About Berlin Tempelhof: from a Nazi Airport to a Refugee Camp

about berlin tempelhof world airportTempelhof is a rare green public space with over 12 km². A vast field where locals of all ages and tribes find respite from the big city of Berlin. But that is not all. For decades operated here what was consider “THE” world airport.

Even though it has ceased to work almost 10 years ago to became Berlin’s biggest park, the marks of those old times are still everywhere to be seen and experienced. Giant runways and zebra stripes, once harbor for massive aircrafts, enjoy today calmer times under the wheels of skates and bikes and running kids after their kites. That, of course, gives the landscape an extraordinary look. But there are many more facts about Berlin Tempelhof that make this such a peculiar place and an unmissable site. Here is our Amstel list:

about berlin tempelhof nazi timesBorn under the Nazi Regime
Consider to be Europe’s biggest monument, Tempelhof was designed and constructed during shameful dark times, the National Socialist regime. A massive self-staging symbol of oppressive German, it was used as Nazi Propaganda, to later and ironically, with the fascists fall, become a symbol of freedom.

about berlin tempelhof inside architectureIconic Architecture
Contradictorily to its monumentality the architecture of the Tempelhof was an example of modernity. Among grand halls with marble floors, sculptures, mosaics and stained glass functional offices and never-before-seen steel structures have given the place the reputation of state-of-the-art of its time. British architect Norman Foster have called it “the mother of all airports”, and “one of the really great buildings of the modern age”.

Berlin Airlift
A few years after the brutalities of WWII Tempelhof got the chance to redeem itself from its past. During one of the tensest moments of the Cold War, the Soviets blocked all land access to the city, hardening the entrance of fresh food into occidental Berlin. The Western Allies then organized the Berlin Airlift – the 1948 emergency, a system of air supply that guaranteed that the population of 2,5 million of inhabitants of Berlin got the basics to lead a normal life. Consider to be one of the greatest in aviation history, this accomplishment turned Tempelhof into an international symbol of the fight for freedom at that time.

about berlin tempelhof candy gailCandy bombing
Also during the cold war Gail Halvorsen, a pilot of the United States Air Force, started a very sweet tradition on the fields of the airport. Noticing the children playing in the area, he began to drop candy short before lading. A play that contaminated other pilots and became one of the city’s sweetest memories.

about tempelhofA popular victory
Between protests and controversies the airport ceased to operate as one in 2008. Soon after, the fat eyes of investors and urban planners arrived full of desire to build a commercial project, evolving offices and houses. But Berliners, resistant activists as they are, fought for the right to decide on the fate of Tempelhof themselves. And, in a historic referendum, over 64% of voters opted to maintain the area as it is and turn it into Berlin biggest beloved park.

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Refugee camp
During the peak of the refugee crisis, the main airport facility became shelter for over 1200 refugees mainly from Syria. Even with hard conditions, it served as a temporary home for those seeking asylum after surviving the horrors of war. Zentralflughafen T H F, a documentary by Berlin based director Karim Aïnouz, tells a bit about this hard chapter and is currently in some of the city’s main cinemas. 400 refugees still leave in the Airport.

about berlin tempelhof windBerlin Beach
There is one last thing, a magic side that makes this place such a beloved and unique leisure site. Due to its enormous proportion, its singular open urban sky and the wild wind it allows in, Tempelhof provides visitors with very particular sensation: the strange feeling of being at the beach. To counteract even more with this pleasurable delusion, here is practiced the so-called wind and kite concrete surfing, with boards over wheels. With a horizon full with of sails, one can almost smell the sea.