By FRANK JORDANS
US actor David Hasselhoff, center, arrives for a protest against the removal of a section of the East Side Gallery, a historic part of former Berlin Wall, in Berlin, Sunday, March 17, 2013. Hasselhoff is fondly remembered by many Germans for releasing a song called “Looking for Freedom” shortly before the fall of the Wall in 1989. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
BERLIN (AP) — David Hasselhoff put his name behind a campaign to preserve one of the few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, calling it a “sacred” monument to cheers Sunday from Germans who fondly remember his schmaltzy hit “Looking for Freedom” as one of the soundtracks to their peaceful 1989 revolution.
The actor, best known for starring in “Knight Rider” and “Baywatch,” joined ordinary Berliners in protesting a real estate developer’s plans to move part of the wall to make way for an access path for a luxury housing development.
“It’s like tearing down an Indian burial ground. It’s a no-brainer,” said Hasselhoff, before recounting his own memories of visiting East Germany — grim cities, grim food — shortly before unification.
Plans to move part of the East Side Gallery — a 1.3 kilometer (3/4 mile) stretch of wall painted by artists after the fall of communism and popular with tourists — sparked angry protests earlier this month. Activists have denounced it as part of a wider trend of steamrolling Berlin’s tumultuous history to make way for gleaming but soulless developments in the heart of the city.
At least 136 people died between 1961 and 1989 trying to cross the wall that divided the communist-run East Berlin from West Berlin. Most of the wall has since been destroyed, with only two large sections remaining as memorials.
“It’s a stupid idea to rip parts of the wall out for luxury apartments,” said Roland Junge, one of thousands of locals who accompanied Hasselhoff on an impromptu walk along the wall Sunday.
“This last piece of the wall is really sacred,” Hasselhoff told reporters. “It’s about people and it’s about hearts that were broken, hearts that were torn apart and lives that were lost. That’s what we’re talking about today, not a piece of real estate.”
Asked if he thought his song — belted out by a million people on both sides of the wall during a New Year’s Eve concert in 1989 — had played any role in bringing down the most visible section of the Iron Curtain, Hasselhoff said: “Whether it had anything to do with anything, it’s a song about freedom and it stuck in their head because it had a good hook.”
Berliners can prepare for a reprise if talks involving the developers, authorities and campaigners fail to reach a compromise next week.
“If it goes to the next step, we’ll come back with a huge concert and really rock Berlin,” said ‘The Hoff.’
Ciaran Fahey and Donogh McCabe contributed to this story.