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Toby Parsloe: ‘These German Hangars House History, Heartache and Hope’: The Refugee Camp in the former Berlin-Tempelhof Airport

The current refugee camp based in Berlin’s former Tempelhof airport embodies a new manifestation of this already eclectic site. The production and evolution of refugee spaces has become an increasingly debated topic in reaction to their growing prevalence as well as Giorgio Agamben’s provocative theorisation of camps as quintessential spaces of modernity and biopolitics. While these debates have begun to address spatial issues, Tempelhof’s unique characteristics as an arguable Lieu de Mémoire provide a compelling case study to view the spatial interactions between the camp, cultural memory and public space. Its original purpose as the Nazi capital’s main airport and its post-war role in the 1948 Berlin airlift imbues it with an ambivalence that reflects the issues of memory and urban cultural topography prevalent in Berlin, as well as an intriguing connection to wider geopolitical events. The interactions between these layers of memory and Tempelhof’s current use therefore offers a rich and complex site through which conceptualisations of both the refugee camp and Berlin can be expounded.