Tempelhof was already associated with aviation in 1887 when a balloon detachment of the Prussian army was stationed there. The field just south of the Berlin city centre was designated as an airport in 1923. The construction of its massive new terminal building with its characteristic Nazi architectural features began in 1936.
Besides being an airport the site was also the location of a concentration camp. The hangars and the railway tunnel crossing beneath the buildings served as sites for arms production during the Second World War. Using foreign forced labour, the Weser Flugzeugbau company produced combat aircraft here.
Despite the countless air raids on the airport, the massive terminal building remained largely intact. On 26 April 1945, Tempelhof Airport came under control of the Soviet forces. On 4 July 1945, U.S. troops officially took charge of Tempelhof Airport. The Berlin Airlift in 1948/49 and the escape of many thousands of people from East Germany during the Cold War made the airport an internationally recognised symbol for the defence of freedom.
Tempelhof Airport closed on 30 October 2008. On the field, today a vast modern park, and along the airport building, thirteen informative plaques remind visitors of the significance of this historic site. Tempelhof Airport is a popular venue for exhibitions, festivals, trade fairs and conferences. In the future, the site will be further livened up by businesses from the creative industries who will move into the historic premises. An Airlift Memorial is located right outside the airport to honour those who fought for freedom by participating in the efforts to supply the city.