Civil engagement is a building block of democracy. Formation and development of the Mauermuseum - Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie.
Global hot spot
Our museum is located in former residential and commercial spaces. One room used to be the Café Köln. After the Wall was constructed the café had hardly any guests other than photographers and journalists.
On 13 August 1961 Checkpoint Charlie became a hot spot: from the first American tanks in late August 1961 and the tank stand-off in October of that year, the death of Peter Fechter, the visit by American President John F. Kennedy, to the fall of the Wall on 9 November 1989, the demolition of the Allied control barracks and their reconstruction as a memorial.
Our museum was founded and constructed as part of a free civilian initiative by Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt. It opened on 14 June 1963.
Today everyone feels at home at Checkpoint Charlie. It is how people move toward a place they are proud of. It is how people advocate for a history that they also consider to be their own. The Americans, Brits and French remember the days when they stood for a free Berlin at this spot. The citizens of the Eastern European nations think of Checkpoint Charlie as the end of the Wall and of the Iron Curtain, and remember the victims claimed by the fight for freedom. People still living in divided countries, in Israel, Palestine, North and South Korea, Ireland, Cyprus, dream of a peaceful coexistence. And Checkpoint Charlie is a place of freedom for all, a place where world history is manifest.
In all times freedom remains the greatest good
With the fall of the Wall on 9 November 1989, a totalitarian system was defeated. The spirit of freedom was greater than the cynicism of power.
Values have changed alongside political and social changes, and we so strongly take it for granted that we are free. Globalisation and accelerating life processes are leaving less and less time for reflection.
Suppression of the past and underappreciation for reality lead to the former employees of the GDR’s state security apparatus wishing to claim interpretational sovereignty over the second German dictatorship, namely that the successor parties to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), the PDS and the Left have become socially acceptable.
"Improving language usage"
Today the matter of confronting the history of the appalling injustice done unto Germans between the Elbe and the Oder requires less tactics, and more courage with the truth. Yet truth is not only a matter of sincerity, but also of revised understanding.
In order to induce this understanding we must face the facts directly and call them by name. When the Chinese sage Confucius was asked what he would do first if he had to reform a country, he said, “I would improve language usage.” His listeners looked at him in confusion. He explained, “If the language is not correct, than that which is said is not that which is thought. Yet if that which is thought is not that which is said, the work cannot be done.”
History will forever put us in positions that we cannot predict. Yet in all times freedom remains the greatest good, even if we are not always aware of it.
List of dead from the NKVD camps
Post-war German and European history, and the history of the second German dictatorship, do not solely belong in the history books.
Immediately after World War II multiple “special camps” were constructed by the Soviet secret service NKVD in the Soviet occupation zone, and countless people were interned in them. In these camps, some former Nazi concentration camps, the minority of inmates were war criminals but the vast majority were individuals, including many youths, who were entirely arbitrarily kidnapped off the street without their families being notified. Among them were Germans, Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Poles, Hungarians, Austrians, Lithuanians, Estonians and other nationalities.
The darkest chapters in East German history
The active processing of the darkest chapter in East Germany’s past, based on the mortal danger and the silence surrounding it, only began in 1990.
It was primarily due to the search service of the Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit (KgU), founded by Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt in 1948, that the mortal danger in the Soviet camps became known in the West and relatives could be notified. In the late ’50s the KgU was able to provide around 900,000 file cards to the search service of the German Red Cross (DRK).
Only in 1992 did the German Red Cross receive from Russia lists of 43,000 casualties of the Soviet NKVD camps in Germany between 1945 and 1950. As part of this traditional cooperation with the German Red Cross, the Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie makes the lists of around 43,000 victims of the Soviet NKVD camps accessible to visitors, in the hope that some of the dead may still be identified by relatives.
Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt Medal
The Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt Medal is an international human rights award initiated by Alexandra Hildebrandt in 2004 to mark the 90th birthday of her late husband Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt, the founder of the Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. Extraordinary, non-violent human rights work is presented with this award once every year. The award ceremony is held on the birthday of Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt (* 14 December 1914 – † 09 January 2004) and International Human Rights Day. The Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt Medal was designed by Prof. Matthias Koeppel.
Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt Medal designed by Prof. Matthias Koeppel
In recognition of work performed for human rights
Prof. Dr. Henry Kissinger
Nobel Prize laureate and former US Secretary of State.
Dr. Hans-Dietrich Genscher (†)
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Baron Selkirk of Douglas, House of Lords.
Prof. Dr. Avi Primor
Former ambassador, chairman of the Trilateral Institute for European Studies at Herzliya University, Israel.
Dr. H.C. Joachim Gauck
First federal officer for the documents of the state security service.
Director of Touro College Berlin.
Bärbel Bohley (†)
Human rights activist.
Attorney and nephew of Dr. Albrecht Haushofer.
Prof. Dr. Sergei Nikititsch Chruschtschow
Aeronautical engineer, political scientist.
International Society for Human Rights (ISHR)
Education, school and studies
The Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie is a museum of commemoration, understanding and communication. In this spirit we offer a variety of educational programmes for our permanent and special exhibits. Eyewitnesses, former escape accomplices, educators, artists, our curator and art historians guide tours through the exhibits and encourage a dialogue with history.
For all topics, we offer presentations, tours, documentary and feature films, books, and quiz questions.
We place special emphasis on matters of post-war German and European history, and the history of the second German dictatorship. An overview can be found here.
We can arrange tours and workshops suited for the respective teaching content for school classes.
Our office is available from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday for further information. You may also send us an e-mail at: email@example.com
Students and doctoral students may complete scientific internships with us. We support research topics for master’s and PhD theses.
Our academic services aim to take an interdisciplinary and active approach to the political history of the division of Germany, to find parallels in the current political world, and to analyse these objectively. The goal is to take a critical and constructive attitude toward history and politics and to make these topics visible as a scientist.
As part of our offer for students it is possible to develop ideas and formats in which experimental, constructive and alternating approaches are explored and defined.
It should be possible for the students and doctoral students to independently develop new political science and historical topics in their examination of Germany’s division.