As It Happens

The city of Hamburg just destroyed a giant swastika with bulldozers and jackhammers

When construction workers unearthed a giant concrete swastika on a sports field in the northern city of Hamburg, Mayor Falko Drossmann immediately ordered it destroyed.
A digger removes a giant concrete Nazi swastika found in a construction site in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday. (Srdjan Suki/EPA-EFE)

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When construction workers unearthed a giant concrete swastika on a sports field in the northern German city of Hamburg on Monday, Mayor Falko Drossmann immediately ordered it destroyed. 

"Of course, in the social media from worldwide, people said we had to leave it, it's a historical monument. But for us, it's not," Drossmann told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"We don't have to keep a four-times-four metre big swastika to be remembered of our history."

The swastika-shaped foundation was discovered Monday during construction work on a sport field. (Christian Charisius/Associated Press)

The people of Hamburg, he said, also wanted it gone. 

"Most of the people in Hamburg said: Throw it away, put it away, destroy it. Where are the jackhammers?"

So on Friday, after clearing the plan with conservation authorities, that's exactly what the city did. 

At noon local time, a team of workers cracked open the Nazi symbol with jackhammers and tore it apart with a bulldozer.

"Now it's gone," Drossmann said. "It's just another page in the history books."

There were calls from some people online to preserve the swastika, but 'now it's gone,' says the mayor of Hamburg. (Srdjan Suki/EPA-EFE)

The symbol, which was unearthed beneath the Hein-Klink sports field in the city's Billstedt district, was actually the foundation for a monument celebrating the "strength of German workers" that was torn down decades ago, the mayor said.

It was built 72 years ago as part of a government make-work program, and the swastika was originally covered in bricks, he said. 

"In 1945, the people destroyed the swastika, the brick swastika, but they left the foundation of the swastika underneath the earth. They just put some dirt over it," he said. "Then everybody forgot it after a few years."

A man wearing a shirt with swastikas on it is punched by an unidentified member of the crowd near the site of a planned speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida on Oct. 19. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Asked what he thinks of people sporting swastikas at far-right rallies in the West, Drossmann chuckled.

"I could only tell my private opinion, of course, not a governmental opinion," he said.

"I was really shocked and I invite all the people bearing the swastika to come over and come to Hamburg and visit the concentration camps and the memorials that we all have here, to come with us to the museum and we'll show them what this symbol stands for and what these movements lead to."

— With files from Associated Press