At the time of German unification, politicians, historians and academics expressed concerns that the material legacies of National Socialism had become too integrated into Berlin’s urban fabric. Unification disrupted the status quo of several such buildings and campaigners sought to use this as an opportunity to facilitate increased engagement with their National Socialist layers. Through exploring the contests that surrounded three high-profile examples, the Aviation Ministry, Olympic Stadium and Tempelhof Airport, this article will reveal the contingent nature of post-unification responses to Berlin’s National Socialist layer. Firstly, it will analyse the debates that surrounded the buildings and demonstrate that the problematisation of heritage is a process, one shaped and mediated by myriad factors not necessarily relating to the trace itself. Secondly, it will show that the attempts to bring about increased engagement with each of the sites’ histories have been informed by a common rationale, namely, the development of a ‘palimpsestic’ approach to each building’s layers.