Tempelhof Airport is one of the monumental buildings of National Socialism. In the first part of the report on our sightseeing tour, I report on the development and our discoveries at the airport up to 1945.
This report deals with the time after 1945. We have already taken part in several tours in and around the airport building. The impressions are so varied. Every guide tells details that you haven’t heard before. So it will probably not be our last visit to Tempelhof Airport.
The period after World War II
In July 1945, Tempelhof Airport was taken over by the US Americans. Unfortunately, they destroyed the building’s construction plans. Today, they would certainly have answered many questions.
For example, there is a myth that there are numerous secret underground floors, underground escape routes from the Reichstag to the airport and under the airfield, or hidden treasures of the Nazis. None of this has been proven so far. Despite an intensive search!
The airfield became a military base and was named Tempelhof Air Base. At first, hangars 1 and 2 were repaired and a paved runway was built.
Over the course of time, the Americans built some unusual things into the airport. For example, a basketball hall was built where training and games of the Berlin Braves took place. Civilian spectators could only watch with a special invitation.
Unfortunately, structural problems prevent further use today. The Allies also had recreation rooms, sauna and bowling alley built in for the soldiers and their families.
In 1948, Tempelhof Airport became vital for the survival of West Berlin’s population. During the blockade, the Allies flew food and fuel into the city every 90 seconds as part of the airlift and landed at Tempelhof, among other places. Today, the memorial on the Platz der Luftbrücke in front of the airport’s main entrance commemorates this time.
Tempelhof Airport – civil use
As civil air traffic in Berlin grew steadily, the US released part of the site for civil use in 1950.
A small terminal was built. About 20,000 passengers a month were to be handled here.
However, air traffic in Berlin grew more than expected. Many people could only leave the city by plane, as there were no controls here by the GDR (especially refugees). The Allies then released more land for use. In addition to the office building with the entrance hall (Ehrenhalle), the check-in building with the main hall was now also used.
Before that, however, extensive building measures had to be carried out. The high entrance hall received a false ceiling that destroyed the monumental impression. During the building tours at Tempelhof Airport, you can visit the upper area of the entrance hall and get a very good impression of the height of the building.
Many of the panels on the walls were taken down to repair the damage in the main hall, which had been destroyed by the Nazis. Here, too, the US Americans redesigned the hall. The floor was covered with linoleum and wall areas and the ceiling were clad in a contemporary style.
Today, the hall still stands there as if waiting for passengers. The baggage carousel, the check-in counters and the restaurant are actually just waiting to be used again.
It is a strange feeling to stand in the hall again. In 1993, I stood here heavily pregnant and picked up my father from the plane. There were only a few planes flying, but there was always something going on. Today, time has stood still here.
A unique feature of Tempelhof Airport was that it was divided into two parts. The area used for civilian purposes was strongly separated from the area used for military purposes. Fences, walls and guards prevented unauthorised persons from gaining access.
In the summer of 1975, Tempelhof was closed to civilian air traffic and replaced by Tegel Airport.
In 1981, the airport reopened, but only for business travel. Smaller aircraft took off and landed here. At first, check-in took place in the GAT, but the main concourse was only reopened as the number of passengers increased.
In 1993, the US Air Force left Berlin and the airport could be used entirely for civilian purposes.
When the decision was made to build a new Berlin Brandenburg Airport, it was also determined that both inner-city airports Tegel and Tempelhof would be closed. On 30 October 2008, the last regular aircraft left Tempelhof Airport, as the end of the construction work on BER was actually in sight. Since then, the site has been closed to air traffic.
Today, the former airfield is used enthusiastically by us Berliners. The concrete surfaces are suitable for skating, cycling, landboarding… The open spaces are popular for kite flying and recreation. Some buildings house companies, offices and commercial space. The hangar areas were used for events for a while, and refugees currently live here.
Ehemaliger Flughafen Tempelhof,
Tempelhofer Damm 7,