With a huge bang the roof of the massive building in the district of Charlottenburg collapsed on Saturday morning, sending a cloud of dust high into the sky. Just a few minutes after the explosion the 200-metre exclusion zone around the building was lifted and traffic resumed on the nearby A115 motorway.
Crowds turned up to view the explosion and try to get a look at the ruins of the building, which will be completely demolished over the coming weeks. A new €65 million conference and exhibition centre will be constructed in its place by 2013.
When the Deutschlandhalle was constructed in 1935 it was the world’s largest such arena. Built in just nine months it was a prestige project for the regime and was opened by Adolf Hitler on November 29, 1935. It was used during the 1936 Olympic Games for boxing, wrestling and weight-lifting events. After the games the Nazis used it for various events, including mass rallies and speeches.
The building, designed by Franz Ohrtmann and Fritz Wiemer, was 117 metres long and 83 metres wide, and had a capacity for crowds of up to 16,000 spectators. During an exhibition on colonialism in 1938 Hitler’s favourite pilot Hanna Reitsch flew a helicopter inside the hall.
Much of the building was damaged during an Allied aerial attack in 1943 but it was restored after the war and opened its doors again in 1957. It became the primary event venue for West Berliners, hosting ice shows, boxing matches and concerts.
Muhammad Ali fought there and big stars like Abba, the Rolling Stones, Queen and Jim Hendrix appeared on stage in the Deutschlandhalle.
On November 12, 1989, numerous German popstars played a free concert there to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall just a few days earlier.
The arena later fell into disuse and was only used for a few big events in the period following reunification. It was finally shut down in 2009 following a decision by the Berlin government to have it demolished.