Bridge Over Troubled Water German Cold War Symbol Sold to Dutch Real Estate Firm

The historic Dömitz railway bridge over the Elbe River, a symbol of the post-war division of Germany, has been sold to a Dutch real estate firm. The bridge, built in the 1870s, was bombed during WWII and later marked the watery border between East and West Germany.


An historic German railway bridge which became a symbol of the Cold War has a new owner. This weekend, the structure, which crosses the Elbe River next to the small town of Dömitz, was sold for €305,000 ($414,000) at an auction in Berlin. According to auctioneer Mark Karhausen of Karhausen Immobilien Auktionen GmbH, the bridge -- together with more than 70,000 square meters (750,000 square feet) of land -- went for more than 15 times the starting price.

The minimum bid for the ruin, which lies on the border of the states of Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and which is protected as a historical landmark, was €19,800. According to Karhausen, the auction was won by a Dutch real estate company after a half-hour bidding war conducted over the telephone with the only other potential buyer.

The iron bridge, which is around 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) long and which was built between 1870 and 1873, used to be Germany's longest man-made structure. In 1945, an Allied bombing attack destroyed the bridge. The post-war division of Germany made repair work impossible. The former East German state tore down what remained of the bridge on the eastern side in 1987, but on the western side, 550 meters (600 yards) still remain of the bridge's arches and these are under historic preservation orders.

Calls for Preservation

Up until now, the bridge had been owned by the Germany's national railway company Deutsche Bahn. Even before the auction, local initiatives like Friends of the Dömitz Railway Bridge had made it clear they wanted to keep the bridge as a monument to culture and industry in the region. The group, based in the Lüchow-Dannenberg district of Lower Saxony, had already warned against considering the bridge as simply a source of materials such as iron and stone.

The district administration and the local municipalities also hoped that the new owner would keep the historic structure and develop it as a tourist attraction. Local politician Jürgen Meyer told the news agency DDP that he wished to see "a solution that would preserve the bridge for the general public and make it accessible."

It seems, however, that locals do not need to worry about the fate of the bridge. Immediately after the auction, the Dutch buyer announced that it definitely wanted to preserve the bridge and develop a plan for how the structure can be used, auctioneer Mark Karhausen said. The new owner had also offered to work together with the other, unsuccessful bidder, he added.

cis - with wire reports


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