Aachen, Allgäu, Anklam, Aschaffenburg, Attendom, Augsburg


Charlemagne took over the governing of Aachen in 768 AD. The imperial palace was located by the source of warm springs and soon became Charlemagne’s permanent residence. As years went by, the town became more and more prosperous. Charlemagne was buried in the Cathedral of Aachen, the construction of which he had personally overseen in 824. The town’s ties with Charlemagne were reflected in its numerous priceless architectural heirlooms carefully preserved for centuries.

During World War Two, Aachen was at grave risk. People were unprepared when 75 bombs hit the cloister in the first large-scale attack by English bombers on January 15, 1941 which dumped 176 high explosives bombs and 3,000 incendiary bombs. The city could not be evacuated because the air raid system broke down, and 145 people were killed or injured.

Because the fire brigade was overtaxed, 18 boys and girls created a group to guard the cathedral around the clock from then on. Light was forbidden during air raids, and in the dark of the cathedral the children climbed the tower stairs, hanging on to swaying railings and listening to the thunderous explosions echoing greatly because of the cathedral’s acoustics. As the attacks became heavier, the young guardians of the cathedral helped perform the dangerous jobs of cleaning up debris and clearing duds. In the end, the cathedral survived, despite five fires and a direct hit by a heavy bomb. Above is a contemporary wire photo showing the devastation to the old city center describing Aachen as an “enemy stronghold.”

During the next four years, there were repeated large attacks on the cathedral city: on July 14, 1943 with 294 dead, on April 11, 1944 with 1.525 dead, on May 25, 1944 with 198 dead and on May 28, 1944 with 167 dead. On October 21, 1944, 65% of all dwellings were demolished after six long weeks of American bombing, and hundreds more civilians died. 64 smaller bomb attacks also took place on Aachen, and its citizens took to the shelters 1,984 times during these years. By the time Americans occupied ancient Aachen, it was 85% destroyed by bombing. The remains of Charlemagne were hidden in the woods beforehand by Germans hoping to protect them. The occupying Americans later ordered a G.I. to go and bring the remains of the Emperor back, and the soldier supposedly asked upon his return with the sack of bones, “So, where do I dump this?”

Eschweiler, above, was colonized in the Neolithic period and it was first mentioned in 828 by Charlemagne’s biographer. Weisweiler is also now a municipality in the district of Aachen. They were both bombed in a joint British-American operation called “Operation Queen” on November 16, 1944. 1,204 heavy bombers of the 8th U.S. Air Force hit the three towns of Eschweiler, Weisweiler and Langerwehe with 4,120 bombs, devastating the central cores of cities and small towns alike.


The Allgäu is an enchantingly beautiful region in Bavaria surrounded by rivers, mountains and trees. Several of its towns and villages were bombed, most at the tail-end of the war. Sonthofen im Allgäu is the most southerly town of Germany, located in the Oberallgäu region of the Bavarian Alps and situated between two rivers, the Ostrach and the Iller. The town is small and surrounded by forests, fields and lakes.

Sonthofen was bombed to punish Germany for having a boys’ training school (although the training building was left alone). On February 22, 1945, the church hospital and town bank were destroyed, and on April 29, 1945, the Catholic parish church of St. Michael was hit.

Immenstadt im Allgäu had its railway facilities destroyed on February 22, 1945 along with the Spitalstraße, much of its old Capuchin monastery, a brewery and the local museum. There was a total of 14 deaths. Oberstdorf im Allgäu, left, is first mentioned in 1141. It was damaged by US bombers at the end of war. Isny im Allgäu has a thousand year history and was bombed by the US in 1945.

Kempten im Allgäu is the largest city in Allgäu. The area was possibly settled originally by Celts and later by the Romans, who called the town Cambodunum. Kempten is considered one of the oldest urban settlements in Germany. Around 747, the first missionary cell was founded by the Irish monks Magnus and Theodore sent from the Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland and in the following years, the monastery Kempten Abbey was built, the first in the Allgäu. On July 19, 1944 bombs first fell here and there were four more attacks in the war, mostly on factories.


Anklam, home of German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal, obtained German town status in 1244, and in 1283 became a member of the Hanseatic League. Although the town was a rather small, the association brought wealth and prosperity wealth to Anklam. Swedish and Imperial troops battled almost twenty years for Anklam during the Thirty Years’ War, after which the town became a part of Swedish Pomerania until 1676, when it was absorbed by Prussia. In 1713, it was plundered by the Russian Empire. The southern parts of the town were ceded to the Kingdom of Prussia in 1720, while the smaller part north of the Peene River remained Swedish. Anklam was a divided town until 1815, when all of Western Pomerania became Prussian.

On October 9, 1943, 352 heavy bombers of the US 8th Air Force struck industrial objects at Anklam and later, more than 1,000 U.S. B-17s and B-24s attacked the nearby airfield but then honed in on the city center, destroying eighty percent of the city. The civilian victims of the bomb attacks were buried in three large collective graves. Anklam was subjected to further destruction during the last days of war when the advancing Soviets burned and leveled most of the surviving town. By 1945, the Red Army occupied Anklam. Of the wonderful, diverse historical buildings from gabled Gothic brick houses to Baroque half-timbered buildings, almost nothing was spared. Anklam was then sentenced to decades of communist slavery as part of the East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and the town was “re-erected” in the dreary, uniform socialist style.       Native Sons


Another ancient city was Aschaffenburg, called Ascapha by the Romans, who had a settlement and station there called the Castrum. Upon the these ruins, the Franks built a castle and St. Boniface erected a chapel and founded a monastery nearby. A stone bridge over the Main was built by Archbishop Willigis in 989, and Adalbert made the town prosper. By 1292, a synod was held, and an imperial diet in 1474. This town suffered greatly during the Thirty Years’ War. Aschaffenburg formed part of the electorate of the Archbishop of Mainz, and in 1806, it was annexed to the duchy of Frankfurt, then transferred to Bavaria in 1814.

In an purported attempt to destroy rail lines, 50 bombs were initially dumped on Aschaffenburg which caused damage but did not cut the main through-lines. However, many other bombs fell in the center and north of the town, and about 500 houses were destroyed and 1,500 badly damaged. Many old buildings were hit, including the local castle. Johannisburg Schloss, 1605–1614, one of the most important castles of the Renaissance, was so badly injured that it has taken over 60 years to rebuild. It was hit by 5 high explosive bombs, and a 4,000 pound ‘blockbuster’ burst near by, burning out the roof and upper stories. In the end, the town was nearly completely destroyed and its landmarks all lost. Aschaffenburg lost hundreds of people in numerous attacks of the war and 2,000 people were left homeless from a raid on November 21, 1944.

Before and After       On the Way to the Forum       Other Dumb Moves

Attendom (see Olpe)


2,000 year-old Augsburg was named after its founder, Caesar Augustus. The ancient Roman Empire had left its traces from 15 B.C. in many parts of Augsburg before it was driven out by German tribes in 3 A.D. In the Middle Ages, Augsburg stood at the center of crucial trade and travel routes and it prospered. It was also important to the religious history of Germany.

The first World War Two air raid on the church city of Augsburg took place on April 17, 1942 at a great loss to the British. Of the twelve Lancasters that took part in the raid, only five returned. 37 men died with 12 more taken as prisoners. It was mostly a military raid on industries on the outskirts. Several more attacks took place on Augsburg proper before a devastating bomb attack as part of “Operation Clarion” on the night of February 25, 1944 which nearly completely destroyed the historic Augsburg city center. The series of attacks began first with an assault by 199 USAAF bombers followed by a crude, devastating British attack using 594 aircraft. They later stated that it was “marvelously accurate.” Within 80 minutes of the two bomb attacks, 309,450 deadly incendiary bombs were dropped into the heart of Augsburg starting more than 4,600 fires.

It was 20 degrees below zero, and the water in the fire hoses was all frozen. 2,000 civilians were killed and injured, and nearly half of the population left the city afterwards. 90,000 of them had become homeless. The “military” damage was inconsequential. Augsburg was above all a quiet city and many churches were centuries old. Moritzkirche, built in 1019, was the oldest. 27 other Augsburg churches spanned the years between 1051 and 1799. Most went up in smoke. It only took about 80 minutes for the Allies to unnecessarily destroy 2,000 years of history in one of Europe’s oldest, most historic and most benign cities.       Augsburg Ruins and Rathaus       Hans Holbein

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