What has become of the ‘Fresh Start for the East’ (Aufbruch Ost)?

In 1999 we featured four major projects in eastern Germany that were intended to benefit from German reunification. Now we go back for another look, wondering what became of the hopes that were invested in those schemes.

Text: Holger Fröhlich
Photos: Annette Hausschild

2017


CargoLifter: At least the hall is still standing

1999


The CargoLifter freight airship was one of the boldest business ideas of the decade when the Berlin Wall came down. It was supposed to transport freight faster than a ship and more cheaply than a plane. The hangar alone was a superlative: 14,000 tonnes of steel, 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and 107 metres high. But only four years after buying the land, the operators ran out of money. In 2003 a Malaysian consortium took over the hall and opened a water park they named Tropical Island.

2017


Heiligendamm: Partially renovated property with sea views and period features

1999


As far back as 1793 Friedrich Franz I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, founded the elegant Baltic resort of Heiligendamm. Spas were built along with one of Europe’s very first courses for horseracing. European aristocrats flocked to the sea for a swim. When it was East Germany the resort became a children’s holiday camp. After German reunification it was revamped in some style at a cost of 1bn Deutschmarks. This plan also ran into trouble but the white tower suite of the Grand Hotel offers a reasonable night’s sleep, though it may set you back €1,000 a time.

2017


A successful battle against closing times

1999


A businessman from Baden in south-west Germany builds a trading house in East Berlin. Not really news. But more newsworthy is the fact that for 20 years the Dussmann house has sold nothing but books, sheet music and CDs – with an annual turnover of €35m. Although the boss died in September 2013, his personal campaign against statutory shop closing times is being continued (staff have been promoted to senior executive roles so selling can go on longer).

2017


Is this Berlin?

1999


Berlin’s famous Potsdamer Platz is no longer a building site. But that is really damning with faint praise if that is the most that can be said for it. A number of star architects have left their mark on what was once Europe’s biggest building site (6m tonnes of earth had to be shifted) but they have failed to breathe life into it. At the start of the previous century it was considered the liveliest and busiest square in Europe. The plan after reunification to bring those days back and establish a vibrant new centre did not work out.