Developer vows to demolish historic section of Berlin Wall despite protests

Developer has been given nod to build luxury flats behind world's longest open air gallery

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 5:33am

A property developer behind plans to demolish a remnant of the Berlin Wall to make way for luxury apartments said he would carry through with the action despite protests.

"On Monday, the work continues," Maik Uwe Hinkel said. "We have permission and think the building is good for Berlin."

Demonstrators at the East Side Gallery - a 1.3-kilometre stretch of the Berlin Wall that features some 120 paintings by international artists - have prevented a crane from removing a 22-metre section of what is considered to be the world's longest open air gallery.

The Berlin-based investment group, Living Bauhaus, has planning permission to build a 14-storey luxury apartment block featuring floor-to-ceiling glass fronts behind the open air gallery.

Since 1990, the outdoor gallery has been covered in brightly coloured graffiti murals, including the famous Fraternal Kiss depicting Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and his East German counterpart Erich Honecker.

The piece, removed by a crane on Friday, bore a mural depicting the Brandenburg Gate, which was sealed off by the wall for years but is now Berlin's most popular landmark. "They're pulling down our history here," former West Berliner Monika Wang, 72, complained. Even the bad times must be remembered, she added, grumbling that history was being "sacrificed" because Berlin is still cheap for investors.

Berliners have appealed to the city's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, to halt the demolition.

"Mr Wowereit, don't tear down this wall," a message on the wall said in a reference to a 1987 speech by US President Ronald Reagan, who begged the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!". Another official who has expressed surprise at the partial demolition has been the city's culture minister, Andre Schmitz.

But Hinkel said plans for his Living Levels condominium project should not come as a shock, because they had been approved by the proper Berlin agencies and the city's Senate.

"The current work can, therefore, not come as a surprise to the people in power in the Senate or the district administration," he said.

Hinkel, of the Living Bauhaus investment group, said that, in addition to providing an access road to the apartments, the demolition would allow for the reconstruction of a pedestrian bridge destroyed in the second world war.

Protesters planned more demonstrations yesterday at the stretch of the wall, but observers say that it appears unlikely the project could be permanently blocked.

Protestors argue that because of the pain the wall caused - dozens died in dramatic attempts to flee the communist state of East Germany - it should be preserved.

McClatchy-Tribune, Agence France-Presse, Reuters