“This is like tearing down an Indian burial ground. It’s a no-brainer,” the 60-year-old former Baywatch star told reporters at a packed press conference at a club near the Wall. “This is the last memorial to the people who died and to the perseverance of freedom.”
“Somebody said to me: ‘What if they tore down the Brandenburg Gate?’ I think there’d be a bit of a protest there too. If you tried to get near 9/11, where [the terror attacks] happened, you’d have a lot of problems,” he said.
The segment of the Wall in question is known as the East Side Gallery, a tourist attraction and one of the few remaining signs of Berlin's Cold War division. After German reunification in 1990, the 1.3-kilometre stretch of concrete barrier was covered in colourful murals from artists around the world.
But plans for a high-end residential development along the banks of the Spree River as well as providing access to a footbridge require a 22-metre part of the Wall to be dismantled. After angry demonstrations in recent weeks, the plans have been put on hold. Talks with the Berlin government and local district authorities are set to commence on March 18.
After hearing about the demolition work, Hasselhoff, known affectionately by his fans as The Hoff, decided to travel to Berlin to voice his support for the protestors fighting to keep the East Side Gallery intact. He also took the opportunity to recount his experiences of traveling through East Germany shortly after the Wall fell.
“It was staggering and overwhelming. The only place they had a flat road was in front of where politicians lived,” he said. “The food in Leipzig tasted like shoe leather. There was acid rain all over the cars. They had lived in acid rain for the last twenty odd years.”
When asked by The Local if he’d consider buying part of the Wall, he laughed and said: “There’s no way I could afford it. But together we can work to raise the money.”
Thank you for turning up!It must have been at least 10,000 people!You CAN make a difference.yfrog.us/5xtk8pizoctjte…— David Hasselhoff (@DavidHasselhoff) March 17, 2013
As he left the conference to begin the planned walk alongside the last remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, he provided a heartfelt rendition of his 1989 hit “Looking for Freedom” to the delight of the crowd awaiting him outside.
Hasselhoff has repeatedly stated that singing the song to half a million East and West Germans in front of the Brandenburg Gate just a few months after the Wall fell was one of the most special moments in his life.
But many of the thousands of people who turned up to witness the spectacle were sceptical about the difference The Hoff’s presence would make.
“Anything that raises awareness will help. But you’ve got to ask yourself whether people are here to support the Berlin Wall or whether they’re only here to see David Hasselhoff,” Lisa Goldschmidt, an onlooker, said.
The general opinion, however, was that anything that brought attention to the cause and garnered extra publicity would have a positive effect.
“Whether you take him seriously or not, you have to recognize that his appearance today has mobilized a lot of people,” said Phil Boyd, who was keeping his distance from the melee provoked by Hasselhof's exit from the riverside club.
"The fact that international media have turned up to cover this will only increase awareness of the situation."