Hameln, Hamich, Hamm, Hannover, Hanau, Hattingen, Heilbronn, Heinsberg, Heligoland, Herne, Hildesheim, Homberg, Hückelhoven, Hürtgen, Immenstadt, Ingolstadt, Innsbruck, Isny and Itzehoe


Hameln (Hamelin) rests on the river Weser in Lower Saxony as the gateway to the surrounding Weserbergland mountains. Around 851 AD, a monastery was founded here, which grew into a village and then a town by the 12th century. Hameln was a minor member of the Hanseatic League and the town became quite wealthy in the mid-17th century. Hameln’s four fortresses made it the heaviest protected city in the Kingdom of Hanover until the time of Napoleon. The medieval folk tale of “Der Rattenfänger von Hameln” a.k.a. “The Pied Piper” originated here.

Several small airstrikes were directed at Hamelin in 1940 resulted in only minor property damage. The first concentrated attack was on June, 1941 when a British bomber night attack hit residential houses and killed 24 people. In July of 1944, the RAF attacked again, hitting another few houses, killing 20 more civilians. In March and April 1945, there were constant, increasing threats.

On Wednesday, March 14, 1945, the sky was beautifully blue at lunchtime. Many of the people coming and going to work or shopping were at the railway station in hopes of catching the midday trains. They did not know the trains has stopped running in the area because of bomber activity. When enemy bombers were first spotted over the horizon, they flew in the direction of Hanover, and the people breathed a sigh of relief, but 12 British bombers suddenly reappeared from the east, gunning for the crowded train station. People had no time to react. Immediately, bombs rained their death on the station grounds, dropping 93 spring-loaded bombs and 1,200 incendiaries.

Some 200 deaths were reported at the train station and 60 from the surrounding residential area. One entire family, a mother with her six children, was killed and twelve other families lost two or more family members in the attack. There was no colorful stranger to lead them out of town to safety. 700 people were left homeless. The victims were laid in long rows of the dead on the pavement opposite the local hotel. For three years, suitcases, bags and personal belongings of the victims were unclaimed, and desperate relatives searched them for clues as to the fates of their loved ones. Just after the war, Hameln prison was used by the British Occupation Forces for the detention of German prisoners and more than 200 of whom, including women, were hanged after quick, mock trials. Famed British hangman Albert Pierrepoint was recruited for the messy job. The old prison is now a fancy hotel.

Hamich (see under Düren)


Hamm is on the Lippe River. Founded in 1226, Hamm was once a member of the Hanseatic League as well. It passed to Cleves in the 14th century and then to Brandenburg in 1614. Hamm’s history is full of sadness from plague, flooding, fire and the harshness inflicted by the French in Napoleonic times. It rebounded in the 19th century with the railroad.

55 Allied air raids destroyed 60% of the old part of Hamm, starting with devastating daylight air raids from March 4 and 6, 1943 that killed 154 people. The first large-scale attack on the entire city followed in the evening hours of April 22, 1944 by 750 bombers and 100 fighters dropping 8,000 high explosive bombs and 3500 incendiary bombs. Within 45 minutes, the city was a sea flame and a desert of rubble. While a marshaling yard was hit, so were the residential areas. 240 buildings were destroyed and 350 heavily damaged. 300 civilians died in this attack. On May 31, 1944 another large scale attack followed, killing with 200 more civilians. Hamm lost 1,029 civilians to bombing.


In 1170, medieval Hannover, on the banks of the river Leine, became a city and by the 14th century was a member of the Hanseatic League. Its city walls, main gates and churches were built in the 14th century. It was the capital of the Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg from 1636. In 1692, the duke received the additional title of elector and was thus known as the “Elector of Hanover.” His descendants later became not only Kings of Hannover, but Kings of England, the first of which was George 1, who ascended the British throne in 1714. Three kings of Great Britain were at the same time Electoral Princes of Hannover. From 1803, Hannover was controlled by France for ten years. Napoleon installed 30,000 French soldiers in Hanover who looted and plundered the city and disbanded the Hannover army. As a result, a great number of soldiers of Hannover eventually emigrated to England and joined the King’s German Legion which later played an important role in the victory at the Battle of Waterloo.

Since the beginning of the war, there were 428 raids on old Hannover. In October of 1943, the British dropped 3,000 high-explosive bombs, 28,000 phosphorus bombs and 230,000 staff incendiary bombs, destroying 4,000 houses and killing 1,245 humans in one night. Witnesses reported later that when the scorching fire wind blew, people frantically fled on pavement which was actually on fire. Time fused bombs from three of the attacking airplanes still released their deadly charges for up to 144 hours after the attack. Ten days later, another 23,051 tons of bombs fell on Hannover, and left 6.3 million cubic meters of rubble. The Ebstorfer map of the world was the largest and most contents-rich map of the Middle Ages, created between 1230 and 1250 and was also the oldest map of Germany. It was destroyed along with the federal state library in Hannover.


The birthplace of the Brothers Grimm , Hanau, east of Frankfurt, was first mentioned in 1143 and grew into a city by 1303. At the end of the 16th century, Count Philipp Ludwig II let in Walloons, Protestant refugees from the Netherlands, who founded their own settlement, bringing jewellery making skills with them which helped Hanau evolve in to a gold and silver makers’ city.

