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Berliners struggle with Tempelhof closure

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Berliners struggle with Tempelhof closure
Photo: DPA
17:27 CET+01:00
Some Berlin residents aren't coping well with the impending closure of the city's historic Tempelhof airport this week, with police even investigating threats against Mayor Klaus Wowereit.

In recent days, signs that read “Klaus Wowereit – born October 1, 1953 – died October 30, 2008,” have been posted in the area surrounding the airport, daily Der Tagesspiegel reported.

Police recently caught a man hanging such signs, but aren't sure if he has been working alone. The mayor was a driving force for Tempelhof's closure because it endangered the new Berlin-Brandenburg International airport under construction on the city's outskirts.

Meanwhile, fans of the classic airport have begun gathering inside the iconic terminal building on Thursday to say farewell before air traffic is halted forever.

Konrad Wünschirs, a former tower controller at Templehof, joined the dozens of glum faces waiting for one of the last flights with an antique JU52 plane.

"I'm here today laughing and crying. It's great that I get to make one last flight but on the other hand I'm very sad that it closes like this," he said.

Tempelhof, the world's first commercial airport, was erected in 1923, but is best known for its Nazi-era main terminal. After the Second World War, Allied pilots ferried supplies into the airport in West Berlin when the Soviets tried to starve the city into submission in 1948-49. But Tempelhof's passenger numbers have dwindled in recent years despite its prime location.

Most Berlin flights are from Tegel on Berlin's northwest fringe, which is also due to shut down before the expanded Schönefeld facility becomes the capital's sole airport in three years.

That's why 8-year-old Pascal's grandparents brought him to see a glimpse of Berlin history on Wednesday. "I like it here but it seems sad today," he said, summing up the sentiments of most visitors inside the terminal.

There will be no last-ditch legal efforts to save Tempelhof either, after a Berlin court rejected a request by interest group City-Airport Tempelhof to hold a new referendum on the fate of the airport. There were no mistakes in the referendum that would have affected the outcome, a court spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Berlin residents failed to turn out and vote to save the airport this April. Some city politicians have since called for the massive swathe of open space and the accompanying buildings to be repurposed for housing and recreation at the site, though plans are still pending.

The airport will close on Friday, following a a fancy gala event attended by 800 special guests - including Mayor Wowereit - on Thursday evening.

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