Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy visit the northern- eastern part of the
„Bernauer Straße" during their tour through the city. On the West-Berlin side were made
different viewing platforms along the wall, so people from West-Berlin could see for
example their friends or family in East-Berlin. To shut down this „contact“, the DDR
authorities built high view-covers made out of wood. One of these viewing platforms was
placed at „Bernauer Straße" corner „Schwedter Straße" (at the hight of the Mauerpark).
King and Abernathy let Werner Steltzer (director of the Berlin information center) tell
them about the borderline and a lot about the history of the „Bernauer Straße".
While the Berlin Wall gets built, some of the most dramatic scenes take place at the
„Bernauer Straße". Already three days after the wall gets started building, the entries of
the buildings in the „Bernauer Straße" gets brick up by the boarding police. Because of
their diparacion, the people jump out of the windows or lower down on bedsheets.
Families and friends get divided by night. All apartment buildings are forced to be left.
The windows get bricked. From 1965 the gradually demolition follows.
1961 the protestant reconciliation-church gets confirmed as restricted area and 1985 gets
blown up. Often people try to reach West-Berlin by using escape tunnel. Just at the
„Bernauer Straße,“ there are 11 escape tunnel.
The moving history of the „Bernauer Straße" and building of the wall is documented on
the 1,4 km long street itself. Information boards, audio pillars and the reconstruction of
one part of the wall as a central memorial place give visitors countless impressions. The
memorial of the Berlin Wall, which is located „Bernauer Straße“ corner „Gartenstraße“,
completes this offer with a lot of events.
Before King drives at three o’clock to the „Waldbühne“, he gets welcomed by the West-
Berlin senator of culture Dr. Werner Stein at the academy of arts. At the „Waldbühne“
already 20.000 people meet up for the „day of churches“. Besides religious dignitaries as
bishop Otto Dibelius, also there are political visitors like mayor Willy Brandt and the
Federal Minister of the Interior Erich Lemmer. Otto Dibelius emphasizes throughout his
speech: „We have to say as christians: For our soul bliss the wall has to go away.“
After the event Martin Luther King, Jr. gets awarded by him with the honorable doctor
degree of the theological college Berlin.
The „Waldbühne“ (former „Dietrich Eckart Bühne“) itself was built between 1934-36. In its
shape she looks like open-air platforms of ancient greek amphitheaters and should have
been used by the National Socialists, together with the „Reichsportfeld“ , as a cultural
theater and leisure time center. Originally the great ranks were supposed to fit 100.000
seats (after the wish of the Minister of Propaganda Goebbels) - actually only 22.290 seats
were built. During the olympic games 1936 the competitions in gymnastics were taking
place at the „Waldbühne“ - later also boxing-events.
Firstly after World War two, the stage also got used for large events. Especially the Rolling
-Stone concert at the 15th of september 1965 is legendary, when the „Waldbühne“ got
demolished. The police evacuated the location with water cannons. Today mostly
concerts are taking place at the „Waldbühne“.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is invited to a church service in the evening in the Marienkirche on
13th September 1964. Together with Ralph Zorn (priest of the Friedenskirche in the
“Bernauer Straße”) and his local assistant Dr. Scott, King goes in the church company car
to the checkpoint Charlie in Friedrichstrasse. Because Ralph Zorn is inhabitant of New
York by birth and owns an American passport, he has the possibility to oscillate between
east and west.
Zorn and Dr. Scott leave the car and proceed to the border policemen. They explain that
her "colleague" has forgotten his passport in Berlin west, but the border policeman,
doesn’t let them pass. The US department really had taken the passport to prevent a
possible trip in the GDR. Finally, according to the protocol of the border police an
untersecond lieutenant recognisises Martin Luther King jr. and makes an announcement
to his superior. As a result the border policemen „require at all another passport“ for
Back in the car, Martin Luther King, Jr. searches for documents that proove that he’s
American. In his purse he finds a bank map of American Express . With this “cheque
identity card of the USA (like an identity card)” - quotation from the border protocol - King
and his company enter against 19.52 to East Berlin.
The checkpoint Charlie probably is one of the best known border crossings between
east and west Berlin. After the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 the checkpoint beside
Helmstedt and 3 lime-trees remains the third internal border crossing for the allied
armed forces, foreigners and employees of the constant representation. In October, 1961
American and Soviet tanks were confronted in Friedrichstrasse and the third world war
wasn’t far away. Up to the turn the small border checkpoint “checkpoint of Charlie” was
extended and developed. The whole arrangement was spread place-like and provided
with locking arrangements.
More often the border crossing was also used as an escape possibility in the west. In
1962 refugee Peter Fechter died near the Checkpoint Charlie.
Bernauer Straße in 1961 / pic: Landesarchiv Berlin
Bernauer Str./ Schwedter Str. W. Steltzer, M.L. King,
R. Abernathy September 12, 1964 / pic: Landesarchiv Berlin
Checkpoint Charlie in 1961 / pic: Landesarchiv
Checkpoint Charlie shooting for King-Code mowie in 2013 /
Checkpoint Charlie 2013 / king-code
Waldbühne September 13, 1964 / pic: private Helbich
students talked with witness Mrs. Helbich in 2013,