Work crews backed by about 250 police have removed parts of the Berlin Wall known as the East Side Gallery to make way for an upmarket building project, despite demands by protesters that the site be preserved.
Residents of the area expressed shock at the move, which followed several protests including one attended by American celebrity David Hasselhoff.
Police spokesman Alexander Toennies said there were no incidents as work began on Wednesday at about 5 am to remove four sections of the wall, each about 1.2 metres wide. That will make way for an access route to the planned high-rise luxury apartments along the nearby Spree River.
The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. Construction workers removed a first piece earlier this month as part of a plan to make a road to a new luxury apartment complex. The public outcry brought a halt while local politicians and the investor said they were looking for a solution to keep the rest of the wall untouched.
The investor, Maik Uwe Hinkel, decided to remove four more 1.2-metre wide parts of the wall, according to Toennies.
'The constructor had the right to do this and he informed us a few days ago about his plans. Last night we were told that he wanted to remove the wall pieces early this morning,' Toennies said.
Plans to remove part of the 1.3-kilometre stretch of wall sparked protests whose main message was that developers were sacrificing history for profit.
At least 136 people died trying to scale the wall that divided communist-run East Berlin from West Berlin. Over the years, the stretch has become a tourist attraction with colourful paintings decorating the old concrete tiles.