Bombing of Frankfurt am Main in World War II

Bomb damage near the cathedral

Bomb damage near the cathedral

The air strikes were flown to Frankfurt during the Second World War in June 1940 by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and later the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the greater Frankfurt am Main to March 1945.

It has several attacks in the last quarter of 1943 and two devastating 1000 bomber raids on 18 and 22 March 1944, the face of the city forever changed. Although measured relatively low to the enormous material damage with a little over 5,500 people turned out, the total number of deaths of the war in Frankfurt for a large city, burned in the fire storm of March attacks almost all significant cultural monuments and the entire medieval old and new.

First air attacks from June 1940 to December 1942

After several test alarms and overflights, the bombing did not bring with it, the city experienced on 4 June 1940 the first air attack. Around 40 high-explosive bomb n, dropped by half a dozen airplanes in Nied pitched a residential district and met at the castle Borner and Rebstöcker road. This seven residents were killed, ten injured. This bombardment could be seen in the extent and impact as an example for a total of twelve further attacks, the Frankfurt until the end of 1940 for experienced. However, as the earliest attacks revealed the helplessness of the large air defense: the anti-aircraft gun n could damage or destroy only a fraction of the attacker. On 10 October 1940 Adolf Hitler issued a Fuehrer order, he ordered to build bunkers in 60 German cities (“crash program leader”).

Until May 1941 Frankfurt spared from further attacks. This was probably because the RAF was bound in the Battle of Britain over its own territory. The time was used to build a total of 38 distributed throughout the city bunkers. Because the work was continued in the cold winter of 1941, Frankfurt was one of the first cities to be able to come up with a dense network of bunkers. The bunkers were supplemented by 24 distributed throughout the city emergency department who could afford an independent hospital emergency care.

As of May 1941, the war reached the city again, now handles an average of 15 – 20 aircraft in addition to, and threw explosives – now increasingly incendiary bombs. Furthermore, the bombs were mainly settled in the outskirts of the city and caused more accidental damage.

50 to 60 aircraft attacked on the night of 12 to 13 September 1941 the urban area in several waves and threw 75 high explosive and 600 incendiaries and phosphorus from canister 50. There were 8 dead and 17 injured, homes destroyed by some 200 people were left homeless. After another weak, the total fifteenth attack of 1941, followed again half a year without attacks.

In these six months, the situation in world war events for Germany changed dramatically: the Battle of Britain had been lost since May 1941 weakened so important for the air defense Air Force, and an exceptionally hard winter broke the end of the fighting in the war against the Soviet Union soldiers inside.

A day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (7 December 1941), the United States declared war on the Empire of Japan, Hitler declared on 11 December 1941 war on the U.S., although he was not obliged to do according to the Tripartite Pact.

On 14 February 1942 was the British Air Ministry out the Area Bombing Directive, were flown to their sequence in April and May 1942 attacks of unprecedented strength in Lübeck, Rostock and Cologne, which almost completely destroyed the cities.

Nevertheless Frankfurt experienced in 1942, only six attacks only lower in comparison to power, the heaviest 25 August 1942 than 50 aircraft around 100 high explosive and 8,000 incendiary n to the northern city area as well as the already 18 December 1940 yielded burnt Festhalle. An attack of similar strength struck on 9 September Escher Home and maximum, only a few people were again killed and injured dozens. Then followed seven months without bombing.

Heavy air attacks between January 1943 and early March 1944

End of 1942, troops of the Wehrmacht (DAK) in North Africa for the first time involved in combat with the U.S. Army, the January 1943, the defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad. A little later agreed the British and U.S. Air Force, the combined bomber offensive, which should combine the strategic air attacks on Germany.

The increasing burden of war were also the municipal budget and ultimately the citizens of Frankfurt increasingly felt. At the same time the psychological burden of the population rose through the reports of the substantial destruction of other German cities and threats that have been disseminated by mass of discarded leaflets.

Nevertheless, the year 1943 was to 11 April without attacks, again as a bombardment consisting of a 15 to 20 aircraft squadron shook the night. The attack was, however, as before, strategically haphazard, distributed over the whole city and Offenbach, has around 50 high explosive and 4,500 incendiary bombs targeted only occasional destruction and damage.

On 4 October 1943, the city experienced its first major attack: the morning Heddernheimer copper works were deliberately bombed (which in itself Heddernheim and Bonames and the Roman City wreaked havoc) in the late evening hours, followed by an even more violent attack on the city itself Here, a combination of high explosive and incendiary bombs was used as an offensive weapon. This combination was intended to ignite a firestorm (which the British for the first time in Hamburg – had practiced – see Operation Gomorrah). The fire multiplied while the damage of explosive and incendiary bombs.

To prepare for such air attacks was an accurate selection of the bombarding neighborhoods based on aerial photographs, fire insurance maps and population density cadastral maps. The cadastral maps were deposited by German fire insurance in British reinsurance company s before the war. The historic old town of Frankfurt was chosen as the core area of ​​the attack, because the wood portion of the total building volume was the highest. From the bombardment of the target area Mosquito fast bomber by red and green marker body (so-called Christmas trees) was delineated. This was monitored by a master bomber flying at high altitude, which was in radio contact with the pilots marking. After this was finished, the master bomber checked on a lower trajectory once the Frankfurter target area, defined the exact approach heights and gave the attack-free.

4000 first-explosive bombs and hundreds of air n mine were dropped. By the pressure waves of explosions, the roofs were torn and covered the roof tiles. After 250,000 incendiary bombs were dropped on n the city, which now fell into the rafters of houses and this offset very quickly in full blaze. Within an hour, thousands of smaller building fires spread from a major fire.

A total of 500 British aircraft were involved in the two-hour air attack. The impact of this attack surpassed any previous attack by several orders of magnitude. Although there was no feared firestorm broke out in several parts of the city from large fires that were completely cleared after several days. Then the disastrous consequences of the October attack were visible:

529 people were directly or died as a result of the bombing, many times injured, some seriously. Particularly devastating was a direct hit in the bomb shelter the children’s hospital that killed 90 children and 16 employees, which was denounced by the Nazi propaganda by “conformist” press as the Allies or cruelty as the “Frankfurt Innocents”.

Especially in the north east of Frankfurt directed the attack havoc: in the old alley, the Great Friedberger Straße, the Friedberger and Obermainanlage, the zoo, at the Ostbahnhof, around the East Park, at the Hanauer Landstrasse and upper wheel were whole streets by the effects of incendiary bombs burned. The Christians after the Great Fire in 1719 largely contributed between Tönges newly built Town – Trier and Hasengasse severe damages. Even the eastern Sachsenhausen was affected.

The churches, however, remained almost completely spared only at the Our ​​Lady church burned down part of the roof. Of the public buildings of the Romans was the hardest affected, as many roofs here also burned by incendiary action and smashed the underlying precious spaces. Were severely damaged by the monuments also the former patrician house seats Lichtenstein at the Roman Mountain and the bird houses Grimm and the Great at the New Braunfels Kräme.

Large-scale attacks in March 1944

On the night of 18 to 19 March 1944 killed 421 people, a large-scale attack and made ​​55,000 homeless. In a large-scale attack on the night of 22 to 23 March 1944 1001 people died and 120,000 were left homeless.


•Armin Schmid: Frankfurt firestorm. Frankfurt Book Publishing, Frankfurt 1965

•Karl Kramer, Gerhard Beier: Christmas trees via Frankfurt 1943. Books Gutenberg, Frankfurt 1983

•Hartwig Beseler, Niels Gutschow: fortunes of war German architecture – loss, damage, reconstruction – Volume 2, South. Karl Wachholtz publisher, Neumünster 1988, pp. 799-831

•Evelyn Hils-Brockhoff, Tobias Picard: Frankfurt am Main in the bombing – March 1944 Wartberg Verlag, 2004 Gudensberg-likes

•James Stern: The invisible debris – A Journey in Occupied Germany 1945 Eichborn Berlin, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-8218-0749-0

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