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Diana Unterhitzenberger

Research project

Checkpoint Charlie: The Changing Values of a Cold War Heritage Icon

Prof. Dr. John Schofield and Dr. Harald Fredheim (York), Prof. Dr. Axel Klausmeier and Dr. Susanne Muhle (Stiftung Berliner Mauer)

Funding: WRoCAH funded Collaborative Doctoral Award between the Department of Archaeology, University of York and the Stiftung Berliner Mauer (The Berlin Wall Foundation)

Sixty years ago, American and Soviet tanks faced off at Checkpoint Charlie, and the Cold War nearly became reality. Checkpoint Charlie has stood as a globally known Cold War Heritage Icon ever since. Yet a deep analysis of its changing cultural (including local) significance has not been undertaken.

The Berlin Wall, of which Checkpoint Charlie forms a significant part, shows that values, central to debates around heritage significance, informing heritage protection and planning decisions, are often contested and change over time. This PhD will define the values that authorities and citizens have attached to Berlin’s iconic Checkpoint Charlie over the past 60 years and investigate the site’s changing role in understanding Cold War Berlin’s cultural significance in a fast-changing city. A deep understanding of values relating to Checkpoint Charlie aims to inform the decision-making for its future management as the Stiftung Berliner Mauer is preparing a new memorial site and museum on behalf of the State of Berlin. It is anticipated that this research will also create new guidelines for the future management of similar heritage sites whose values are fluid and contested.


Before joining the Archaeology department in York, I studied English and History at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, the University of Victoria (CA) and the University of Glasgow. I also earned a teacher’s degree (‘Erstes Staatsexamen’) for upper secondary level teaching. My research focuses on cultural heritage management and cultures of remembrance in 20th- and 21st- century Germany.

During my time in Eichstätt, I was a student assistant at the Chair for Modern and Contemporary History under Prof. Dr. Friedrich Kießling and Prof. Dr. Vanessa Conze and at the Chair for Medieval History under Prof. Dr. Thomas Wetzstein. I also worked as academic administrator and coordinator at the KU Centre for Advanced Studies “Dialogical Cultures. Critical Reflection Spaces for Cultural Studies and Social Sciences”. In recent months, I have been contributing to #DDRinnern, a project funded by the Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur (Federal Foundation for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in Eastern Germany). In cooperation with the museum of Mödlareuth, this project creates an adaptive and interactive online platform aiming at encouraging young people to critically engage with the SED regime.

Apart from my academic studies, I care a lot about social justice and gender equality both within and outside academia. In 2019 and 2020, I co-organized the first-generation students’ conferences of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes (German Academic Scholarship Foundation). I also co-founded “Period.”, a student-led initiative that provides free period products at the Catholic-University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, in 2021.

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Contact details

Diana Unterhitzenberger
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor