100% Tempelhof Field

Last month, Berliners voted in a referendum, called “100% Tempelhof Field” to keep the former airport site permanently open to the public. http://www.dw.de/berlin-voters-claim-tempelhof/a-17663944. Tempelhof Airport, centrally located and roughly the size of New York’s Central Park, was closed in 2008 and recently slated for construction of housing units and public buildings.

Tempelhof Field History

Tempelhof Field had once been a parade ground for the Prussian army. In 1909, the American aviation pioneer, Orville Wright, managed to stay in the air over Berlin for one full hour. http://www.berlin-airport.de/en/company/about-us/history/tempelhof-airport/. In the 1920s, Zeppelins lifted off this field, and in 1926, German Airlines, Lufthansa, got their start in here. In the mid-1930s, Hitler decided to build a world-class airport on this site, planning to rename it “Germania.” In only two years, the symmetrical complex was completed and consisted of 49 buildings, 7 hangars, and 9,000 offices, amounting to a total of 3,067,000 square feet of space. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/the-myth-of-berlin-s-tempelhof-the-mother-of-all-airports-a-549685-2.html. In 1945, US Forces took control of the airport, expanded the complex, and used it as a base for the next five decades. During the 1948/49 Berlin Blockade, Tempelhof Field served as a major takeoff and landing site for the Berlin Airlift. In 1951, the US Forces released the airport for civil air and freight traffic, but within a decade it had reached its capacity. After Tegel Airport opened in 1975, Tempelhof Airport operations were suspended, and in 2008 the historic landmark was closed altogether.

Tempelhof Field Controversy

In 1996, the city decided to build a new mega-airport, Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI). As the opening of BBI got delayed several times, controversy over the use of Tempelhof Field ensued. Some wanted to see the grounds preserved as a commercial airport; others wanted them turned into a museum, residences, and park land.In an attempts to ease Berlin’s housing crises, city fathers proposed to build 4,700 apartments and commercial spaces and a public library on the former airport site.

100% Tempelhof Field

Almost 65 percent of those who voted on this citizens’ initiative gave their support to “100% Tempelhof Field.” Since the closure of Tempelhof Airport, Berliners had used the field for a variety of festivals, music events, art exhibitions, barbecues, kite flying, wind skating (surfing on skateboards), gardening, and football. The area also has a six-kilometer cycling, skating and jogging trail, a dog-walking field, and an enormous picnic area.

Tempelhof Airport with Tempelhof Field in background, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Tempelhof Airport with Tempelhof Field in background, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.



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