Makeover to turn Hitler's airport into palace for beauty jetset

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BERLIN-TEMPELHOF, Hitler’s favourite airport, may be rescued from closure by Ronald Lauder, one of the world’s most influential philanthropists for Jewish causes.

The extraordinary design of the Tempelhof complex — the terminal has huge cathedral-like ceilings — prompted Norman Foster, the British architect, to call it the “mother of all airports”.

Its future is in doubt because the cash-strapped Berlin city government wants to close it next year and move all flights to an airport east of the city. Now the Estée Lauder perfume empire has, according to Finance Ministry sources, submitted a proposal to convert the terminal into a luxury clinic. One landing strip would be retained so that wealthy patients could land and take off within reach of the city hospital. The Estée Lauder group has been investing in health spas and aesthetic surgery.

The heirs to Estée Lauder, Ronald and Leonard Lauder, are significant shareholders in the profitable group, which has 22,000 employees worldwide. Ronald Lauder also has a foundation that is sparking the revival of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe: it has sponsored restoration work in Auschwitz concentration camp, set up Jewish colleges and encouraged the training of rabbis.

It is ironic then that Mr Lauder is being mentioned in connection with the rescue of one of the few remaining pieces of Nazi architecture left in Berlin. Although it was used as an airport before the Nazis came to power, Hitler and his master planner, Albert Speer, put their decisive stamp on it from 1936.

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