Eilenburg’s history reaches back over a thousand years and it can claim itself as one of Saxony’s ‘original cities,’ with a castle perched lazily on a hilltop. Eilenburg grew and thrived mainly due to the brewery industry. Even Martin Luther sojourned in this city extensively and frequently.
Approximately two weeks before the end of the War, the city was almost completely destroyed. It was choked with desperate refugees from the eastern regions fleeing communist murder. On April 17, 1945, many of these refugees joined the town’s citizens and fled this city, too. About 4,500 others looked for protection in the old mountain beer cellars. For three days and three nights, the city was under heavy artillery bombardment, in which 90 percent of the city center (65% of all buildings in the city) were destroyed. In vain, some people frantically hung white sheets and cloths from their windows and church steeples desperately signalling surrender. 200 people were killed, a great many of them young boys, while the American forces suffered no losses because Germany’s defenses were all but absent. Eilenburg was one of the most heavily damaged cities in Germany. The town was absolutely flattened before being handed over to the Red Army.Franz Abt
Eisleben, a city with about 24,000 inhabitants in 1945, was attacked with artillery fire and low-flying attacks, and while no major physical damage was caused to the city itself, three firefighters and fourteen people were killed in the shelling of the town and the surrounding mining and industrial enterprises were greatly impacted. By the end, in April 1945, every major school, several restaurants and the city hospital were being used as a hospital for casualties from the surrounding area.
Elmshorn became the secondary target for bombs that for some reason could not be dropped on Hamburg. A British bomb attack on August 3, 1943 killed 62 people killed and injured 150 because cloud formation obscured the primary objective of Hamburg. 250 buildings were destroyed, 220 heavily damaged. A British source noted that “A sizeable raid developed on the small town of Elmshorn, 12 miles from Hamburg. It is believed that a flash of lightning set a house on fire here and bomber crews saw this through a gap in the storm clouds and started to bomb the fire.” Again, on April 26, 1945, in connection with the thrust of British land forces to Schleswig-Holstein, a low-flying attack killed another 92 civilians. Another attack was slated for May 3, but due to poor visibility the bombs were instead dropped on a train, resulting in more deaths. At the end of the war, 13,000 refugees – almost as many refugees as residents – remained in the city, resulting in a housing crisis.
In the morning of September 27, 1943, all three bomber divisions of the heavy combat flier corps of the 8 USAAF were assigned with altogether 308 “flying fortresses” to attack the city of Emden after several previous strikes. At the same time 24 bombers were sent out as diversion over the channel. “Thunderbolts” from the 8th USAAF escorted the operation as protection for the heavy bombers. The air raid did not run well for the Americans, because only 180 combat aircraft were able to drop their bomb load on the city.
For the small town ofEsens (not to be confused with Essen), it would be a bad day when 36 disappointed American bombers, having failed to finish off Emden, saw the small town below and angrily unloaded their destruction and death upon it. Within minutes, one third of all houses of Esens were destroyed or damaged and 490 humans left shelterless at the end of the day. Far worse, 165 unprepared civilians were dead, among them 108 children whose bodies were found along with their dead teachers in the rubble of the local orphanage.
The British left behind 680,000 cubic meters of rubble in their place on October 7, 1944, destroying 97% of the ancient city and its 9th century churches.
From 1940, historically priceless Erfurt was bombed at least 14 times. On February 25, 1945, British bombers destroyed 74% of the medieval center and killed 8,800 civilians, or 21% of its population.More on Erfurt
After World War One, the Ruhr region was occupied by the French and Belgians and both tried to attach the Rhineland to their countries. Under the terms of Versailles, the citizens engaged in mining and other industries had to work for them almost as slaves as they watched German coal and steel leaving for France and Belgium. It was a bitter occupation and the people were subjected to much abuse from the occupiers.
The city was first bombed on October 8, 1944. The second bomb attack on December 6, 1944 killed 44 civilians. It was then carpet bombed almost from morning till late at night. Since December, 1944, the city was also within range of Allied grenade attacks. In another bomb attack on January 16, 1945, 31 more people were killed, 16 in a bunker. The fourth and heaviest air raid on the now abandoned town was on February 23, 1945. About 90 bombers flew in two waves and focused on bombing the churches, the town hall, the public baths, the hospital, schools and kindergarten. The only surviving tower of the bombed Catholic parish church was severely damaged. 1209 Erkelenz houses were destroyed and 536 damaged. Only two buildings survived the war undamaged. Bombing killed 312 people and wounded 974. As many other towns in the region, it witnessed in the midst of the chaos and carnage, the long flow of refugees passing by with nowhere to go but Hell. But the fun was just starting for the weary residents. Aconcentration camp was waiting.
During the Second World War, the town was left almost unscathed by the raids that laid other German cities waste. However, in 1943, 20 children died when their nursery school was suddenly bombarded.