Thursday, October 30, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen Tempelhof !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Crowds Bid Fond Farewell to Airport That Saved Berlin

Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

BERLIN — Berliners turned out on Thursday to say their goodbyes to historic Tempelhof Airport, to share a few memories and to protest its closing one last time.

A DC-3, one of several types of aircraft used in the Berlin airlift, took off from Tempelhof Airport in Berlin on Thursday.

Two vintage airplanes, a DC-3 and a Junkers Ju-52, took off shortly before midnight as the final flights from the airport, which had been the focus of a legal battle that went on for several years.

To those who advocated for its closing, like Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, Tempelhof was an unprofitable drain on the city’s budget. To its supporters it was an architectural masterpiece and a historic monument to freedom.

Tempelhof, although built by the Nazis, is best known as the site of the Berlin airlift of 1948 and 1949, after the Soviets blocked land access to the city. The United States and Britain brought in supplies by air, over 2 million tons of food, fuel and even machinery. It became a symbol of the Allies’ commitment to protecting the city and indeed Western Europe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out in favor of preserving the airport earlier this year, and more than 60 percent of the voters in an April referendum said they wanted it kept open. But their numbers fell short of the minimum needed to make the referendum valid. No decision has been made as to what will be done with the airport and its grounds, though the building is a protected landmark and cannot be torn down.

There are two other airports that serve Berlin.