Berlin's iconic Victory Column crumbling

Society Materials 13 February 2008 15:17 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Berlin's Victory Column is in need of repair, the gilt flaking off the angel, the sandstone column crumbling and the walls of the internal spiral staircase covered with grafitti.

City officials have held meetings on how to come up with the estimated 3.5 million euros (5 million dollars) needed to restore the 65-metre icon, press reports said Wednesday.

Golden Elsie (Goldelse), as she is known to Berliners, was little known outside the city itself until she played a starring role in Wim Wenders' 1987 film Wings of Desire (Himmel ueber Berlin), with Bruno Ganz in the lead.

The screws fixing her wings to her body are in danger of failing, and the mortar holding the vast elements of the red sandstone column together needs replacing, according to the daily Berliner Zeitung.

Perched on a traffic island, the monument towers over the vast Tiergarten Park and has been snapped by the millions of visitors that have passed through the reunited city since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

It formed part of the backdrop to the 2006 Football World Cup held in Germany, when Berlin hosted the final between Italy and France along with other key games.

Now, although there is no terminal threat to the monument, which celebrates German victories in a series of 19th century wars, repairs to virtually every part of it have become essential.

The column, set with cannon taken as booty in the wars, dates to 1867, although it was finished only in 1873.

The Nazis inadvertently saved it from destruction in World War II by moving it from its spot in front of the Reichstag in 1939.

They also raised it from its original 51 metres, giving Elsie her commanding spot in the Berlin skyline.