x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Anger as developer topples Berlin Wall

Luxury flats project accused of sacrificing city's history for profit.

BERLIN // Work crews backed by about 250 police officers removed parts of the Berlin Wall known as the East Side Gallery before dawn yesterday to make way for a luxury building development, despite demands by protesters that the site be preserved.

Residents said they were shocked by the move, which followed a series protests including one attended by the American actor David Hasselhof.

But there were no incidents when work began at about 5am to remove four sections of the wall, each of which were about 1.2 metres wide. They will make way for an access route to the planned high-rise luxury flats along the nearby Spree River.

The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. Construction workers removed one section earlier in the month as part of the plans for the apartment complex. The public outcry brought work to a halt while politicians and the investor said they were looking for a solution to keep the rest of the wall untouched.

The investor, Maik Uwe Hinkel, decided to remove four more 1.2-metre wide parts of the wall, said Alexander Toennies, a police spokesman.

"The constructor had the right to do this and he informed us a few days ago about his plans," he added. "Last night, we were told that he wanted to remove the wall pieces early this morning."

Plans to remove part of the 1.3-kilometre stretch of wall sparked protests amid claims that the developers were sacrificing the city's history for profit.

At least 136 people died trying to scale the wall that divided communist-run East Berlin from West Berlin. Since the fall of the wall, the stretch has become a tourist attraction, with colourful paintings decorating the old concrete tiles.

"I can't believe they came here in the dark in such a sneaky manner," said Kani Alavi, the head of the East Side Gallery's artists' group. "All they see is their money, they have no understanding for the historic relevance and art of this place."