Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin

More than a quarter of a century has passed since I joined street celebrations in Germany on the night that the Berlin Wall crumbled. Now one can stand at the infamous Checkpoint Charlie and be disoriented by the fact that you can just walk back and forth across a road where the only block is a predictably switching traffic light. I felt like a bridge over time in this completely ordinary world. A blank firewall at this place seemed like the only memory of a distant nightmare.

At night we had dinner with a friend who told us of a terrible experience at the checkpoint. She had gone for a conference and a concert in what was then East Berlin. On the way back she was asked for her passport. When she showed it, she was escorted off the bus and taken into an underground room. There was one more woman there and she was crying endlessly. After a while a door opened and an uniformed man came in with a pill, which the crying woman swallowed. Our friend said “I was scared of the tablet. I decided that no matter what happened I would not cry.” All of us at the dinner table laughed at that absurd memory of the past. She said that nothing happened after this. The two women just sat there. Some time later someone from the Swedish consulate came to take our friend home. We stopped laughing when the story ended. Somehow the ending carried a sense of the emptiness and lack of hope on the other side of the border.

This photo is an experiment in trying to recall a brutal past while standing in the bright and pleasant sunlight of today.

Lens Artist’s Challenge

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. I lived in West Berlin for about 8 months in 1983. I was living with my family, and my father was working there at the Freie Universitaet. We took a tour of Checkpoint Charlie at the time, and also a bus tour of East Berlin. Of course they showed us all the best parts of the city because we were foreign tourists. I am very curious about what the city looks like today, but haven’t been back in a long time. Thanks for sharing!


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