In a twist of irony, decades after Tempelhof was conceived by the Nazis, the airport resumed its Cold War role as a lifeline for those in need by becoming Europe’s largest refugee camp.
As of 2015, the terminal and some of its grounds have been used to house Syrian refugees, with more than 2,000 sleeping under the hangars’ 52-foot-high ceilings at any given time. Today, a “container village” near the track is housing several hundred Ukrainian refugees. And in the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic, the airport grounds became a vaccination site, a role reminiscent of its brief life as a field hospital during the Franco-Prussian War in the 19th century.
“[It’s] a particularly special place because it has so much history,” said Cindy Brzostowski, an American journalist living in Berlin. “All it takes is looking down to remember that you’re standing on a walkway with years and years of stories.”
Like the city around it, Tempelhof continues to change its identity, providing an inclusive space for Berliners old, new and passing through.
“Skating [here] it’s always a great feeling,” Janta said. “Even though I’m used to it, it feels like a new experience every time. Every time I hit the pavement, I take a deep breath and enjoy this feeling, almost like butter on my skin.”
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