Checkpoint Charlie soldier photos to be auctioned

Berlin (AFP) –


Giant photos of the Allied soldiers who once patrolled Berlin that have been displayed at Checkpoint Charlie for years are being sold off by a German auction house next week.

The pictures were taken by photographer Frank Thiel in 1994, several years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and before British, French, Russian and US forces that had been stationed in Berlin since World War II were re-deployed.

They were installed at Checkpoint Charlie, a crossing point between East and West Berlin where soldiers from the rival sides in the Cold War would have stood.

It was the site of one of the tensest moments of the Cold War, when US and Soviet tanks faced off in 1961.

The photos -- stark individual portraits of young soldiers -- have themselves become a Berlin landmark.

Stefan Koerner, art expert at the Grisebach auction house that is selling the photos, said the images were "iconic" and could be popular with collectors or museums.

"It is a special joy to be showing this work on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall," he told AFP on Wednesday.

The 12 works, which include images of Russian soldiers still wearing Soviet uniforms, are being auctioned with a starting price of 90,000 euros ($100,000).

Germany celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9.

Ahead of the celebrations, Berlin authorities banned actors who stand at Checkpoint Charlie in military uniforms pretending to be soldiers for tourists.

The ban came after plainclothes police found that tourists were being pressured to offer a "donation".

Thiel's photos will remain as a visual reminder of the Cold War history of the once-divided city.