David Hasselhoff calls on Germany to save the Berlin Wall

The Baywatch star claims to have helped topple the Berlin Wall, but now he wants to help save it. He has called on the Berlin mayor to stop a large development project next to a popular memorial.

David Hasselhoff, who memorably played atop the Berlin Wall in November 1989, renewed his campaign on Thursday to save a portion of the wall from overdevelopment.

The Baywatch and Knight Rider star released a video message from Los Angeles calling on Berlin Mayor Michael Müller to halt the construction of a high-rise building next to the East Side Gallery — a 1.3-kilometer (0.82-mile) section of the wall covered in paintings and preserved as a monument to freedom.

"Don't build any more buildings by the Berlin wall," Hasselhoff asked Müller in English. "They're trying to build a monstrous building on the death strip ... Stop the Berlin Wall being destroyed by buildings all around it."

Hasselhoff said he planned to join Berlin protests against development.

Culture | 09.02.2004

Read more: What Germany's music charts say about its soul

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Berlin icon

It's one of Berlin's most visited locations. Numerous artists have immortalized their thoughts on German reunification on a 1.3-kilometer stretch of the Wall. Among them was Dimitri Vrubel, an unknown art student from Moscow when the East Side Gallery was created in 1990. He painted the famous brotherly kiss between the Soviet and East German heads of state, Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker.

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Reminder of the victims

The East Side Gallery is located near what used to be a so-called death strip lined with watchtowers. The patrolling soldiers in that area had orders to shoot at those attempting to flee from East into West Berlin.

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Protected monument

On September 28,1990 - days before official reunification on October 3 -the East Side Gallery was opened to the public. Since then, many of its paintings, printed on postcards available in souvenir shops all over Berlin, have become world famous. Among them is Thierry Noir's "Homage to the Young Generation." In November 1991, the East Side Gallery was listed as a protected historical monument.

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Controversial renovation

As the Berlin Wall is exposed to wind and weather, tourists and souvenir chiselers, it needs to be repaired regularly. In October 2008, the artworks were to be completely refurbished. Some of the artists refused to so, but most agreed and a large number of the paintings could be restored.

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Art flash mob

In 1990, German pop artist Jim Avignon created his painting "Doin' it cool for the East Side." In 2013, he came under fire when, together with some art students, he painted over his original painting - without official permission.

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Investor pushes through partial demolition

In 2013, parts of the East Side Gallery were displaced for the construction of high-rise apartments.The resulting gap of six meters served as an entrance to the construction site. That stirred protests - without success. Now, the residential tower has been nearly completed and 80 percent of the apartments have been sold. The construction is expected to be completed within the next half year.

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Signs of time

Although some artists have already renovated their works several times, other paintings are fading or have been disfigured with graffitti. Artist Thomas Klingenstein has lamented that the outdoor gallery is in a "pitiful state." A former member of the East German opposition, he designed part of the East Side Gallery.

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On the silver screen

In January 2015, the documentary "Berlin East Side Gallery" by filmmakers Karin Kaper and Dirk Szuszies was released, covering the various changes which the outdoor gallery has had to endure since its renovation in 2009. Artist Thomas Klingenstein said he hopes "that this film will help protect that special stretch of the Berlin Wall for the future."

Former death strip

His video was published in promotion of a petition by the East Side Gallery Alliance to stop development group Trockland Management from building a mixed-use tower behind the East Side Gallery on the banks of the River Spree. The narrow strip was once part of an area known as the death strip, a bleak fortified area in which border guards had shoot-to-kill orders for defectors.

"It is essential that the East Side Gallery survives as a monument and that the skyline is maintained as free and open. The planned hotel complex would tower over the Gallery like a malevolent shadow and would effectively be the death of the East Side Gallery," the petition claims. More than 40,000 people have signed it.

Hasselhoff became involved in protests against development in 2013, when thousands of people rallied unsuccessfully to halt development of the area and a partial demolition of the wall needed for construction access.

Deutschland David Hasselhoff in Berlin

The Hoff first became involved in the campaign to halt development in 2013

The nine-level "Pier 61|63" development would include a 167-room hotel, restaurants and 62 apartments, according to an August report by the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. Trockland Management took over the project after an Israeli investor secured the building permit.

"Trockland is well aware of the importance of the monument and will fulfill the extensive requirements for the preservation of historical monuments in accordance with the building permit," Trockland told the paper.

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Trockland's website says construction will be completed by 2021.

Just weeks after the border was opened, but before reunification, Hasselhoff performed his song "Looking For Freedom" suspended from a crane above the wall near the Brandenburg Gate. The song, an English-language cover of German hit "Auf der Straße nach Süden," was the No. 1 hit in West Germany at the time.

Hasselhoff claims that his performance contributed to the reunification of Germany.

aw/msh (dpa, epd)

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Euromaxx | 08.01.2015

The Berlin East Side Gallery on Film