worked in publishing, book publications Als die Fesseln fielen(uprising from “17 June”), published in the USA asThe Explosionand in Italian. Numerous articles, including in Les temps modernes, as well as continuous (1948 to 1995) articles about human rights and especially the GDR in Tagesspiegel. Editor-in-chief of the paper for the Deutsche Liga für Menschenrechte. Research projects for the Federal Ministry of Intra-German Relations.
1961 December: First press conference with refugees from the GDR.
19 October 1962 Opened the exhibit “It Happened at the Wall” on Bernauer Straße, organised with assistance from former GDR prisoners, refugees and students.
June 1963 Registration of the registered society “Arbeitsgemeinschaft 13. August”, whereupon he was executive director of the society.
14 June 1963 Opened the Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, whereupon he was its director.
1971 Integration of the exhibit at Bernauer Straße into the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie.
1973 Opened the exhibit section “Painters Interpret THE WALL”.
1976 Opened the exhibit section “BERLIN – From Frontline to the Bridge of Europe”.
1984 Opened the exhibit section “FROM GANDHI TO WALESA – Non-violent Fight for Human Rights”.
1987 Inauguration of the building expansion Friedrichstraße 43 (ground floor and first floor).
1989 98 performances of the self-written play R wie Rosa(aiding an escape with a US uniform).
1990-1995 Conception and organisation of the travelling exhibit “End of the Berlin Wall – Beginning of the New Europa” through Eastern Europe and Israel.
1991-1994 Conception and organisation of the travelling exhibit “BREAKTHROUGH – The Fight for Freedom at the Berlin Wall” through the USA, together with the Deutsches Historisches Museum.
1991 Initiation and beginning of perpetrator-victim discussions between former prisoners and members of the Stasi.
1999 Inauguration of the building expansion Friedrichstraße 45 (second floor).
2000 August Inauguration of the faithful reconstruction of the first Allied control barracks on Friedrichstraße.
9 January 2004 Rainer Hildebrandt dies at the age of 89.
Awards received by Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt
1992 Order of Merit of the State of Berlin (Verdienstorden des Landes Berlin)
1994 Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz)
1998 Imre Nagy badge (lmre-Nagy-Plakette)
Vita Alexandra Hildebrandt
Director of the Mauermuseums – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, Museum des weltweiten gewaltfreien Kampfes für Menschenrechte in Berlin, executive director of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft 13. August e.V. and president of the non-profit Stiftung Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt as well as initiator of the international human rights award Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt Medal.
1976-1981 Studied electronics; degree in electronics
1981-1986 Works at an equipment manufacturer for rocket controls
From 1987 Studied painting and art history
1990 First exhibit in Berlin and meeting with Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt
1995 Married Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt
Political human rights initiative work with Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt for the Arbeitsgemeinschaft 13. August e.V.
1997 Member of board of directors
2004 Executive director
Support and cooperation in various national and international initiatives, societies and movements for freedom and democracy on matters of human rights, processing GDR injustices, author and publisher of multiple books, initiative with Prof. Sergei N. Khrushchev “Rettet historischen Boden am Checkpoint Charlie” (Save Historic Ground at Checkpoint Charlie) and for a memorial and freedom monument “Sie wollten nur die Freiheit” (They Only Wanted Freedom). Motto: “In the midst of injustice, justice persists, in the midst of untruth the truth persists, in the midst of darkness the light persists.” (Mahatma Gandhi)