'Hollow Tooth' peace symbol of Berlin faces deadly decay threat

Its jagged, bomb-shattered belfry towers above the busy streets at the centre of west Berlin like an enormous broken tusk – a ruin that remains one of the most famous and potent symbols of the horrors of war in Europe.

But now Berlin's landmark Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, nicknamed the "Hollow Tooth" by Berliners, is threatened with closure unless at least €4m (£3.2m) can be found to restore its rapidly disintegrating neo-gothic facades.

City officials admitted yesterday that the 113-year-old building, which is a top tourist attraction, was crumbling so badly as a result of traffic vibration that chunks of it threatened to drop off and hit pedestrians.

"The tower is very badly damaged," said Marko Rosteck, a spokesman for Berlin's urban development office. Church officials have admitted being "stunned" by the findings of a recent surveyor's report on the state of the building.

The church was built between 1891 and 1895 by Kaiser Wilhelm II to honour his grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I, the founder of modern Germany.

On the night of 22 November 1943, the church, which stands at one end of Berlin's famous Kurfürstendamm shopping street, was hit by firebombs during a major air raid on the city. The RAF's Lancaster bombers also hit the armaments ministry, the Charlottenburg Palace and the British embassy.

The memorial church was left a blackened, burnt-out and badly shattered ruin. But instead of being demolished like hundreds of other notable buildings in Berlin vociferous public protest ensured that the 223ft-high bell tower was preserved for posterity.

In 1961 an octagonal concrete and glass tower housing a chapel was built alongside the ruined church. The building was consecrated in 1962 on the same day as the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in an act of reconciliation between the former wartime enemies.

Located in the heart of capitalist West Berlin the church also became a symbol of defiance against Communist oppression.

"The tower is definitely a big symbol for Berlin," said Wolfgang Kuhla, chairman of the memorial church management board. "As a ruin it is certainly the most important memorial for reconciliation in Berlin and possibly in Germany."

Mr Kuhla said around half a million euros had been raised so far from private donations and that his target was one million. Berlin's city government, which is saddled with debts of more than €60m, is planning to provide €1.5m.

Church officials have appealed to the federal government and the public to provide the remaining funding for the restoration which must begin next year to prevent the whole complex being permanently declared off-limits. One of the first to donate cash for the restoration project was the former RAF pilot, Charles Gray, who flew bombing missions over Germany. A supermarket chain followed up by organising a rubber duck race along the city's river Spree to raise cash. Several Berlin artists have offered to auction their works and donate the proceeds to the project.

Berlin's ruling coalition of Social Democrats and members of the former Communist Left Party has been strongly criticised for failing to provide more cash.

One church official insisted that restoring the church was about Berlin and Germany making a gesture to show that it, "remembers and abhors war." "What is the alternative – knock it down and build a shoe shop?" he asked.

Suggested Topics
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
News
news
News
peopleCampaign 'to help protect young people across the world'
Life and Style
tech

News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
i100
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teachers with QTS nee...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + ?110 - 130: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker