In a pre-dawn operations on Wednesday, property developers removed sections of the Berlin Wall to allow access to a building site, despite furious protests, including one attended by Baywatch actor David Hasselhoff.
A police spokesman, Alexander Toennies, told the Associated Press there were no incidents as work began at about 5am to take down four sections of the wall, each about 1.2 metres wide, to make way for an access route to the planned high-rise luxury flats along the Spree river.
The area is known as the East Side gallery, and features several iconic graffiti images that locals were desperate to preserve in their original location.
Toennies said: "Developer Maik Uwe Hinkel 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."
Kani Alavi, head of an East Side Gallery artists' group, said: "I can't believe they came here in the dark in such a sneaky manner. All they see is their money, they have no understanding for the historic relevance and art of this place."
Hasselhoff, whose hit single, Looking for Freedom, was number one in the German charts for eight long weeks during the summer of 1989 before the wall fell, was dismayed at the wall's removal.
The actor and singer performed a seminal New Year's Eve concert on the remains of the wall a few weeks after it was torn down. He has said he is prepared to stage a similar event to help save the rest of the wall from developers.
Let's do it again twitter.com/DavidHasselhof…— David Hasselhoff (@DavidHasselhoff) March 27, 2013
At least 136 people died trying to scale the wall that divided communist-run East and West Berlin. Now, it is covered with graffiti by 120 artists, including the famous image of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev passionately kissing his East German counterpart, Erich Honecker.
Another iconic image is "Test the best", with a Trabant car bursting through the wall.
Kani Alavi, head of an East Side Gallery artists' group, told Associated Press: "I can't believe they came here in the dark in such a sneaky manner. All they see is their money, they have no understanding for the historic relevance and art of this place."
In an interview before the removal, Hasselhoff said removing the wall was "like tearing down an Indian burial ground. It's a no-brainer," said Hasselhoff, who visited East Germany shortly before unification.
"This last piece of the wall is really sacred. It's about people and it's about hearts that were broken, hearts that were torn apart and lives that were lost. That's what we're talking about today, not a piece of real estate."
"If it goes to the next step, we'll come back with a huge concert and really rock Berlin," The Hoff has promised.Suggest a correction