Bad Kreuznach, Bad Reichenhall, Bamberg, Barmen, Bautzen, Bayreuth, Berchtegaden, Berlin, Bielefeld, Bingen and Bitburg
Bad Kreuznach (see below under Bingen)
Bad Reichenhall in Bavaria is a traditional center of salt mining and closely associated through the ages with Salzburg. The earliest known inhabitants of this area are the tribes of the Bronze Age Glockenbecher-Culture from 2000 B.C.
On April, 25th of 1945, without any forewarning, the area was bombed by Allied forces, 200 civilians were killed. The antique town center with many hospitals and the train station was nearly totally destroyed, however the military barracks didn’t suffer any damage.
Although Bamberg was fortunate and escaped some of the devastation, there were incidents in the closing months of the war. Bombing ruined three of Bamberg’s numerous breweries and killed a number of people taking shelter in the Polarbären-Keller beer garden in 1945. Most of the major monuments and historical landmarks escaped damage but over 300 buildings were totally destroyed. On February 22, 1945, American pilots returning from a failed mission elsewhere randomly dumped their deadly load on Bamberg. Three 50 kg bombs killed 17 people and hit the old Redeemer Church, leaving only the tower undamaged.
Barmen (see under Wuppertal)
Bautzen in eastern Saxony is located on the Spree River. In 1018, the Peace of Bautzen was signed here between King Heinrich II and the Polish prince Boleslaus I. In 1033, the city passed to the Holy Roman Empire, in 1319 to Bohemia and in 1635 to Saxony. Later, it was the site of the Napoleonic War Battle of Bautzen in 1813. Bautzen is often regarded as the unofficial, but historical capital of Upper Lusatia, and it is the most important cultural center of the minority of Sorbs. It suffered from minor bombing and major street fighting during the War. Approximately 10% of the residential buildings and 34% of the town’s living space were destroyed. Eighteen bridges, 33 public buildings, 46 small firms and 23 larger firms were completely destroyed. Bautzen was later infamous throughout the GDR for its penitentiaries.
First called Baierrute, Bayreuth began life as a settlement above the Roter Main River and developed into a town in the 15th century. In 1603, Margrave Christian of Brandenburg-Kulmbach decided to move his residence to Bayreuth. Many famous substantial buildings were added to the town after the Thirty Years’ War. When Christian died in 1655, his grandson Christian Ernst, who ruled from 1661-1712, had the fountain of the Margraves and an equestrian monument built. Bayreuth’s golden ages came during the reign of Friedrich the Great’s sister Wilhelmine, 1709-1758, and later, when
made Bayreuth his home and drew visitors from around the globe.
Although Bayreuth had no military significance and posed no threat, because Bayreuth had been touted as an “Ideal German Town” and was a cultural landmark near and dear to German hearts, it was vindictively targeted for cultural bombing by the Allies at the very tail-end of World War Two. On April 5, 1945 almost half of the historic and lovely old city was successfully obliterated and about 1,000 civilians lay dead.
Beautiful Berchtesgaden’s history dates back to the 11th century. An area rich in salt, it was ruled by a number of different regimes over its long history. It is only a few miles away from the spectacular glacial Königsee with its steep mountains on each side. Its ideological importance made the pristine region a target for Allied bombing. On April 25, 1945, 255 RAF Lancaster bombers bombed the Obersalzberg. Later, another RAF raid included 359 Lancasters and 16 Mosquitos.
Brandenburg, an independent state situated entirely in the territory of ancient Germania, was bordered by Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the north, Poland in the east, and the areas of Saxony in the south, west and northwest. Today, in its smaller state, it is bordered on the east by the Oder river, and on the west by a portion of the Elbe, and it contains parts of the Spree and Havel rivers. Brandenburg was one of seven Electorships of the Holy Roman Empire from the late medieval period, and since 1618, both Brandenburg and Prussia, then Brandenburg-Prussia, were ruled by the Hohenzollern dukes who were later kings of Prussia. Frankish Nurnberg, Ansbach and the southern German Hohenzollern as well as the eastern European connections to Berlin and the prince-elector together were instrumental in the rise of modern Germany.
During the Reformation, Brandenburg embraced Lutheranism in 1539, and then expanded its lands to include the Duchy of Prussia in 1618 and the Duchy of Cleves in 1614 and elsewhere. It was too widespread to defend itself properly during the Thirty Years’ War, but after the devastation, its brilliant leaders, the first being the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I, managed to take backwater Brandenburg to a pinnacle of power and prosperity in Europe.
The capital was moved from the town of Brandenburg to Potsdam and the electors became Kings of Prussia. The Margraviate of Brandenburg became the Province of Brandenburg in 1815. In 1881, Berlin was separated from the Province of Brandenburg. For most of recorded history, the founder of Berlin was considered to be Margrave Albert the Bear. The first authentic document concerning the city is from the year 1237 at the time of his great grandsons. From the year 1442 until World War One defeat, Berlin became the residence of the Hohenzollerns. By the early 20th century, Berlin was considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Berlin before and after
In 1000AD, the first settlement was recorded in Bielefeld, and the town was founded in 1214 by Count Hermann IV von Ravensberg to guard a pass over the Teutoburg Forest. Sparrenburg, a great castle, was built in the medieval town and it remained impregnable through the Middle Ages. The castle was restored in 1879. St.Marien seminary was established in 1346 after the end of the House of Ravensberg, and this led to the development of a new town. Bielefeld grew, and joined the Hanse in 1452. Bielefeld with the county of Ravensberg, fell to the House of Kleve in 1520. By 1554, the Reformation had reached Bielefeld. In 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, Bielefeld and the county of Ravensberg became part of Brandenburg. In 1652, the linen industry was first established by the Great Elector. In 1775, a barracks for the Bielefeld garrison was constructed under Friedrich the Great. After 1847, a new railway connected Bielefeld to the German European rail network, and there was a mechanized spinning mill.
The first bombs fell in June of 1940 on Bielefeld. In 1944, the heaviest air strike was launched on the city center on September 30 by 300 American bombers flying in 4 separate waves intentionally setting the city on fire with incendiaries and then issuing a final attack with time fuses ala the British.
600 civilians were killed and another 1,300 injured. 10,000 were left shelterless. More than 1,350 people in Bielefeld died from bombing by the end of the war, not accurately counting the numerous refugees from the east who had taken shelter in the city. 15,600 dwellings were damaged or destroyed, and then it experienced a flood of even more displaced refugees, raising the population from approximately 127,000 before the war to 155,000 in 1950. There was nothing much ancient or historical left in destroyed Bielefeld, and it was decided that the town would be rebuilt in the style modern at the time.
On March 14, 1945, the largest bomb which ever fell on a German city was dropped on the local Bielefeld railway viaduct, an important traffic facility which the Allies had unsuccessfully tried blowing up many times. England had to specially convert a Lancaster bomber for the bomb. “Dam buster” bombers were specially modified to carry the ‘Grand Slam’ 22,000lb (9,979kg) monster. At almost 10 tons, the Lancaster could only carry one bomb at a time. The pilot dropped the bomb about thirty metres from the viaduct and the resulting explosion caused powerful shock waves to radiate outwards destroying two arches each 1,100 feet in length. The bomb was the largest ever used in war, it could penetrate seven meters (23 feet) of reinforced concrete as it did on the U-boat pens near Bremen. The Grand Slam measured 7.7 meters in length and contained 4,144 kg of explosive. A total of 41 of these violent super-bombs were dropped during the war.
The Romans were the first to discover Bingen’s strategic value of the confluence area of the Rhine and the Nahe, and Drusus had the Castellum Bingen built as part of the Rhine border fortification in 11 B.C. The fortress remained solid until seized in 355 A.D. by the Alemannies who then reigned a short time until the Frankonians declared Bingen as theirs. Otto 11 gave the “Bingen Country” to Willigis in 983, and Mainz Cathedral received Bingen in the middle of the I5th century, with which it would remain united for centuries.
Hildegard of Bingen
Bingen was destroyed eight times in history, and torn back and forth between possessors and occupying forces. A French municipal government was set up in Kreuznach after 1795, and after the defeat of Napoleon the town of Kreuznach came under Prussian control. After defeat in the First World War, the French again occupied Bad Kreuznach until 1930. Today, it is just another Rhineland town, most of it flattened by Allied bombing, with barely a pre-war building left standing from the RAF raids which left 80% of the outer city and 60% of the medieval inner city in ruins in 1944. Bingen’s old castle was all but destroyed, but has been rebuilt. Allied bombing in 1944 also took out the ceiling and collapsed part of the high altar of Bingen’s Basilica.
During one raid, 100 citizens had taken shelter in an old wine cellar when high explosive bombs caved it in and crushed them to death. Bad Kreuznach was badly damaged by a number of air raids during the final months of World War II. On Christmas day, 1944, 140 civilians died when 800 high explosive Allied bombs and mines plus 20,000 fire bombs were dropped on the town center. 4300 homes were destroyed and the population was halved. All bridges were blown up. 1,800 of the 3,500 dwellings and more than half of the trade and industrial plants were destroyed by the bomb attacks of 1941 followed by round the clock bomb raids at the end of the war. Americans took the town and they operated notorious prison camps nearby for German POWs. The Americans were replaced by French occupation troops in June and July. It no longer contained much of historical value.
(see under Trier)