Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Checkpoint Alpha, Helmsedt, Germany - May 6, 2010

Bleak day at Checkpoint Alpha

 Helmstedt is at the eastern edge of Lower Saxony, the border of which marked the transition from the British chunk of Germany to the Soviet portion. 
Berlin, a further 105 miles to the east, mirrored the arbitrary division of the entire country of Germany into four pieces and was itself divided into American, British, French and Soviet sectors. 
Fairly quickly after WWII ended and the Cold War got underway, three Checkpoints sprang to prominence: Checkpoint Alpha, Checkpoint Bravo and the most renowned of all, Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Alpha controlled access to the 105 mile east German road connecting Helmstedt to Berlin - more specifically to Checkpoint Bravo on the southwest corner of the American sector. 
Die Wölbung der Hände
Movement within the American, British and French sectors was unbridled but to enter the Soviet sector (and thereby east Germany) it was necessary to pass through Checkpoint Charlie. 
It was Checkpoint Alpha that the Soviets closed to initiate the Berlin Blockade from June 1948 until May 1949. There is little left now of this once expansive checkpoint, its dark passing is marked by a homely memorial called Die Wölbung der Hände (The Curvature of the Hands) as the reunited pieces of Germany struggle to put their lives back together.

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