Destinations

Berlin bans actors posing as American soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

German authorities have banned performers posing as US army soldiers at an infamous cold war border post come tourist attraction.

A group of actors, who pose as American GIs at a reconstructed faux-Checkpoint Charlie – which was a historic US-controlled border crossing between communist East and West Berlin officially removed in 1990 – have been accused of exploiting tourists by Berlin authorities.

The public order office in the central district of Mitte has accused the actors of demanding payment for passport stamps and posing for pictures at the reconstructed site of Checkpoint Charlie, one of Berlin’s most popular tourist attractions, despite claiming they only accept voluntary donations, The Guardian reported.

The group, known as the “Dance Factory”, demand €4 ($6.44) per photo, according to police who reported the performers after carrying out an undercover operation where they posed as tourists, following multiple complaints by travellers. German outlet Bild reported that, on a good day, the group can rake in as much as €5,000 ($8,054).

Dance Factory said it would fight the ban.

“I am faced with having to let six of my colleagues go,” Tom Luszeit, who leads the group of performers, said, as reported by The Guardian. “I don’t understand the sudden decision to ban us. But we won’t give up, we want to return.”

The agency has reportedly denied allegations that tourists who refused to pay the “voluntary” charge were “verbally abused” and “pushed away”.

Germany is currently celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which was officially torn down in 1989, along with later removed Checkpoint Charlie. Since then, the site of Checkpoint Charlie, which reportedly maintains certain original elements along with reconstructed parts, has become a focal point for tourists visiting Berlin.

But with the removal of the actors, which have reportedly been a fixture at the site for some 17 years, the future of the site is unclear; multiple commentators have predicted the move will form part of a plan to give appropriate historical treatment to the Berlin Wall border point.

And while commemorations will occur around the world, this year, celebrations are also expected to occur in Australia.

In late November, the German National Tourist Office, the Goethe-Institut in Sydney, and the local Woollahra Council will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the reunification of Germany by displaying an original section of the Berlin Wall.

The concrete structure stands almost four metres tall, weighs more than two tonnes and still displays original graffiti with the words: ‘Jeder hat Kraft’, which translates to ‘Everyone is powerful’.

The piece is expected to become a permanent public display in the small park directly in front of the Goethe-Institut in Woollahra, Sydney.

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