After the Second World War, Europe was as if devastated

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Status: 25.01.2021 09:30 a.m.

The bombing war means a new dimension of warfare. He not only kills soldiers at the front, but also civilians in the hinterland - and destroys entire cities.

by Jürgen Brühns, NDR.de

This new form of war is directed against the armaments and supplies of the enemy. In particular, the historical and international legal assessment of the Allied air war strategy are still controversial today.

1939: The Air Force reduced Warsaw to rubble

The bombing war against the civilian population began in the first hours of World War II, when the German air force bombed the small Polish town of Wielu on September 1, 1939. There were 1,200 deaths. On September 25th and 26th, the attack on Warsaw was the first area bombing of a large city. On May 14, 1940, Rotterdam was the target of devastating German air raids. After the "lightning wars" against Poland, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, Hitler wanted to break the English resistance with medium-range combat bombers.

The Battle of Britain

After the Luftwaffe had mainly attacked airports in the south of England since July 1940, Hitler gave the order on September 5 to carry out day and night attacks against the big cities. Until May 1941, London was the target of German air raids almost every day. The targets of the attack, which the British soon dubbed "Blitz", were supply and armaments companies. Most of the victims were civilians.

Only a few walls remained of the cathedral in Coventry.

The population protected themselves mainly by fleeing into the tunnels of the London Underground. Even so, there were over 20,000 deaths in London alone. Thousands of buildings in central London were destroyed or damaged. From November 1940 onwards, the attacks also spread to other cities - mainly industrial centers: Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester, Sheffield. Coventry was almost completely destroyed. Over 40,000 civilians died between August 1940 and May 1941. With the attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the attacks decreased.

In the meantime, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had mobilized the Royal Air Force. On the night of May 12, 1940, 35 bombers attacked Mönchengladbach. In 1941, the bombing of German industrial plants and traffic routes as well as large-scale attacks on German cities began.

Arthur Harris and the strategy of "moral bombing"

More than 1,000 British bombers were involved in the air raid on Cologne.

In February 1942, Air Marshal Arthur Harris took over the helm of the British Bomber Command. The strategists in Britain hoped that the bombing would turn the war around. To do this, they wanted to bomb the residential areas of cities in nighttime attacks, weaken the morale of the civilian population and destroy their industrial cities. Thus, the systematic terrorist bombing began against German cities. The first 1,000 bomber attack was flown against Cologne in May 1942. With a total of 1,455 tons of bombs, over 3,300 houses were completely destroyed and 474 people were killed in 90 minutes.

Hail of bombs does not break the will of the German population

Area bombing of German cities

28/29 March 1942:Lübeck
April 23-27, 1942:Rostock
May 30, 1942: Cologne
July 24th - August 3rd 1943:Hamburg
October 8 - 9, 1943:Hanover
October 22, 1943: kassel
August 26, 1944: Kiel
October 15, 1944:Braunschweig
February 3, 1945: Berlin
13./14. February 1945: Dresden
April 8, 1945: Braunschweig

When the USA entered the war, the German Reich was drawn into an endless maelstrom of night and day attacks. The Allied strategy of a "combined bombing offensive", which was scheduled to begin on July 10, 1943, envisaged "round-the-clock bombing" - night attacks by the British and daytime attacks by the Americans. In particular, the attacks on Essen and Schweinfurt in 1943 claimed thousands of civilian victims. In July 1943, allied bombers unleash an inferno of unimaginable proportions: the firestorm in Hamburg. Large parts of Hamburg were destroyed during the "Operation Gomorrah". In autumn 1943 the aerial war escalated. The Allies attacked more and more cities. The plan to demoralize the Germans and thus bomb their country ready for a storm did not work out.

In the spring of 1944 the Allies gained unrestricted air sovereignty. But German industry relocated its production in caves or tunnels and was even able to increase the production of war goods in some cases.

New weapons of war: the V1 and V2 rockets

Since their own bombers could no longer fly missions, the Germans began using so-called retaliatory weapons at high speed from June 1944. The V1 fired over 8,000 rockets mainly at London, Antwerp and Liège, and the much larger V2 fired 3,000 also at London and Antwerp. Far more than 10,000 people died in the process.

The devastation was great - but by no means decisive for the war

Although the war was decided, the air raids on Germany continued. This also included the devastating attack on Dresden on February 13 and 14, 1945. In the end, 600,000 Germans died in the bombing war. Around 60,000 people died in the UK. 160,000 Allied airmen lost their lives in action.

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Our story | 02/13/2019 | 9:00 p.m.