When residents of Giesing in southern Munich noticed on Thursday that a digger had been positioned in front of the Handwerkerhäuschen (handworker's cottage), a 180-year-old protected building, they alerted the police.
City authorities quickly stepped in. They first ordered a stop to any further building activity at the site on Grasstrasse and then cordoned off the area, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reports.
But on the following day the building company moved in again and tore down the cottage as quickly as they could, making sure that their work was done before the city authorities arrived.
Police have now filed charges against the building company.
The SZ described the cottage, which was built in 1840, as "central to the neighbourhood's identity."
Munich city mayor Dieter Reiter said that the demolition was “a scandal”, adding that the city “would prosecute those responsible with all the might we have.”
Bavarian law states that owners of protected buildings can face fines of up to €250,000 if they do not “keep the building intact and protect it from danger.”
Mathias Pfeil, director of the city’s protected buildings authority, said that the destruction was “an immense loss for the cultural inheritance of Munich.”
“I see this as a precedent which could be incredibly dangerous, given the high pressure to build that currently exists in Munich.”
Giesing residents suspect that the owner of the property was “trying to create facts on the ground,” reports the SZ. The destruction of the small but iconic house was reportedly meant to clear the way for the construction of a much larger building.
Living space is extremely tight in Munich, meaning that letting large properties can be very profitable for property developers.