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Tempelhof Airport

Tempelhof Airport

The mother of all airports

Ever since 1923, Tempelhof has seen airplanes come and go. The airports of Paris, Amsterdam and London disappeared into thin air next to the number of flight movements in Berlin. The terminal quickly became too small.

To keep up with the flow of visitors, but above all, to give guests an unforgettable welcome to the new world capital of "Germania," architect Ernst Sagebiel was called upon to design a new terminal that could match the ambitions of the Third Reich. Sagebiel had earned his stripes with Hermann Göring's aviation ministry design and pulled out all the stops for Tempelhof airport.

Turbulent past

Sagebiel drew a central hall from which two curved wings spread: the aircraft hangars. The ensemble extends over 1.2 kilometers. A metal structure arched over the parked planes along the side of the tarmac, keeping travelers dry. That it was an unadulterated Nazi structure soon becomes apparent when you visit the airport. Various statues of the Imperial Eagle hang on the facades. The eagle had been the symbol of imperial power in Germany for centuries and was given a new look by the Third Reich.

Denazified eagle

A tall statue of their mascot stood on top of the airport's roof. The statue itself was lifted from its plinth after the war and beheaded. The eagle's head appeared in the square in front of the airport, a fate that befell the other eagles of the Third Reich. They were denazified one by one or disappeared from the streets. These days, Germany has adopted the more cuddly version of the eagle from the days of the Weimar Republic as a state symbol.

Hall of honor

Travelers entering the airport would feel insignificant in the hall of honor, the spacious reception area with high ceilings. In the final version, an extra floor was built between the entrance hall on the ground floor and the hall of honor on the higher floor, so that you can no longer see the original height. 

The hall of honor has never been finished and is still in rough construction condition. The Third Reich never completed the rest of the airport. The old airport building remained in use until 1945. That had everything to do with the outbreak of the Second World War. The Nazi leaders had other concerns than rebuilding airports.

After World War II, Tempelhof became American territory and starred during the Berlin blockade between 1948 and 1949. After Stalin blocked all supply routes to Berlin, Western planes supplied the city day and night with food, medicine and clothing. A monument on the 'Platz der Luftbrücke' commemorates the so-called air bridge.

The end

After the fall of the Wall, Tempelhof remained a successful airport. In 1998, three million passengers flew straight into Berlin. Still, Tempelhof faced more competition from its home. In 1975, West Berlin had already opened Berlin-Tegel, and to the east lay DDR airport Berlin-Schönefeld. 

Three airports were too much even for Berlin. Tempelhof, and later Berlin-Tegel, had to close for good. On October 25, 2008, the last international scheduled service landed at Tempelhof, a Brussels Airlines flight, five days later the last plane took off.

The German Senate decided to close Tempelhof, which was met with fierce protest. In 2008, Berlin therefore organized a referendum in which the majority voted to keep Tempelhof open, but the result was not considered due to the low turnout.

On October 25, 2008, the last international scheduled service landed at Tempelhof (of SN Brussels Airlines), and the last plane took off on October 30, 2008. In 2010, the airport was transformed into a sprawling city park, the Tempelhofer Feld. Today, cyclists and skaters roll on the runways, landings, and taxiways, and groups are having barbecues in the grass.

Future plans

In a referendum on May 25, 2014, together with the European elections, Berliners were allowed to express their opinion on the fate of Tempelhof: the city wants to build housing on approximately 20% of the former airport, but a citizens' initiative The citizens' initiative 100% Tempelhofer Feld raised enough signatures to organize a referendum on the issue.

Tempelhof will remain a green meadow for now because, in the referendum, 64% of Berliners spoke out against the city's plans to build housing there.

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