Mr. Kornblum, now a Berlin resident and counselor for the firm of Norr Stiefenhofer Lutz, says, "We were determined to be here because of the history.... If the Nazis couldn't chase us off the site, we weren't going to let the mayor of Berlin do it."
The site, first procured in the 1930s, was returned after the Berlin Wall fell and then haggled over for more than a decade. The US Congress cut building funds by $50 million to $130 million. Feelings in Berlin ran high, with one former mayor saying the US should put a McDonald's restaurant up instead. The State Department allowed a security accommodation when Berlin city officials refused to push a safety zone out into prime Pariser Platz real estate. Indeed, Pariser Platz, anchored by the four-horse chariot – topped Brandenburg Gate, is one of the most significant spaces in Germany – the place where East Germans poured into the West in 1989, and close to where President Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this [Berlin] wall," the symbol of divided Europe.