Syrian refugees headed to Germany will soon be taking respite in the converted interior of a hangar at the Tempelhof Airport, which was built by the Nazis in 1930s Berlin. One thousand refugees are expected to be housed there in the coming weeks, of the more than 800,000 refugees that Germany is expected to take in this year.
Even though it was one of the largest buildings in the world when it was completed in 1941, the airport saw little use after the war and closed in 2008. Berlin citizens have opposed efforts to redevelop the property, which has since been used to host events in addition to functioning as a park for kite hobbyists in the summer and cross-country skiers in the winter. Community gardens can be seen on the property’s green spaces.
As the city faces a shortage of housing, one of the most recent proposals to create additional housing surrounding the airport was declined in a referendum vote. This came after citizens discovered that the average price for the new properties would be higher than existing properties.
The airport’s history was the site of one of the most impressive feats of international aid in the aftermath of World War II. The Berlin Airlift saw the U.S. conducting daily air supply runs to support West Berliners as part of the Marshall Plan.
As Russia continues to support the Assad regime in Syria, many have noted the irony that Western powers have once again found themselves providing aid at one of the most heated regions of confrontation during the Cold War.
Germany has agreed to take more than its fair share of refugees from the Syrian crisis, which politicians have supported in part to bolster the nation’s dwindling birth rate. As refugees have arrived in Germany, they have been greeted with overwhelming support by citizens, even as other nations witness a general rise in xenophobia.