Protected by scores of German policemen, workers removed sections of a key remnant of the Berlin Wall before dawn on Wednesday despite earlier protests demanding the concrete artifact of the Cold War be preserved.
The removal came as a shock to residents, just as it did on Aug. 13, 1961 when communists first built the barrier that divided Berlin during the Cold War.
Tour guide Rolf Strobel, 52, was among the scores of people who came to gape at the holes in what had been the longest remaining stretch of the wall — about eight-tenths of a mile.
The wall remnant is a gallery of colorful murals created following the 1989 popular uprising in what was then communist East Germany. One of the murals features Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev kissing East German chief Erich Honecker, who built the Berlin Wall.
“I’m quite disappointed. This is impertinence,” Strobel said of the wall’s dismantling. He argued that it belongs to the public and not investors like Maik Uwe Hinkel who paid the workers to take down four panels from the barrier.
Hinkel is building a luxury apartment complex nearby along the Spree River and wants to create an access road through the wall. But he stopped his work following a number of protests this month, including one led by actor David Hasselhoff, who starred in the TV series Baywatch and Knight Rider.
Hasselhoff is a popular singer in Germany whose anthem, “Looking for Freedom,” was belted out by the generation that brought down the Berlin Wall.
“How are you guys doing, you good?” he asked protesters during his visit. “Thank you all for coming. This is a part of history.”
He also pledged to hold a “huge concert” in Berlin to up the pressure if talks to preserve the wall fail.
But the investor, Hinkel said in an e-mailed statement to the Associated Press that he was tired of fruitless negotiations with city officials.
He also says Wednesday’s removal is temporary so that trucks can reach the building site.