Rescuing Berlin's Most Famous World War II Ruin





West Berlin's most famous landmark and a poignant reminder of the horrors of war is threatened by collapse. Now a range of people, including soccer players and former enemies, are trying to preserve it.
When the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was destroyed by a British bombing raid in World War II, all that remained was its gaping, ruined tower. Still, Berliners protested plans to demolish the blackened, badly shattered belfry, which rises almost 70 meters (230 feet) over the western part of the city.

The spire of the church, which was built in 1895 by Kaiser Wilhelm II to honor his grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I, is now nicknamed "Hollow Tooth" by locals and was preserved for posterity. It has remained a famous and poignant reminder of the horrors of war, as well as being a symbol of West Berlin's determination and extraordinary post-war recovery, during the time when it was surrounded by communist East Germany.

But now the gaunt and jagged church tower, which every year attracts thousands of tourists, is making news of another kind. Located at the downtown end of the Kurfuerstendamm shopping boulevard, the tower is in a dire state of decay. Traffic vibration along the famous strip, say city officials, has caused its walls to crumble, with chunks threatening to fall off onto pedestrians below.

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