• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'I stole Berlin's original Checkpoint Charlie sign'

The Local · 16 Sep 2013, 10:07

Published: 16 Sep 2013 10:07 GMT+02:00

Alan Wolan from Los Angeles told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper how he took the sign marking the famous Checkpoint Charlie crossing between East and West Berlin in 1990 after the wall fell.

The sign reads “You are leaving the American sector” in Russian, French, German and English. It is now a tourist attraction at Checkpoint Charlie.

But Wolan claims the original has been in his Los Angeles garage for 23 years. The 50-year-old was living in Berlin at the time when, on June 23rd 1990, he claims he took the sign.

He told newspaper the BZ he was selling GDR (East German) souvenirs at the Checkpoint at the time. “I often thought, hey owning this sign would be the best thing,” he said.

The US Army closed the border crossing in the summer of 1990 and Wolan said that he and three friends got a saw and rented a truck. On the night on June 22nd into the morning of June 23rd, they headed to the checkpoint and cut the sign off. Wolan claimed it only took 15 minutes.

He said: “It was a crazy time. Everyone was taking stuff from around the Wall,” the BZ reported.

When Wolan returned to the States in 1994 he put the sign in a container and shipped it to America. He claims he is now selling it as he doesn't need it and the money would change his life. He is hoping for €1 million, the BZ reported.

The newspaper said the theft was never reported by the US army and less than 24 hours later a new sign was in place.

Regine Hildebrandt from the Berlin Wall museum at Checkpoint Charlie disputed Wolan’s story and claimed that they had the original sign. “It was given to us in 1991 by US Colonel Alfred Baker,” Hildebrandt said.

Story continues below…

But there is a subtle difference between the two signs. The Checkpoint Charlie museum sign has the number 16 written at the bottom, whereas there is no number on Wolan’s.

Berlin historian Florian Weiß said: “The sign at Checkpoint Charlie would normally have the number four on it.” But sometimes when signs were replaced they would be put up again without a number – like Wolan’s, the Berliner Zeitung reported.

The Local/tsb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Analysis
Is it fair to call the AfD far right?
AfD leaders, from left, Georg Pazderski, Frauke Petry and Jörg Meuthen. Photo: DPA.

The AfD has been dubbed "far-right" over the past year as it has taken on a tougher stance against immigration and made gains in state elections. But at what point does one call a group far-right?

Dresden police guard Islamic buildings after mosque attack
The Dresden mosque that was hit by a homemade bomb attack on Monday. Photo: DPA.

All Islamic buildings in the capital of Saxony have been put under police protection on Tuesday after explosive devices were detonated at a mosque and a congress centre in the city.

Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook
Photo: DPA

German data protection authorities on Tuesday said they had blocked Facebook from collecting subscriber data from its subsidiary WhatsApp, citing privacy concerns.

Stuttgart fest pulls in twice as many boozers as Oktoberfest
Is this Oktoberfest or is this Stuttgart's Cannstatter Volksfest? Can you tell the difference? Well, it's Stuttgart. Photo: DPA.

Apparently Munich is no longer the top place to wear lederhosen and down beer one litre at a time.

The Local List
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Photo: DPA

These films are so good, not even The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari made the list.

Young man destroys 17 cars after visiting Oktoberfest

Early on Monday morning a drunk 29-year-old trashed 17 cars after staggering out of Oktoberfest into the Munich streets. It was one of several eye-popping crimes from "Wiesn" over the past few days.

VW emissions scandal
Audi tech chief leaves after reports link him to 'dieselgate'
Audi's head of technical development Stefan Knirsch stepped down on Monday. Photo: DPA.

Audi's head of technical development stepped down "with immediate effect" on Monday, the luxury carmaker announced, after German media accused him of involvement in parent company Volkswagen's "dieselgate" scandal.

Deutsche Bank shares hit lowest level in quarter century
Photo: DPA.

Shares in Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest lender, sank to a historic low on Monday after reports at the weekend that Berlin had refused state aid for the embattled lender.

The Local List
The 10 worst German cities for students to find digs
Photo: DPA

It's the start of autumn, which means the start of the university year. But along with the excitement comes the stress of finding housing - and in some glamorous locations this can be a nightmare.

German broadcaster sues Turkey over confiscated video
Akif Cagatay Kilic. Photo: DPA

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle said Monday it had filed a civil complaint after a Turkish minister's office confiscated a taped video interview with him.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
6,511
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd