And everybody praised the Duke
Southey, after Blenheim
“In terms of personal success, there has been no career more fortunate than that of Winston Churchill. In terms of human suffering to millions of people and destruction of the noble edifice of mankind there has been no career more disastrous.” The European and English Journal. Source: American Manifest Destiny and the Holocausts, p. 176.
“One closes these volumes feeling, uneasily, that the true heroes of the story they tell are neither the contending air marshal’s, nor even the 55,888 officers and men of Bomber Command who were killed in action. They were the inhabitants of the German cities under attack; the men, women and children who stoically endured and worked on among the flaming ruins of their homes and factories, up till the moment when the allied armies overran them.” London Times reviewer on the British Official History of the Strategic Air Offensive.
Woven into the tapestry of the Second World War, the air blitz is a stark reminder that this war, perhaps more so than any other affecting the European continent, provided for the deliberate destruction of civilians as an instrument of policy. Most of us are familiar with the major events of World War Two and of these, the blitz on such major cities as London and Liverpool stand out as beacons of devastation. The blitz on Coventry was equally tragic and the horror is increased as we subsequently learn that civilian losses could have been reduced enormously but for the fact that Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of the time, refused to warn Coventry’s inhabitants that their city was to be raided lest the enemy realise their code had been broken.
Sir Basil Liddell Hart, Britain’s foremost historian, described the policy of bombing civilian targets as being: “The most uncivilised method of warfare the world has known since the Mongol invasions.” It is a sad reflection on Britain that it was a British Government which initiated this war crime which by its nature would needlessly destroy so many European lives, not to speak of British lives lost in raids of retaliation.
On the 10 May 1940, just one day after his appointment as Prime Minister, Winston Churchill announced that the bombing of Germany’s civilian population would commence. J. M. Spaight, C.B., C.B.E., who was the Principal Secretary to the Air Ministry, admitted that: “Hitler only undertook the bombing of British civilian targets reluctantly three months after the R.A.F. had commenced bombing German civilian targets.”1
He went on to say that: “Hitler would have been willing at any time to stop the slaughter. Hitler was genuinely anxious to reach with Britain an agreement confining the action of aircraft to battle zones.”2
Churchill’s decision to bomb Germany’s civilian targets was to cost Britain dearly in terms of lives lost. The smouldering blackened ruins of London, Liverpool, Coventry and many other British cities bore silent testimony to this. The blitz on Coventry stands out as an example of such retaliatory raids and the British people in their innocence, unaware of the true reasons for their suffering, grew to hate and gave their all to strike back at the German barbarians. When the war ended in 1945, Coventry mourned 380 of her citizens who had died as a result of German bombing raids, and 100 acres of their city lay in ruins. A tragedy of enormous proportions which was nevertheless to pale into relative insignificance when compared with the results of bombing raids on German cities by allied bombers.
For every Briton killed by German bombs, no less than nine Germans were killed by allied bombs. In the demilitarised city of Dresden, an estimated 135,000 people, mostly civilian refugees, were slaughtered in allied bombing raids in just 24 hours. And for no purpose other than sheer bloodlust. That beautiful city which contributed very little to the German war effort was virtually removed from the face of the earth. It was a crime of such magnitude that one of Great Britain’s most eminent Socialists, R.H.S. Crossman, described it as: “The long-suppressed story of the worst massacre in the history of the world.”
He went on to say: “The devastation of Dresden in February 1945 was one of those crimes against humanity whose authors would have been arraigned at Nuremberg if that court had not been perverted.”3
Equally horrendous were the earlier attacks on Hamburg. In ten terrible days from 24 July to 3 August 1943 British bombers reduced to rubble more than 6,000 acres of Hamburg. During those ten awesome days, an estimated 100,000 people lost their lives. When a thousand-year-old city of 2,000,000 souls is incinerated in just a few days with the loss of so many lives, what affect does it have on survivors? An official German document states: “For weeks afterwards, eyewitnesses were unable to report without succumbing to their nerves and weeping hysterically. They would try to speak, then would break down and cry: ‘I can’t stand seeing it again; I can’t stand it!’”
Many weeks later, a woman who did survive was interviewed. She had still not recovered from the experience: “I saw people killed by falling bricks and heard the screams of others dying in the fire. I dragged my best friend from a burning building and she died in my arms. I saw others who went stark mad. The shock to the nerves and the soul, one can never erase.” The Police President of Hamburg reported: “Its horror is revealed in the howling and raging of the firestorms, the hellish noise of exploding bombs and the death cries of martyred human beings as well as the big silence after the raids. Speech is impotent to portray the measure of the horror, which shook the people for ten days and nights and the traces of which were written indelibly on the face of the city and its inhabitants.
“No flight of imagination will ever succeed in measuring and describing the gruesome scenes of horror in the many buried air raid shelters. Posterity can only bow its head in honour of the fate of these innocents, sacrificed by the murderous lust of a sadistic enemy.”
Martin Caidin, one of the world’s leading authorities on military science subjects, who was a high-ranking U.S. Government official expert on bombing effects and author of many related books, described the bombing of Hamburg as: “Standing out as the worst of the disasters visited upon civilisation during the insanity of the Second World War.”4
As National Socialist Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg was a natural target for allied bombing raids. The shame attached to ‘Operation Gomorrah’ was that it far exceeded that which was necessary to paralyse the city’s contribution to Germany’s war effort. ‘Gomorrah’ was the code name given to the plan to incinerate Hamburg in 1943.
Hamburg was a Hanseatic city that straddled the beautiful River Alster immortalised by many songs and ballads and in particular, by the ‘Moonlight on the Alster’ waltz. Perhaps its most endearing feature was its medieval half-timbered Elizabethan-style houses that attracted tourists from all over the world. Sadly, this feature made it also attractive to the allied war lords who reasoned that such a city would burn easier and offer more potential victims per square mile. The method devised for the total destruction of Hamburg was simple, and as we shall see, was extremely effective. The first waves of bombers would release thousands of high-explosive bombs on the city which would keep the population, and especially the fire service, in their shelters. Then, the subsequent raids would rain down magnesium bombs. It has been conservatively estimated that during those ten days, Hamburg was struck by 1,200 landmines, 30,000 heavy high-explosive bombs, and 3,000,000 stick incendiary bombs. In addition to this, perhaps the most macabre weapon devised by mankind, the phosphorous bomb, was deemed suitable for dropping on a city’s civilian population. Eighty thousand of these 100-pound phosphorous bombs were dropped, plus 500 phosphorous canisters, and 500 phosphorous incendiaries. The affect that this type of weapon had on civilians is one of the worst nightmares to emerge from the 2nd World War, as we shall later see.
As might be expected of a German National Socialist city, no effort was spared to make the city as safe as possible from air attack. It was perhaps the best protected city in Europe from an air attack point of view. The Police President of Hamburg wrote: “The fate of our cities in the Ruhr district and on the Rhine was a warning. None of the experience gained there was disregarded. The plainly increasing intensity of the war in the air led to an acceleration of tempo in the constant development of air protection measures which finally reached the limit of possibility.” There was total mobilisation of all resources and there was no shortage of volunteers. Men, women, and even children worked ceaselessly to make their city safe. Equipment was kept in tip-top condition and always at hand. A massive air raid shelter construction program was begun and the authorities assisted civilians in building air raid shelters in homes and factories. The same authorities saw to it that the city’s hospitals, government buildings, schools, administrative and police buildings were likewise catered for.
Predicting conditions in which every drop of water would be more precious than gold itself, a program was started that would revolutionise the entire water system in and around the city. All open waters were requisitioned. At the city’s harbour and canal systems were built special ramps, approaches and platforms to enable easy access. Wherever possible, water storage systems were built. Streams and rivers were dammed and all lakes and ponds in the area were cleaned out, enlarged and made deeper. Even sewers were used for the piping of water to those areas in need.
Nothing was overlooked. Swimming pools, rain water tanks, industrial cooling tanks, wells, empty oil storage tanks; even the water tanks in the laboratory of Hamburg’s Experimental Ship Construction Institute were used. If it is true that necessity is the father of invention, Hamburg’s preparation was the proof of it. When all such measures had been taken, the mobilised city looked to other ways and means by which water could be stored. The cellars of two wrecked buildings were cleaned out and the shells used as reservoirs. Seven thousand private wells were catalogued and 52 private wells on industrial premises were linked to the general system. Firms like oil companies, breweries which used especially constructed fluid carrying vehicles were also utilised. Rarely in the history of mankind has an entire population mobilised to defend itself better than Hamburg’s did. No matter how small and seemingly insignificant, nothing was overlooked. All vital targets were camouflaged, smoke-screen generators were placed where needed. All inflammable material was removed unless it was absolutely necessary. All attics were cleared of any material of an inflammable nature by lawful edict and all homes were liable to spot checks to ensure that defensive measures were being complied with.
By the time that all possible defensive measures had been completed, it was impossible to improve upon them. Hardly a single person, regardless of age or sex, wasn’t involved in some aspect of defence. Caidin wrote that civil defence training and activities in the city of Hamburg attained an almost unbelievable level of co-ordination and efficiency.
The people were totally mobilised as fire-watchers, air raid wardens, rescue teams and voluntary firemen, labour gangs, evacuation crews, medical teams and messengers. In addition to those measures, neighbourhood assistance programs were started as were self-help groups. When the holocaust was to be visited upon these people, it could never be said that their idleness had contributed to their tragedy.
In his official report, the Police President of Hamburg wrote: “A greater state of readiness in the Air Protection Service was not possible. On the material side – bearing in mind existing conditions – the limit had been reached. On the side of personnel and organisation, not only had the legal regulations been fulfilled and even surpassed, but among the entire Hamburg population there was a readiness for defence and a spirit that was bound to surmount any test. Difficulties of a bureaucratic nature, which in a modern state, with a mass of necessary authorities as a rule unavoidable, practically did not arise in Hamburg. Collaboration on all sides, in the spirit of a true National Socialist community was so exemplary that at least one prerequisite for successfully meeting the severest ordeal by fire was assured.”5
Throughout June of 1943, and halfway through July, Hitler’s Germany withstood ceaseless and relentless waves of bombers, both American and British. During the day, the skies over Germany were darkened by U.S. Airforce bombers and the night skies were filled with Britain’s R.A.F. bombers. Little regard was paid to the likely victims of bombs dropped indiscriminately. Indeed. the allies had already decided that civilians, even refugees, were not only legitimate targets but in some cases, preferable targets.
Prime Minister Chamberlain, before he was ousted by the Churchill clique, had been quite adamant on the matter of bombing civilians. He had said that such a policy “was absolutely contrary to international law.” And he had given the assurance that: “The British Government would never resort to the deliberate attack on women and children for purposes of mere terrorism.”
Winston Churchill had no such scruples and was a principal party to the most appalling acts of mass murder which included the strafing of women and children refugees as they fled from their burning cities, or before the Red Army’s raping Asiatic hordes.6
Churchill’s premiership was accompanied by a new war policy in which it was decided that at whatever cost, Hitler’s National Socialist Germany must be unconditionally and totally destroyed and the means used must have little or no regard for long-established rules of warfare. Indeed, it could be safely said that in this, Churchill overturned rules of war that had endured for more than 1,000 years of European history.
What was to take place was carefully hidden from the British and American public. Even making allowance for propaganda-fed wartime hysteria, the iniquitous conspirators knew that ordinary folk would never stand for mass murder on such a scale. Outrage and revulsion would curb excessive bloodlust. The Labour M.P. Richard Crossman, who in 1964 became Minister for Housing in Harold Wilson’s government, spoke severely of the screen of lies that was set up to deceive the public on the terror-bombing of Germany. “One of the most unhealthy features of the bombing offensive was that the War Cabinet – and in particular the Secretary for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, felt it necessary to repudiate publicly the orders which they themselves had given to Bomber Command.”
Nothing illustrates the cover up more than events which resulted from questions raised by Richard Stokes M.P. in the House of Commons on 6 March 1945. He had demanded to know the truth about a report that originated at Supreme Allied Headquarters in Paris which had gloatingly described the terror-bombing of the refugee-crowded city of Dresden. This particular report had been widely published in the United States, and broadcast on Paris Radio. But the official censor in Britain had suppressed its publication presumably as a result of the indignant protests it had already aroused.
Mr Stokes had insisted on being told, “Is terror-bombing now part of our policy? Why is it that the people of this country who are supposed to be responsible for what is going on, are the only people who may not know what is being done in their name? On the other hand, if terror-bombing be not part of our policy, why was this statement put out at all? I think we shall live to rue the day we did this, and that it [the raid on Dresden] will stand for all time as a blot on our escutcheon.”7
It is interesting to note also that whilst Members of Parliament of all political persuasions – including Government Ministers, were extolling the virtues of Britain’s working class, Professor Frederick Lindemann, Churchill’s closest advisor, was getting his own way in demanding that Bomber Command’s saturation bombing raids be concentrated on working-class areas of Germany because this would yield a much higher kill-rate per ton of explosives. Working-class houses were built much closer together. British High Command reasoned that if German workers were kept busy burying their wives and children, industrial output would drop.8 It would be difficult if not downright impossible to imagine a more monstrous inhuman callousness than this. And it is the most dreadful irony that Churchill’s first scientific advisor and his bloodthirsty sycophants were proved wrong in the end. One can only imagine why Churchill selected Lindemann to be his first advisor when scientifically his record was of persistent failure.
Who can know the state of mind of those who were by now directing the British war machine? Although it is beyond the comprehension of rational human beings, hindsight and hitherto unknown facts suggest that Churchill and the other War Lords were caught up in a vortex of satanic bloodshed. In 1953, H.M. Stationary Office published the first volume of a work entitled The Royal Air Force, 1939-1945. In the relevant volume, The Fight at Odds, which was officially commissioned and based throughout on official documents which had been approved by the Air Ministry Historical Branch, the author Mr Dennis Richards stated: “The primary purpose of these raids was to goad the Germans into undertaking reprisal raids of a similar character on Britain. Such raids would arouse intense indignation in Britain against Germany and so create a war psychosis without which it is impossible to carry on a modern war.”9
It would appear that the British people were beginning to tire of what was clearly a European civil war over matters which were of no interest or concern of Britain’s, and that Churchill’s War Cabinet was determined to goad the Germans into attacking Britain’s civilian population to put some fight into them.
At this time also, Stalin’s Communist Russia was reeling from the Wehrmacht’s onslaught as Hitler’s Germany sought to remove the menace of world communism once and for all. Stalin was in a blind panic which was increased by the knowledge that he could no longer count on the Red Army to defend his slave empire. Wherever the victorious German Army appeared, they were regarded as saviours liberating Russia and its vassal states from their Communist rulers. Tens of thousands of Red Army soldiers were joining Hitler’s legions and the counter-revolution was sweeping all before it. Russian cities, largely undefended by cowed populations, fell to the German Armies and Stalin, Churchill’s comrade-in-arms loudly condemned Winston for not doing enough to draw the Germans off. With Georgian cunning, Stalin reasoned that German bombers could not attack Kiev while they were attacking Coventry. German bombers and fighter planes could not be in two places at the same time. In Stalin’s twisted mind, Russia was making all the sacrifices and Churchill had to be leaned on to draw the German armed forces off.
J. M. Spaight, the Principal Secretary to the Air Ministry, later wrote in his book Bombing Vindicated: “It gave Coventry and Birmingham, Sheffield and Southampton, the right to look Kiev and Kharkov, Stalingrad and Sebastopol, in the face. Our Soviet allies would have been less critical of our inactivity if they had understood what we had done.”
The facts are beyond dispute. German bombers were, in the words of this authoritative official source, invited to bomb Britain’s cities to relieve pressure on Russia’s cities. A British housewife’s life in exchange for a Russian woman’s life. It is true and fair to say that a further reason for the Germans being goaded into attacking British cities was to relieve pressure on British airfields but in general, the Luftwaffe’s bombers that attacked British cities had not been used to a great extent for attacking British airfields.
The air attacks on German cities increased and had become a regular feature of German life. But abruptly on the morning of 15 July 1943, the skies over Germany became clear of bombers. An eerie silence settled over the entire German nation. The absence of the incessant drone from the sky was unfamiliar and Germans looked wonderingly at each other as they emerged from their cellars and air raid shelters. There was even talk that a secret peace agreement had been signed. This profound silence was to last ten days and there was good reason for it. The allies were preparing for ‘Operation Gomorrah.’
As 24 July 1943 came to an end and the sun slipped down behind the western horizon, the scents and sounds of another English summer’s day were submerged by the activities surrounding events as nearly 800 heavy bombers were made ready for declaring war on a great city. Over 5,000 British airmen, pilots, co-pilots, bombardiers and navigators, radio operators and gunners were preparing to take part in the first assault wave of an air armada that in ten days would erase from the face of the earth one of European oldest and loveliest cities.
As darkness descended, English airfields vibrated to the roar of nearly 4,000 of the most powerful air engines devised by man. Each bomber was being positioned for a long nose-to-tail lumbering take-off. The engines screamed on full throttle while pilots checked their instruments. Their brakes stayed firmly on while the pilots waited for the signal to go. Finally it was given and the brakes were released. The bombers; Lancasters and Halifaxes sluggishly moved down the runways trying to pick up speed yet handicapped by huge bomb loads.
In each, everything had been sacrificed to enable them to carry the heaviest possible bomb load and incendiary devices. The Lancaster could carry a bomb load of seven tons. In weight, that is the equivalent of a double-decker bus. It could carry monstrous bombs weighing several tons each. The Halifax likewise could carry a bomb load of seven tons and cruise at a speed of 230 miles per hour. On the ground the bombers were cumbersome, although the sense of their power was overwhelming as these monster aircraft lurched awkwardly down the runways. It was an awesome spectacle. Each of the aircraft’s four propellers chewed hungrily at the air, dragging the reluctant fuselage along and slowly increasing its speed until 60 to 70 miles per hour was reached. Then, each tail slowly started to lift as the pressure of air increased beneath the aircraft. Finally, the wheels grudgingly left the tarmac and became airborne, and the bombers clawed to increase their height.
This air armada of nearly 1,000 bombers took their bearings from English coasts and then as one they headed out over the North Sea towards Germany. Leading the pack were the Pathfinders – a corps d’elite made up of the most experienced and skilled crews. In the armada itself were 51 bombers that would not take part in the attack on Hamburg. They were decoys. They were to break off from the main body to swing towards other coastal areas as a ploy to confuse the German defences. As they did so, these bombers and others too would release thousands of strips of tinfoil called ‘window’ and these would appear on German radar screens as enemy aircraft to cause further confusion. German fighter planes directed by ground control units would search the skies vainly for a non-existent enemy. By the time they realised that the British are attacking Hamburg, it would be too late for them to do anything about it. They would find that the earth beneath the air armada had been torn apart and that a large section of their homeland had become a sea of flames.
During the day, Hamburg’s citizens had already been inconvenienced by two false air raid alarms but when the sirens start screaming again at 24 minutes past midnight, they dutifully went once more to their air raid shelters. The silence of the night was broken again at 33 minutes past midnight and moments later, the urgent shrieking of the warnings was drowned out by the roar of nearly 1,000 bombers. Already the first deadly rain of landmines, high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices was falling on the city. All hell broke loose and no words can adequately convey the awesome spectacle that unfolded before the eyes of people watching from the safety of small towns beyond Hamburg itself.
The clean night air of summer was broken by countless flickering, wavering searchlights as they stabbed at the darkness seeking an airborne enemy for the flak guns to aim at. The combined noise of the air armada, air raid sirens, and anti-aircraft guns firing made speech impossible. The din on the ears was enough to make some people lose their senses. The darkness of the night sky, now broken by the searchlights and the jogged bursts of flak was lightened by a more ominous glow as bombs struck the city and incendiaries thudded through houses and buildings setting them ablaze.
The flames spread through the city as the very air itself throbbed to the drumming roar of hundreds and hundreds of heavy bombers overhead. Smoke started to rise from the city; first as many hundreds of individual columns but soon to become one column of cloying, choking gases. Beneath this black shroud, flames danced. Some were hundreds of feet high, swirling from building to building. Shock waves from the falling bombs could be felt running through the ground several miles away. As onlookers watched from a safe distance and the horizon became a sea of flickering flames, they were mesmerised by the awesome sight. Their minds became numbed by the horror that unfolded before them for they knew that in those flames, thousands of their fellow countrymen, including women and children, were being done to death.
For the city’s German defenders, the misery was increased, for against the swirling clouds of tinfoil being dropped by the bombers, their searchlights and their anti-aircraft guns were virtually useless. Ground defences were thrown into turmoil for both searchlights and anti-aircraft guns were radar controlled. The apparatus which normally guides the searchlight beams and gun sights to their targets had seemingly become deranged. The apparatus reported bombers where there weren’t any. The beams of light wandered aimlessly, stabbing uselessly in all directions. Far above the confusion, a bomber’s pilot reported exultantly: “They waved aimlessly in every direction. It was a beautiful sight to see.”
In Hamburg itself, the fire defences were completely overwhelmed. Bomber Harris’s prediction was coming true and the old dry timbered medieval sections of the city were ablaze from one end of the city to the other. High-explosive bombs had smashed water mains and firemen looked on helplessly as the flames leapt from building to building. The noise was beyond all previous experience. Every explosive device known to man was pouring down on the city. The sound smashed the ears, it stunned the brain. People, terrified out of their wits, succumbed to violent spasms and shaking. From all quarters could be heard shouts; and above the shouts, the shrieks of pain, madness, agony, terror, anguish and horror. It was not until twelve hours after the Lancasters and Halifaxes had left that the full horror was gauged. The city’s officials were appalled at the numbers killed for during that two and a half hours attack, 1,500 citizens of Hamburg had been killed and many times that number mutilated and maimed beyond all practical help.
All gas, water, electricity mains had been destroyed. Devastation was everywhere. The world famous Hagenbeck Zoo had been totally destroyed and pieces of animals were scattered in the area.
The radio operators in the Lancasters and Halifaxes were beside themselves with glee as they listened on their radios to the confused shouts on the German radio waves as for two and a half hours, their bombers poured 2,396 tons of bombs onto the stricken city below. The first air raid was terrifying in the extreme to the people of Hamburg. Large parts of their city were in flames and the suburb of Barbeck on the left bank of the Alster was almost completely destroyed. The suburbs of Hoheluft, Elmsbuttel and Altona, and the inner city too were likewise desolated. They had no way of knowing that pro-Zionist Winston Churchill had embarked on a coldly calculated policy of wiping Hamburg and as many of its citizens as possible off the face of the earth, that the night’s horrifying event was just an appetiser for Bomber Command and that in ten days time, their city would be no more, that it would resemble nothing more or less than a desert of bomb craters and crumbling shells of burned out buildings.
That night’s bombing was just a grim foretaste of what was yet to come. For perhaps the first time in the history of mankind, one European nation was to utilise technological advantage to raze to the ground whole cities without any thought of sparing the inhabitants, innocent or otherwise. This is terror-bombing designed for no other purpose but to instil in a population a boundless fear, a mindless terror. What the Red Army could do with barbaric Asiatic hordes, the Western allies could do with bomber armadas.
When the dawn came a nightmare was revealed. A thick yellow mantle of chemical dust overhung the city and fires bellowed smoke and fumes to add to it. People were in a state of severe shock. Others appeared at first to be rational and composed until one looked into their eyes, which mirrored the horrors they had seen. Of these people, thousands wandered away over the ruins and out of the city hardly knowing or caring where their faltering steps took them. They were hardly clear of the city when behind them, they heard the sirens screaming once more. It was then twenty minutes to three in the afternoon and the bombs began to fall once more on the paralysed, terrorised city. This time it was the U.S. Air Force. To them the days, to the R.A.F., the nights.
The following 48 hours were broken by repeated air raid warnings, feints and minor bombing attacks. And then, on the night of 27 July, an attack was to come that would mortally wound this great city of north Germany.
It began at twenty-four minutes to midnight and the scream of thousands of bombs ripped the night apart. The sound of high-velocity bombs to people sheltering from them can only be likened to that of an express train screaming through one’s home. The sky, had it been light, would have been darkened anyway by the awe-inspiring phalanx of 1,000 bombers in perfect formation, pouring across the city’s skies in a never-ending train of destruction. Only fifteen minutes after this first onslaught, Hamburg was finished. There was no need to wreak further damage. Industry had come to a halt, the docks were useless, the people were incapable of helping the war effort. To all intents and purposes, the city of Hamburg as a going concern had ceased to exist. It had become a flaming inferno from one end to the other. The only differences worth commenting on were that some parts of the city were totally destroyed, others partially devastated but all normal life or anything approaching it had ended.
The fires were so intense that an entire house would disappear as completely and as quickly as would a piece of paper thrown onto a fire burning in a grate at home. Within thirty minutes of the first attack, two out of every three buildings in an area of six square miles were burning. Yet the bombers continued to empty their cargoes of death on the stricken city. The most heavily populated area of Hamburg was doomed.
There was no wind in Hamburg that night but the fires created their own wind. Hamburg was a city that was dead except for the intense flickering of flames and ignited gases. That which remained of the terrified population was underground: sheltering and knowing that exposure on the streets would almost certainly result in a quick and horrible death. The heat was so intense that phenomena previously unknown to man began to occur. Parts of buildings simply burst into flames although no flame had been near them. Flames, hundreds of feet in length, danced and waved in the air unattached to any combustible material. Pockets of air heated to incredible density exploded.
It became possible to see air moving. The flames of the doomed city needed oxygen and the breeze feeding the fires became a stiff wind wafting through the avenues and streets leading into the city. As a million flames embraced and became one in a multi-mile inferno, the winds became gales and partially destroyed buildings began to collapse in the fast-moving streams of air. Flaming wreckage was picked up and hurled through streets and into the city itself. Never in the history of man have such scenes been witnessed. Balls of fire were leaping into the air and exploding.
Gales shrieked as the countryside surrounding the mutilated city was starved of air. It began to look as though the very skies above Hamburg were on fire. For the tens of thousands of lost-souls in their air raid shelter sanctuaries, escape was hopeless. The condition outside of their shelters were such that survival could be measured in minutes if not moments. They sealed the doors tight and bolted themselves inside little knowing that they had sealed their own tombs and that they would never again set eyes on their city. There was no escape but some did try. They were totally unprepared for what they were to see. The neighbourhood that they had known all their lives had disappeared. Greeting them was an unrecognisable flaming desert. Roads had disappeared under rubble and here and there, charred corpses lay in grotesque positions. Having ventured out into the searing heat of the blistering city, they became bewildered and panic-stricken, stumbling through avenues of debris, blinded by fumes, gasping for air until they collapsed through a combination of heat, smoke and terror.
And the worst was yet to come.
Hamburg presented a vision of what the inner-earth must look like, or the fiery wastes of the sun’s surface. The sounds of the screaming winds competed with the deafening crackle of thousands of fires. Explosions filled the air and tar on the roads became liquid, rippling and moving slowly. It was a sight never before seen by man and in terms of lives lost and buildings damaged, far exceeded the damage done to atom-bombed Nagasaki. In such heat as this, everything, literally everything, burned. Gases vomited from stricken buildings. Super-heated gases travelling at incredible velocity seared the skies as high as the earth’s troposphere, an incredible 40,000 feet above the city itself. Still the bombers came and the pillar of twisting smoke and gases reached five miles higher than the bombers themselves. This was a firestorm.
The air above Hamburg was pure flame. Six square miles of Hamburg had become engulfed in the world’s greatest fire and merely looking at the blinding heat and light could terrorise and destroy the mind. There were no longer any individual blazes and the winds relentlessly feeding the flames were sucked in at higher and higher speeds. Even out in the suburbs it was like no ordinary wind. Such winds as we all experience each day of our lives swirl in eddies and gusts. They blow this way at one corner, another way at the next corner. But these winds showed no variation in direction or speed. The wind flowed into the city at a constant speed. During the early stages these winds had reached forty and then fifty miles per hour.
Ninety minutes after the first bombs fell, trees on the outskirts of the city were beginning to lose their leaves. It was as though some giant supernatural vacuum cleaner was sucking them off. Small branches were snapped off and the natural debris of the streets was picked up as though by some unseen hand and swirled away, bouncing off the shells of buildings but always sucked in one direction. Outside the city’s perimeter, tens of thousands of people had gathered to witness that which no man had witnessed before them. A whole city had become a throbbing inferno of intense heat. They watched as a column of flame a mile wide reached the inner limits of space. This surely was a night when God wept!
The winds reached supernatural speeds and far exceeded tornado or hurricane velocities. It flattened flames. It turned the city into one gigantic flame thrower or blow torch. Flames many hundreds of feet long were caught in the blast of wind and seared through streets where thousands of people still huddled in the open, hiding behind partly demolished walls, cowering in alleys. These unfortunates were incinerated and their shrieks of terror and pain mingled and were lost in the screaming wind and crackling firestorm. It will never be known how many such people simply disappeared as though they had never walked the earth. Not even a few charred bones marked their presence on earth. It is estimated that the winds feeding the blazing city reached speeds as high as 150 miles per hour, maybe more. This is twice that of hurricane force and at such speeds, trees three feet in diameter were sucked out of the ground and hurled into the flames.
For those of us whose knowledge of fire is limited to our experience of man-made controllable ones, such heat as was generated in the firestorm of Hamburg is beyond all comprehension. The temperatures reached 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. At such temperatures, lead becomes a bubbling fluid as liquid as water itself. Balks of wood simply explode without necessarily coming in contact with flame. Metal, rubber, and glass melts.
The fire – for the city was literally a fire – threw flames three miles up into the sky and its gases reached as high again and more. It was a sight so spectacular and horrifying that the well known effect of an atom-bomb explosion becomes relatively lesser. As the fire’s superheated gases boiled upwards, they passed through a stratum of cold air high above the city. The debris in the soaring flames and smoke attracted moisture and caused a meteorological reaction. The natural elements combined to reject the debris which was transformed and fell to the earth once more in big greasy black rain blobs.
For those still trapped in the city there could be no escape but being human, many tried. Some judged that it was better to attempt escape through the blazing streets than to take their chances in the stifling heat of the oxygen-deprived shelters. Perhaps they had been deceived by seeing an acre or two of relative calm, minor crackling fires Such areas were as deceptive as the calm eye of a hurricane storm. Rushing out into the streets, they would soon run into a wall of flame. Retreating, some would look for another way and perish whilst others realising the hopelessness of their situation would stagger back to their shelter’s door. Battering uselessly on the door for admission as the flames licked around the corner and down basement steps, their twitching bodies were consumed by the flames.
For those in the shelters the heat became unbearable. They gasped for air uselessly. Some fainted and weaker, especially older people, had heart seizures. Children became hysterical and mothers were out of their minds with fear and horror. They had only one overwhelming urge and that was to flee and they did so, ripping open doors and rushing blindly into the heat-seared streets. There was no escape. They were doomed.
Firebrands coined down on them. The air was filled with choking gases and whirling embers of fire. One might as well try to dodge raindrops in a thunderstorm. The blazing firebrands stuck to clothing and to flesh and mothers, their children – and children who had lost their parents – ran screaming through the blazing streets. Such was the heat that as they ran, many simply burst into flame. They beat madly at their hair, their eyes, or whatever parts of the body was on fire and they ran in directions that no longer had any meaning or purpose. Out of their minds, they staggered, often running blindly into walls. They would stumble, pick themselves up and run a few more feet and the least fortunate ones lost their reason and became demented in their final moments. Others burst into flames. Some, beside themselves, dashed unseeing into fires and many just ran until they could run no further and collapsed to fall twitching in the bubbling street tar.
These is no cause in the world save that of Satanism which justifies the horror that was callously inflicted upon Hamburg during that ten day period. It was more than a blot on Britain’s coat of arms. It was a reminder that in mankind dwells the devil himself as well as the Lord, and that the arbiter between the two is our own conscience.
When innocent people and in particular, children, become an enemy to be disposed of using the most refined methods of torture, then whatever cause is championed is degraded. It no longer serves idealism or freedom once evil is recruited as an ally. There are many people motivated by high and noble ideals who will become so enslaved by those ideals that they lose all claim to nobility or even humanity. They will commit any crime, sell their souls to the devil to see victory theirs. Those who declare war on children declare war on God, and in Hamburg that night, and in tens of other German cities, children suffered as children have never suffered before.
Corpses found in the shelters. Most likely carbon monoxide was the killer: the increasing heat afterwards blackened the bodies.
Of the children during those dreadful nights, what can be said? Their fright became horror and then panic when their tiny minds became capable of grasping the fact that their parents could no longer help them in their distress. As Martin Caidin surmised, they lost their reason and an overwhelming terror took over. Their world had become the shrieking centre of an erupting volcano from which there could be no physical escape. Nothing that hell offered could be feared more. By the hand of man they became creatures, human in form but not in mind. Strangled noises issued from them as they staggered pitifully through the streets in which tar and asphalt ran as streams. Some of these tiny creatures ran several hundred feet. Others managed only twenty, maybe ten feet. Their shoes caught fire and their feet, the lower parts of their legs became flickering sticks of flame. Here were Joan of Arcs... thousands of them. All who had perished unjustly on the fires of the Middle Ages were as nothing when compared with what was happening this night. The sounds of many were unintelligible and undoubtedly many more called for their- parents from whom they were parted by death or by accident. They grasped their tortured limbs, their tiny burning legs until they were no longer able to stand or run. And then they would crash to the ground where they would writhe in the bubbling tar until death released them from physical misery.
How I wish that this were nothing more than sensational writing. These are not my words but a descriptive account by Martin Caidin who as an academic is not given to sensationalising emotive subjects. In his book The Night Hamburg Died he describes how “the fire instantly embraces them in curling tongues, sets aflame their clothes, their hair and their skin, rushes into their mouths and burns out their tongues even as they scream soundlessly from throats already blackening, already steaming with the evaporation of the body liquids.” Oh, what a price is paid for national self-righteousness. But for whom does the till ring?
There was no end to the horror. For those on the streets still, heat was a constant goad to movement and move they did until they too were consumed by the flames and heat. Those who were destined to escape were tragically few. Deprived of shelters for many reasons, thousands of civilians ran without reason or direction and as they did so, superheated air rushed past tongues that had become swollen and blackened. Air passages to the lungs rasped through having become as crisp and dry as leather bellows. Lungs seemed to explode agonisingly with each tortured breath. Imagine the horror of those last to die in such groups. They dashed in a frenzy along open spaces and in front of them, a man, a woman, a child burst into flames.
Hamburg is a city that has its fair share of waterways, canals and dock basins, and thousands of people sought a watery refuge. They sought salvation in the waters grown brackish that ran in threads through their city. Those who had survived the fiery streets threw themselves into such waters even as the heat seared their flesh; a heat that had already scorched their hair and often their clothes from their bodies. The strongest made it to the middle, to the deeper waters where for hours they trod water dipping their heads repeatedly under the surface to escape the heat of the air. There were many who were unable to swim or were too weak to do so. They would go as deep as they could, standing on their toes and immersing themselves to their chins and they too would constantly duck their heads under the water to escape the unbelievable heat. Still the bombers came in waves.
Despite such efforts, many in the water continued to die from the heat. Large portions of the exposed skin on their faces and necks grew red and swollen, blistered and burst. Eyeballs stood out from their sockets. Great water blisters appeared and burst unfelt and the ruptured folds of skin slithered down raw faces and into gasping mouths. In such ways did countless European civilians die: Men, their wives and sweethearts, their mothers, their children.
Yes, it was the children who suffered most of all. It might be said with much truth that the world’s most renowned writers of horror fiction have never exceeded in descriptions of horrific events, the horror that was visited upon these unfortunate waifs of war. Parents retained a semblance of sanity only through the instinct to keep their children alive. “The children, save the children! Oh God, let them survive!”
It is an instinct that transcends all others and is just as total when all hope is lost and that night, even God had been driven out of Hamburg. That night, the city belonged to Satan.
Standing neck deep in the canals and waterways of burning Hamburg, parents – mostly mothers – held their children aloft so they would not drown. But it was not enough. Their super-human efforts were no match for the horrific events that surrounded them. They kept raising and lowering their children so that the heat did not flay their young skins. They suffered terribly and were unable to even cry out. They gasped for breath when they were pushed under the water; sucking and spluttering they vomited and gasped in the heat when raised above the water. Their hair that so recently had been lovingly combed and cared for steamed and streamed in the heat. Their tongues became swollen and they could not cry out. Only moans and sobs tortured their tormented parents.
For how long did their parents’ strength sustain them? Their energy was depleted, their muscles ached and grew weaker and finally they would subside beneath the water, no longer able to struggle against such overwhelming odds. Their children, left to flounder in the water, weak and terrified into insanity would thrash wildly in the water as an instinctive reaction against drowning.
As the hours passed, more and more bodies floated on the surface. Infants, older children, their mothers and fathers, grandparents. As the corpses floated in the brackenish waters, the clothing still above the surface steamed and then burst into flames as did any visible tufts of hair. The floating cadavers had become burning rafts of horror. Caidin writes: “The corpses are partially alive with flame. Mostly buried, the exposed skin becomes bloated and bursts open in great watery pimples. The skin shrivels and peels and shows the redness beneath. But at least these dead are beyond physical pain...
“Who has been to hell and returned, and can describe the ultimate in horror heaped upon horror? There are those in the waters who suffer indescribable tortures. They remain standing, constantly dousing their pain-wracked faces and necks. Terror and fatigue exert their toll and finally they lack the strength to remain afloat. They stand or half-float in the water while the burning debris spewed into the waters by the fires that surrounded them, float into their faces and sparks stab at their eyes. Tortured by pain, seeking only the sweet oblivion of death, they try to drown themselves and still the bombers roar overhead. They are dropping bombs on top of bombs. They are cratering craters. They are mutilating those who are already mutilated. They are bombing the dead. They are bombing a mortuary. It is as though the bombers no longer have control of themselves but are in the grip of some monstrous force.”
Caidin describes the scenes of horror in which thousands of people lost their lives. He describes relatives screaming for one another as they become separated and lost forever. Many of the fleeing refugees wrap themselves in wet blankets or soak their clothes but live long enough only to become insane from the visions of the horrors that survive them. Even in these cases, the clothes steam, grow dry and finally burst into flames. The tortured demented souls fling themselves on the ground, thrashing and flinging themselves about, their feet drumming in agony, their hands clutching at their faces in self inflicted unknowing pain. And then they are still and no more.
In the midst of so much carnage, there is the shrieking wind feeding the inferno. It is so powerful that it tugs and pulls at partially destroyed buildings until their walls collapse. Huge balks of timber, debris of all sorts is dragged by screaming winds along streets in flames. Imagine the horror as those alive fling their arms around trees to save themselves from being sucked along by the wind only to feel the tree that they clutch being itself torn from the ground. It is no exaggeration to describe events in which men, women and children, already burning alive, being swept helplessly along roads, caught up in the clutching fingers of wind and hurled bodily into the flames. They were as helpless as dried autumn leaves floating on the eddying winds that surround a bonfire.
Through 2,000 years of Christianity, the world’s most imaginative and inspired artists have depicted hell as they have imagined it in all of its horror. Yet each description leaves us unmoved once compared with such events as these. As bombers roared overhead and winds far beyond hurricane force screamed about them, thousands of survivors pressed towards canals and waterways that were already filled with doomed souls. There was no room in the waters for more yet still they came on, pressed forward by the fires behind them. The people in the canals standing and floating shoulder to shoulder screamed at those on the banks to stay there. They may just as well have screamed at the flames for the hordes of terrified people who pressed forward had no choice. To stop would have denied life to themselves, their families, their children. They plunged into the waters, their feet and arms striking those already there. Some were suffocated or drowned in the pressing assault of half-mad human beings. Wedged like sticks, they burned, suffocated and died yet still the crowds pressed forward until what had once been a canal became a snake of sorts that squirmed and wriggled between blazing buildings. Of those who still survived, many did so at the expense of weaker ones whose bodies were now beneath their feet and all around them in the turgid waters. In the shallows, the heaped mounds of corpses burned with bluish flickering flames yet even there life remained as occasionally, a mound would feebly jerk.
This was Hamburg experiencing the ultimate in barbarism, in wanton savagery that arguably had no precedent in the history of mankind.
It is impossible to imagine, let alone document each individual private horror. Merely touching the surface of events is depressing enough. Children were torn shrieking from the parents’ arms by the wind. They were flung head over heels, tumbling crazily down burning roads and into the infernos while their demented mothers half-ran, half-dragged after them. People are sent physically reeling as unseen fists of exploding air currents slam them in all directions. After the holocaust was over, one could still see the finger marks in the roads where people, out of their minds with terror, had clutched the road’s surface to save themselves from being swept up in the wind’s tidal race. Frantically, they attempted to save themselves from being incinerated alive. Their mouths were open but they were unable to scream out and their eyes appealed with animal pain. Their attempts to save themselves were useless against a wind that picked up cars and trucks as though they were toys, and hurled them into the all-consuming inferno.
In the shelters, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people suffered a different but no less horrifying fate as the world blazed above them. In many cases, no flames ever did touch them but they died all the same. Nobody survived the firestorm area. Not a man, woman or child. The entire area was sterilised. Not even insects lived through this holocaust.
In these shelters, the huddled, apprehensive and bewildered civilians could only guess at the horrors taking place above them. They sat, dimly aware of others sitting or lying beside them in the darkness, waiting and conserving their ebbing strength. Their breathing became shallow and rapid as the oxygen they needed so much began to disappear. It was feeding the flames above. For some, death came slowly and compared with the deaths of others, pleasantly. It came in the form of slow suffocation. They went to sleep and never awoke. They never knew when their heart stopped beating.
Groups of people, especially families, clung to each other in the blackness or the semi-darkness of their shelters. They embraced. Mothers held their children tightly, murmuring comforting expressions of hope as the raging firestorm shrieked somewhere high above them. Thus they died. Long after the last person had lapsed into the arms of death, the heat continued to rise in the shelters, the subways, the cellars far beneath the burning streets. No flame ever touched them but thick glass bottles grew soft and then melted into shapeless pools of molten fluid. Kitchen tools, knives, forks, pans, melted and formed pools of cloying liquid. The bricks began to glow and burn, throbbing with intense heat until such heat far surpassed the temperatures that had once created them. Finally, they crumbled into dust in these ovens of intense heat. It will be a long time before these shelters are opened again and when they are, men will look upon sights that mankind has never before witnessed, and hopefully. never will again.
Mixed in with the molten glass and metal, they will find hideous mounds of half-human remains. Such mounds are mostly dust or viscous fluid. Such mounds are their fellow citizens. Some of these shelters had to be left alone for as long as two weeks after the holocaust had ended, the heat was so intense. Each day, decontamination crews discovered thousands more corpses to add to their stupefying lists. Counting the bodies was a hopeless task. Some of the shelters had held hundreds of people yet they had disappeared without trace, buried beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings. Often when shelters were opened, workers had to run for their lives. As they opened the shelter’s door, air was sucked into the overheated oxygen-starved interior and the shelter’s interior would explode in flames. Some had to be left many weeks to cool down.
In most of the shelters, the number of corpses could only be guessed at. The bodies had melted into the debris and congealed with mangled, melted glass and iron, and brick turned into mounds of fine dust. Often just a few scorched bones remained: a man’s, a woman’s, a child’s?
The decontamination teams entered some shelters to find lifeless men worsen and children, often in family groups lying as though asleep. In some cases, a family group might be sitting around a table, slumped or sitting just as they had died. It was as though they were asleep. Death had come to them without warning. They had died through carbon monoxide poisoning but the heat had never touched them.
There were yet other shelters where the teams found signs of terror and panic. They discovered people who in their final moments had clawed insanely at walls, or had flung their bodies at walls and pillars. Bodies were frequently found lying in thick pools of greasy black substance which was subsequently found to be melted human fat. All kinds of strange phenomena were discovered as the teams of sickened weary relief workers entered the shelters. They discovered bodies that had been burned to a crisp long after the victim had died. The oxygen allowed in to the shelter by their arrival was all that was needed to cause the cadaver to burst into flames. Other shelters contained only heaps of ash with scattered bone from which it was concluded were the remains of another victim.
Modern warfare has reached new levels of barbarism largely because of man’s ingenuity in devising weapons that have results of which the pilot can hardly be aware. Then, as today, the pilot and the plane’s crew where spared the ordeal of witnessing the result of his pressing the fire button. Thomas Kiernan, the American author, described with great clarity a personal tragedy that in itself was so insignificant to the world at large that no more than two or three people witnessed it, and fewer cared to record it. Yet, it effectively explains why old rules of combat and chivalry play no part in modern warfare. He described what happened when an American jet, armed with American weapons and piloted by a Jew, attacked a Palestinian settlement.
“A human figure materialised out of the gloom, an eerie, unintelligible chant issuing from what was once its lips. Stumbling, weaving, then falling to its knees and crawling, it crept towards us. It was a child and its charred skin was literally melting, leaving a trail of viscous fluid in its wake. Its face had no recognisable features. The top of its skull shone through the last layer of scorched membrane on its head. Not more than ten yards from us it fell on its side, its kneecaps exposed like yokes of poached eggs. It twitched once or twice in the dust, gave a final wheeze, and then went still in the puddle of molten flesh that formed around it in the dust.”
“Next to me, Albricht was being sick. I tasted my own vomit in my throat.”
The pilot of the aircraft undoubtedly ate his meal that evening with great relish. He had not seen the result of his day’s work. So it was with Hamburg and sixty other German cities not to mention Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki which between them lost 250,000 people in just three air raids. I am well aware that such a critical view may appear to be partisan but this account concerns itself only with terror-bombing and its consequences. There are many excellent books on bombing as a legitimate act of war but that is something which is quite different and totally different from the policy of saturation bombing for the purpose of terrorising and destroying a civilian population.
The British bombers flew in darkness and rarely saw other aircraft. High in the night skies, each crew was a tiny community fulfilling an unemotional task as best they could do in the dim light of the aircraft’s interior. They saw the flames below but could hardly imagine the scenes of carnage below them. Theirs was a distant, perhaps academic view of events. They knew that the air raid sirens were sounding in the city below when the overhead electric flashes of the city’s tramcars ceased. From a hundred miles off, they could see the flames. From 15,000 feet they could see individual fires but often they were denied the sight of mile after mile of fires because of smoke clouds. However, even pilots far removed from the horrors described knew that what was happening was a completely new and terrible kind of warfare.
“It was murder in the city. I knew that the firestorms that came later were terrible and unlike anything that had ever happened, but the fires in the city were as had as anything I’d ever seen in the whole war so far – and I’d been along on a goodly portion of the major attacks.”
He went on to say, “I never had the chance to see the firestorm in full strength. Many of the other fellows did, and their stories were almost beyond belief. A few of the Lancs got caught in the flue of superheated air as they passed over the city at 16,000, and it was as if they were nothing more than wood chips in a storm at sea. The pilots told me that they had no control over their aircraft any longer. They were thrown about by the heat and even flipped over on their backs. Everything sort of went to hell until the Lancs managed to get free of the severe turbulence.
“We were at 16,000 feet. Everybody was still tossing ‘window’ tinfoil out of their aircraft, and we howled in glee as we listened in on the Jerry wireless and heard them going crazy.”
Condemnation can come easy but whether or not it would be justified is something that could be argued from both points of view. The really smart dog goes not for the stick that beats it, but the hand that holds it. Those powerful men such as Churchill, Lindemann and others were so much aware of the consequences of their actions, and indeed had engineered them for the precise results that they were now getting. By no stretch of the imagination could it be said that they were unaware of the consequences. These powerful men held the power of life and death over millions of their fellow human beings and irresponsibly abused that power. Such terror-bombing was a policy that had no other purpose than to satisfy their bloodlust. High-ranking members of the inner circles of power, in the Armed Forces also, argued against the policy of terror-bombing not only on moral grounds but on strategic grounds. They were dispensed with in as brief a manner as were Stalin’s underlings who disagreed with him.
Responsibility for the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of German civilians lies with Churchill. His, too, for the needless deaths of thousands of British civilians who died in raids of retaliation. And last but not least, responsibility lies heavy with him who in order to initiate his bloodlust, his pathetic scrabbling for personal power, sacrificed no less than 55,888 British airmen who died during the bomber offensive. This figure represents nearly the number of British junior army officers who died during the entire First World War.
There is no doubt that had the war ended other than as it did, or had the Nuremberg Trials been administered by neutral countries such as Sweden, Switzerland, or Chile, Churchill and his closest advisors would have ended their lives at the end of a rope, and justifiably so. That Churchill’s statue stands today in Parliament Square is no more a monument to his greatness than is a statue of Lenin or Stalin in Moscow’s Red Square.
Words, even in a language as rich and descriptive as English, fail to convey the sheer horror that faced survivors of the Hamburg holocaust. The putrid stench of decaying corpses, the sickening sweetish smell of roasted human flesh warped the mind and seared the soul. It polluted mile after mile of the devastated city. The mere act of breathing, albeit shallow breaths, was enough to induce violent vomiting yet breathe people must. It is a city that is no more, yet the life that is left must go on and thousands of survivors dejectedly scrambled from the ruins to do what they could. They endured the ultimate in grief yet were denied by circumstances even the opportunity to search for their own loved ones.
The streets of Hamburg were covered in corpses in various stages of decay and destruction. Death had chosen its victims indiscriminately. There were mothers and their children, mounds of dead babies from maternity homes and schoolchildren. One could see rows of corpses of old people who had perished in a nearby old folks’ home. Here and there, a body of a lone child would be found, or the body of a young lady who days earlier had concerned herself with the latest hit song or a letter from her boyfriend at the front. There were men and women, lying often in absurd postures who had recently lived with dignity. Many were now shrivelled and charred objects in the rubble-strewn roads. Here again there was hitherto unknown phenomena. Bodies were found that were burned beyond recognition yet clothes were untouched by fire. There were naked bodies that appeared to bear no violent marks or signs of burning. Many had died through sheer overwhelming fright. In this one begins to grasp the magnitude of the tragedy for in reality, unless under totally exceptional circumstances, the human being is resilient and is not easily given to dying of fright. Many survive truly horrible traumatic experiences. Yet it was later revealed that no less than 12.6% of those who died in those ten days, did so through shock.
Thousands of bodies were naked; they resembled the wax dummies in tailors’ shops. Some looked peaceful in death whilst others were cramped in agony. Imagine, here was a city similar in size to Manchester or Birmingham, in which over 100,000 people had lost their lives. Many times that number had been maimed or otherwise badly injured. Another 750,000 people had been made homeless. Think of a city comparable in size to any major British city and consider what it would be like to pick your way through the rubble from one end of it to the other. To find in that area over 100,000 of your fellow citizens dead in the rubble. And weep because it had no affect whatsoever on the course of the war other than to lengthen it. As one analyst put it: “The brutal allied air offensive against Germany proved to be costly, ineffective and of doubtful morality.”10 I’ll say it was! One might say it was Hobson’s choice as to whether it was better to be ‘liberated’ by Britain’s war lords or Moscow’s hordes of raping, looting Asiatics.
The British people of course had no way of knowing what was being done in their name and as we have seen, even M.P.’s were victims of a conspiracy to deny and hide the facts. It is beyond doubt that the British people and people of other nations engaged in the war with Germany would never have tolerated carnage on such a scale, particularly as it brought nothing but misery for our side too. Only now, many years after the war’s end, is the full truth available and then only for the scholar diligent enough to go to the trouble to seek it out. Such few books that do deal with this and related tragedies are given the orchestrated cold-shoulder by the British media. Yet this same media wastes no time in giving full publicity to tales of Jewish suffering, even those tales of dubious authenticity. And so, by means other than outright censorship, the lies and cover-ups continue to distort opinion.
But there is one element in this dreadful and pitiful episode which was so appalling that the allied high command went to great lengths to hide all trace of it. This was the use of, and the consequences of, using phosphorous bombs on a civilian population. Even today no British television or radio station or newspaper would dare to mention its consequences for fear of the revulsion it would cause.
Martin Caidin who, as previously stated, is perhaps better qualified than any man living to comment on the effects of terror-bombing, who as an author has probably researched more material related to terror-bombing than any other, spent years trying to get details of the use of phosphorous. In his own words, he has “met with less than the success required by the historian to include the episode in a documentary book.”
He says: “Perhaps the solution to the total absence of any reference in official (post-war) German documents is explained in the story told to me by a U.S. Army officer, who learned that portions of the documents on the after-effects of the Hamburg attacks were ordered to be destroyed and all references to the surviving victims of phosphorous bombs stricken forever from the records.”11
Nevertheless, it has been established that the British weaponry used in the holocaust of Hamburg included many bombs of which the incendiary contents were phosphorous. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey reports officially on these phosphorous bombs, stating, “Phosphorous burns were not infrequent,” but that most such burns “occurred in people who had come in contact with unexploded phosphorous canisters lying about in the streets or in the rubble.”
Even in such a telling statement such as this, one smells the whiff of guilt. Note the wording carefully. Perhaps Germans inquisitively strolled the streets, sticking their fingers into the contents of unexploded bombs to see what they felt and tasted like! And the phosphorous bombs of course had obligingly fallen on buildings, carefully avoiding people as they sprayed their murderous contents. An official British source was a little more honest when it gave as its reason for using phosphorous: “because its demonstrated ability to depress the morale of the Germans.”12
Wouldn’t the rack, or beating to death on the wheel, served the same purpose just as well but a little more humanely? What is so special about phosphorous that the allied High Command has gone to such lengths to hide? Simply this. As a refinement to barbarism, it has no equal and it is doubtful if it ever will have, except those found in the pits of the KGB’s torture chambers in Moscow’s Lubianka Prison.
It is one thing to fight an incendiary bomb which can at least be put out using ordinary means – and which soon burns itself out anyway. It is quite another thing to face a bomb that no matter which way it is handled, persists in flaring into life again and again. And which furthermore will stick grimly to anything that it touches: brick, wood, concrete, steel... and human flesh. Whatever the material, the phosphorous clings tenaciously to it and continues to burn unless scraped off. Imagine the effect of that on a human body, not to speak of a child’s body. One can only stand back in mute horror at the minds of those who dreamed such a satanic weapon up and authorised its use to “depress the morale of the Germans.”
There was one incident in the Hamburg holocaust which is on record and which stands as testimony to the use of phosphorous which incidentally is still used today in the Jewish-Arab conflict. This incident happened at the height of the bombing. It was at that most awful period earlier described when the whole city was engulfed in flames, tens of thousands were already dead, and many more were on the verge of death. Among those thousands cornered in the inferno were several hundred people who were trapped in a dense shower of phosphorous bombs. The injury to those poor souls was immediate.
The exploding phosphorous bombs sprayed their contents indiscriminately and clothing caught fire and had to be torn from the body quickly otherwise the wearer would suffer terrible nightmarish burns. When the liquid spattered onto people’s hair, the victim was doomed. There was no chance to cut off the hair. The chemical globules, like a burning jelly, burned fiercely setting aflame the entire head and indeed, the head itself burned.
These terrified and pain-wracked people were seen to leap about in a frenzy, dashing their heads against the ground in blind panic – anything to douse the flames. One can extinguish an ordinary fire by smothering it with clothing but such methods were useless against phosphorous. It continued to burn and set afire any material that was thrown over it. Such people in these circumstances could only be left to their sad fate amidst the terrifying background glow of the flaming streets.
They writhed in the rubble-strewn roads with their bodies partially ablaze. Others were nearer to the River Alster and dozens of these shrieking demented souls, trailing tongues of flaming smoke and fire, dashed madly to the water to fling themselves into the lifesaving liquid. Men, women and children too, ran hysterically, falling and stumbling, getting up, tripping and falling again, rolling over and over. Most of them managed to regain their feet and made it to the water. But many of them never made it and were left behind, their feet drumming in blinding pain on the overheated pavements amidst the rubble, until there came one last convulsive shudder from the smoking ‘thing’ on the ground, and then no further movement.
Those who made it to the water found the safety they had sought so desperately – but incredibly, some faced a choice that stuns the mind in its horror. Water prevents phosphorous jelly from burning because it denies the chemical the one thing it needs to burn: oxygen. Those with the blazing chemical on their arms, their legs or their bodies were able to douse the flames by remaining under the water. But many had the phosphorous jelly on their faces or heads. Certainly the spluttering fiery chemicals went out as the victims ducked their heads beneath the water, but the moment they brought their heads up again to break the surface and take a breath of air, the phosphorous immediately burst into flames again. And so such victims were faced with a choice. Death by drowning or death by burning.
While others watched, sick and despairingly, the victims of phosphorous on faces and heads thrashed wildly in the brackish waters, screaming with pain and frustration. Spluttering and choking, they alternately burned alive or drowned. They met a slow and agonising death. Eventually, their wild motions ceased and the froth on the water slowly subsided.
Little wonder that such horrors were “stricken from the records.” One can only imagine the publicity that would have been given to such a method of warfare had Hitler or Mussolini used it.
Those with a mystical mind might dwell on an incident that occurred high in the skies as fleets of bombers churned through the air towards the stricken city. Flight Lieutenant Robert Burr of No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron described how on take off, masses of dense black clouds hung low over England. Climatic conditions were such that they assumed that tonight’s armada would be cancelled. The rain came down in sheets yet the expected recall never came. The bombers would go out that night. Against almost incredible natural odds, fighting turbulent rain and winds, the bombers fought to stay airborne. Winds were striking Robert Burr’s aircraft with gusts of over a hundred miles an hour and bolts of lightening smashed open the blackness of night. The aircraft’s instruments unaccountably went haywire. The airspeed indicator had gone absolutely crazy and was fluctuating between 40 and 50 miles per hour. The altimeter was useless. One moment it would show that the bomber was climbing at 2,000 feet a minute; the next moment, the needle would slap down to indicate that the aircraft was plummeting towards the earth at 3,000 feet a minute. There appeared to be no good reason for such behaviour.
It was a mission in which weather exceeded the danger presented by the enemy, and became a foe much more deadly and effective. At 17,000 feet, the bombers refused to climb anymore but they were at least above the turbulence and they cruised on toward the German coastline between massive banks of cloud. Then, without any warning, nature revealed a hidden weapon. From total darkness lit by brief moments of pale shadowy light oozed a strange new kind of light that slowly clutched at the bomber. It was a form of lightning which is not accompanied by thunder; nor does it rip through the skies in jogged bolts. It is a personal hellish fire, persistent and frightening. The pilot said:
“All the metal parts of the aircraft shone with the blue spikes of St. Elmo’s fire. About a quarter of a mile to port was another aircraft flying on a parallel course. It seemed to be in a mass of flames and I realised that it too, must be covered with St. Elmo’s fire. I stared at this flying beacon and suddenly, as I watched, a streak of lightning split the heavens. There was a huge flash and burning fragments broke away. The blazing wreckage tumbled into the clouds and quickly disappeared.”13
And was it not retributive justice that Franklin Roosevelt, the American President whose bombers flew in daylight with the added refinement of his fighter planes strafing fleeing German refugees, was to be incinerated beyond recognition when he stumbled into the glowing embers of his fireplace at Warm Springs in Georgia?14 Something else which has virtually been “stricken from the records.”
By the morning of 3 August 1943, Hamburg was no more. At least not in any true sense of the word. No less than 6,000 square acres had been utterly gutted. Ruined beyond repair. One can only wonder at the scale of values of ‘historians’ who equate Hamburg or Dresden with Coventry. This is not to minimise in any sense the loss of 380 people who died in Coventry, or the 100 acres lost, but if we can flinch at such ruination, what of 100,000 people killed in Hamburg in a few days and nights? For every person who died in Coventry, no less than 300 people died in Hamburg. How well such comparisons reveal the enormity of this crime which transcends all others and which for a thousand years and more will blacken the names of Britain and America.
Worst of all, it never changed the course of war by one iota. What it undoubtedly did do was instil in the minds of the people of the German nation, that their country was indeed fighting for a higher order of values against a foe so barbaric as to make Atilla and Ghengis Khan appear to be conscientious objectors by comparison. German war production hardly faltered as Albert Speer was to later testify. Certainly such policies lengthened the course of the war and embittered the German Armed Forces to fight with a spirit of vengeance. It is reasonable to assume that thousands of British servicemen and women, and civilians too, died because of Churchill’s penchant for satanic sadistic crimes on an unprecedented scale.
As the great firestorm of Hamburg thundered to its climax, the rampaging fires subsided only when there was simply nothing left to burn. Never in the history of mankind had any community of peoples been so utterly devastated, although a similar fate which later befell Dresden and other German cities certainly equalled it. Sixty percent of the city was destroyed beyond repair. No less than 30 square miles of Hamburg city and its suburbs were badly damaged. Twelve and a half square miles had been completely burned out, making Hiroshima the lesser tragedy. Three hundred thousand dwellings had simply disappeared. If God has ever wept for mankind’s weakness, this was surely the time.
There was one vast area of the city that was simply called ‘the dead zone.’ It was in this area that nothing, absolutely nothing, had survived. It was condoned off and only decontamination and other specialist work units were permitted to enter the ‘dead zone.’ At its edge, survivors huddled in groups. Few of them had mentally survived the holocaust. Those still in the waters of the Alster and other waterways, who had not been burned by phosphorous or otherwise incapacitated by their injuries, made their way as best they could to the far banks of the Alster, or as far away as possible from the utter devastation. Those who couldn’t move any distance or swim across the waters, had no choice but to stay where they were. They remained in the shallows or huddled in craters in the pock-marked desert that had once been a city. They were numb. Some were mentally deranged, and others were suffering from severe shock. Children, many of them now orphans, lay immobilised, their tiny minds paralysed, their pain-wracked bodies destined to live out their physical lives in post-war institutions and mental asylums. Such was the ‘liberation’ of Germany.
In such conditions little or nothing could be done for the victims unless they had the means to survive on their own for a while. There were to few able-bodied people available. Medical supplies and other equipment was scarce. Many in the waters were suffering from heat and water blisters and were in the final stages of agony. Despite their tormented condition, they fought their would-be rescuers violently for they knew that their real agonies would come as their bodies left the water and came into contact with the air.
To the very limits of their ability the people who could come to their aid did so and did all they could to ease the hellish torture of the phosphorous victims still partially submerged with the globules of chemical still adhering to them and threatening to burst into flames as soon as it came into contact with air. Rescuers cried as they gave these victims fresh water to drink. They tried to attend to their visible wounds and burns. But really, there was very little that could be done and many in the water were in effect the living dead.
Their skin in huge folds began to slough off. Burns festered and pus oozed exposing raw meat and muscles that are normally seen only by surgeons carrying out operations. Most of the victims were deranged to some extent and as night fell, the silence that fell on the Alster was broken only by the pitiful moans and the tortured cries of the demented souls still in the water. In the darkness of the night, huddled forms could be seen as intervals, crouching along the banks in the murk, supporting an agonised victim in the water, administering to their needs. As the night wore on huge folds of skin slipped from the bodies of victims like the skin from a peeling snake. Insanity showed in many of their eyes. They shrieked in agony. Weird, inhuman screams and they cursed and called damnation on all who would leave them thus.
Much later that night, and as the dawn approached, the most heart-rending task ever ordered of a city’s officials and a national army took place. As the sky lightened in the east, the last civilians in the area were removed by German official and military personnel. With the entire area sealed off, small boats bearing policemen and soldiers who had been home on leave, began to move about with the waves slapping against the sides of the small craft in the cool morning air. Moving slowly and gently between the stumps of heads bobbing about in the water, and others close to the shoreline, they carried out their grim task and as they did so, more than one man vomited.
Above the splash of the oars against the water and the moaning of demented human beings came the sound of metallic clicks. It was the noise of gun hammers being drawn back; the cold metallic warning of Lugers being cocked. And then... a shot would ring out. Another, and another, and another.
The boats moved quietly among the stumps. More shots, and more.
Some of the boats ran out of ammunition. There were sharp thuds, the crack of heavy oars against human skulls. It was the only and final act of mercy that could be carried out. It was the only peace that could be found. The pall of yellowish-black smoke hung over the pock-marked desert and acres of devastated shells of buildings where once had stood a beautiful city. The sun shone grimly through the yellowish sky but for those in the water, it was all over. They had gone home.
The photographs in the original publication are too poor to be used. Here are reproduced plates from Victor Gollancz: In Darkest Germany, most of which were taken by his photographer during a tour of Germany in 1946. Thus the individuals shown are the fortunate ones who survived, though many continued to perish due to tuberculosis and other deprivations.
The same evening, after dining with the Burgomaster and Senate at the Rathaus... I went round the night refuges. These were places where you might spend only a single night. In the first of them were men who were wandering about from various parts of Germany; several of those I spoke to had been press-ganged for the Hamburg Project, and had got away from their barracks because they were dissatisfied with the conditions. I had seen one of them in the Stadtpark a few days before.
The second place was the Jahnturnhalle, where mothers and children were spending the night. They were units in that homeless crowd that goes milling about Germany “to find relatives,” they said, but really, or mainly, I was told, because a restlessness has come over them that just won’t let them settle down. (Plate 89.) In another room I talked to a boy from Pomerania with crippled feet. 3,000 young people, he said, had been sent to Cracow, and only 126 had returned. The rest were supposed to have ended up in Siberia, and so the young people were fleeing to the British zone. He had fled himself with 26 others, but only three had managed to get through. This story may, of course, have been “propaganda,” but my conducting officer told me that week after week for months he had been hearing exactly the same. The Red Cross people, here or at one of the other refuges, told them that the place was much used by prisoners of war (sic) returning from the East. Many of them suffered from hunger œdema. They were given one piece of black bread as an emergency ration.
We finished at about two o’clock in the morning at a place called “The Asylum.” (Plate 90.) A boy was leaving his bunk for the lavatory, and I got him to tell me his story. He was Georg Böhlmann, aged 16, of Wildstein near Eger, and a Sudenten German. He had been dancing with his friends one Sunday afternoon in the village when a car arrived full of Czech soldiers wearing armbands lettered, if I got it down right, S.N.B. They took away 43 boys – all Sudenten Germans – aged from 16 to 19. No reason was given.
The boys were taken to a mining camp near Brüx, where Böhlmann worked for 9 months, 8 or 9 hours a day and 7 days a week. They had a cup of coffee and one slice of bread for breakfast, 4 potatoes and sauerkraut at mid-day, and 2 slices of bread and a cup of coffee at 6. They were paid 20 Kronen a week, the price of a cigarette being 5 Kronen. They were not allowed to write home, and their parents had no knowledge of their whereabouts.
One day when the new ration of sauerkraut was being brought into the camp, Böhlmann seized the opportunity to escape with three others. (Of the 150 boys in the camp some tried to escape every week, but if they were caught they were beaten.) On September 1st he crossed the frontier near Bayreuth and made his way to Frankfurt-on-Main, mostly on foot, but sometimes by train – the latter “black,” which meant, I gather, travelling on the luggage rack. From there he got to Hanover by canal boat, went to the Youth Labour Office for a job as an electrician, but failed as he was only an apprentice. So he came to Hamburg by lorry... and was spending the night at the Asylum before trying again. He added that in Eger older men were similarly seized in the streets and taken off to labour camps. (Plate 91.) (pp. 75-77)