One of the most storied airports of all time, Berlin Tempelhof Airport is brimming with history.
The airport site was once Knights Templar land in medieval Berlin, and from this beginning came the Tempelhof name. The airport officially opened on in October 1923 and was the birthplace of Deutsche Luft Hansa, today Lufthansa, in 1926.
Hitler had grand plans for the airport, envisioning Berlin Tempelhof as the gateway to Europe in post-war, Nazi-run world and a symbol of Germania, the world capital that would be in situated in a renewed Berlin . To that end, the Nazi government began a massive reconstruction project in the mid-1930s. By war’s end, Berlin Tempelfof was (and remains) one of the largest buildings in the world.
In June 1948 the Soviets halted all traffic by land and by water into or out of the western-controlled section of Berlin. That meant the only remaining access routes into West Berlin were three 25 mile-wide air corridors across the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany. Faced with either abandoning the city or attempting to supply its inhabitants with vital necessities by air, the Western Powers chose the latter course, and for the next eleven months sustained the city’s 2½ million residents in one of the greatest feats in aviation history, the Berlin Airlift.
Tempelhof served as an important commercial hub and military hub until it was closed in 2008, paving the way for Schönfield Airport to become Berlin’s one and only airport. Tempelhof has since been turned into a public park, though the tarmac and runway remain, making it plausible (though extremely unlikely) the airport might be used again for what it was designed for.
Hunter and I had a chance to explore Tempelhof Airport earlier this year during our trip to Berlin. While a sign on the entrance to the terminal area as well as the Airport Authority’s website indicates public tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays, Hunter and I showed up at the designated time and found no one there.
So we did the next best thing–walked around the perimeter of the property. I really wanted to see the classic terminal from the inside, but that will have to wait for another trip to Berlin. Enjoy the exterior photo tour: