German tragedy of destiny








As a major industrial and commercial city of the German Reich, it was bombed quite often.


Through the western location of Cologne the raids began very early and were extremely violent, particularly on


2 March 1941,

12 August 1941,

12 December 1941,

14 February 1942,

14 March 1942,

6 April 1942,

30/31 May 1942,

3 February 1943,

15 February 1943,

27 February 1943,

16/17 June 1943,

29 June 1943,

4 July 1943,

9 July 1943,

5 October 1944,

14 October 1944,

27 October 1944,

30 October 1944,

November 1944,

6 January 1945,

2 March 1945.


Especially heavy were the attacks on 30 and 31 May 1942. With 1,000 bombers the British Air Force tried for the first time its new strategy of large-area bombardment.


864 high explosive bombs, 11,000 incendiary bombs, 20 air mines and more than 1,000 phosphorus incendiary bombs and phosphorus canisters were dropped. This huge blazing fire started 12,000 individual fires which united in 1,700 major fires. The heat burned the tubes of the firemen before they reached the fires. The pilots of the next bombing wave could see the volcano-like glow of Cologne already from the North Sea.


Nearly 500 people fell victim to this attack, many dead still had the greenish phosphorus track on the burnt bodies. Whole neighborhoods were reduced to rubble and ashes. 14,000 residential and commercial buildings, mainly in the inner city, were destroyed.


20,000 dead


On the night of 28 to 29 June, the day of Peter and Paul, the civilian population of Cologne experienced the next annihilating blow. Again, a huge torch was lit on Cologne. The firestorm was so intense that the hot air flown upward sucked the oxygen out of the mouth. 4,377 victims were burned, suffocated or were ripped apart by the bombs. The Town Hall, the Walraff-Richartz-Museum, the Decorative Arts Museum and the Gürzenich were destroyed. The number of homeless people rose to 230,000.


Although the inner city and suburbs were nothing but ruins and ashes, the ordeal was not over for the Cologne population. In 1944, a further 88 air strikes were launched against the city. In autumn and winter, in the so-called transport offensive, ports, railway stations and bridges were bombed.


Report of a U.S. newspaper


As a transportation hub with major bridges, Cologne was repeatedly heavily bombed. The Mülheim Bridge was on 14 October 1944, the Rodenkirchen Bridge on 14 January 1945 and the Hindenburg Bridge on 28 February 1945 destroyed.


On 2 March 1945, shortly before the marching in of the U.S. forces, the ruins and rubble were plowed a last time, for safety's sake. During this attack they succeeded in annihilating the last remaining old church of St. George.


In summary, the attacks on the almost two thousand years old city killed 20,000 people, mostly civilians. They included about 2,000 children under 14 years and nearly 9,000 women.


German newsreel about the destruction of the Cologne Cathedral