It was unnecessarily destroyed by British airstrikes on March 19, 1945 a mere few days before it was inevitably taken by the US Army. 85% of the city was blown up. The number of its inhabitants sank to under 10,000. Hanau lost its most important monuments and the medieval section of the city was burned into oblivion. The ancient city castle was ruined and the city theater were in pieces. The historical Walloon church stands today as a ruin. More than 30% of the inhabitants are foreigners.


Hattingen, at the south bank of River Ruhr in the southern of the Ruhr Area, was first mentioned in 1396 when the Duke of Mark granted permission to build a city wall. It has a picturesque Old Town with half-timbered houses originating from the 14th to 16th century, but it was not spared bombing.

On February 13, 1945, Hattinger station was the target Allied bombers, and it was later occupied by French troops. The war did not end for Hattingen, Germany: a Second World War bomb exploded in September of 2008, injuring 60 people.


There are traces of stone age human settlement in and around Heilbronn on the fertile banks of the Necker, sites of the Bronze age within the city and evidence that ancient Celts mined salt in the region. The Romans then built villas and lived here until overtaken by the Alamanni in 260AD. The area became part of the Frankish realm between the 4th and 7th centuries, and the present town grew. Heilbronn is first mentioned in 741 and was incorporated into the Hohenstaufen Empire in 1225. In the 13th century most of the town became part of the Deutsche Orden. City status was given to Heilbronn in the 13th century, and by the 14th century it beckoned growth and prosperity. Heilbronn became an Imperial Free City in 1371, and was eyed by the house of Württemberg. The city prospered in the 15th century, and many of the city’s buildings were erected then. In 1528, the Augsburg Confession was accepted by the city council and residents and the Heilbronn Catechism of 1536 is the second oldest catechism in the Protestant Church. Heilbronn in the 16th century.

The city suffered terribly in the Thirty Years’ War, and was later reoccupied by the French for several months in 1688 during the French Revolutionary Wars. Heilbronn grew again in the 18th century, and played host to notables such as Schiller and Goethe. The Duke of Württemberg had lost his holdings on the left bank of the Rhine to the French, but received the right bank in compensation, and Heilbronn together with other formerly Imperial Free Cities became part of Württemberg in 1803. Heilbronn was industrialized in the mid-19th century. It was the second largest city in Württemberg by the 1930’s and its citizens enjoyed industry and prosperity. Their port turned into an important transfer station on the Neckar and one of the 10 largest interior ports in the country. This would unfortunately target the city for an intentionally crafted firestorm.       Heilbronn Fried


Heinsberg in the west of North Rhine-Westphalia is another victim of bombing. Until World War II, a medieval mill stream flowed through the town. Following bomb attacks, the creek bed was destroyed and has never been repaired. The grave of the Dukes of Heinsberg from the early 15th century were destroyed as well. Heinsberg and Geilenkirchen merged in 1932.

The 8th U.S. Air Force was to bomb the fortifications around Eschweiler and Aldenhoven, while the medium bombers of the 9th U.S. Air Force were assigned to the second line of defense around Jülich and Langerwehe. At the same time the RAF Bomber Command was to hit the traffic centres of Jülich and Düren hard; the smaller towns of Heinsberg, Erkelenz and Hückelhoven were designated as secondary targets. The offensive began on November 16, 1944. 1,204 heavy bombers of the 8th U.S. Air Force hit Eschweiler, Weisweiler and Langerwehe with 4,120 bombs, while 339 fighter bombers of the 9th U.S. Air Force attacked Hamich, Hürtgen and Gey with 200 tons of bombs. At the same time 467 Halifax and Lancaster Bombers attacked Düren and Jülich; 180 British bombers hit Heinsberg.

Hückelhoven is today a town in the district Heinsberg, named for its village founder Reinhard von Huckilhoven in the 13th century. There was a wonderful old castle first mentioned in 1248, Schloß Rurich. The town was bombed on November 16, 1944 during Operation Queen, a joint British-American bomb operation carried out between Aachen and the Rur river in November 1944.The castle above survived the immense destruction caused by “Operation Queen” only to be hit by a grenade attack on Christmas of 1944, which caused immense, and in part irreparable damage. The valuable castle library of over 18,000 volumes was thoroughly looted by American GIs.


The events unleashed by the military force in just the first few months of War were strong enough to change weather conditions in Northern Europe, resulting in the coldest winter for 110 years. Tens of thousands of massive explosions from bombs and depth charges were employed since September 1, 1939 as well as a number of aerial bombs released over the sea, shelling, anti-aircraft fire and other activities that confused the normal pattern of life at sea to such an extent that it quickly reacted by cooling out too early for the forthcoming winter season. Arctic air was then allowed to penetrate Northern Europe without resistance. The war at sea actually modified the weather, sending Europe into a temporary Ice Age. The first British bomb in the war dropped on German soil was here.       To Kill an Island       The Helgoland Light       Pirates


Herne, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia in the Ruhr area directly between the cities of Bochum and Gelsenkirchen, was like most other cities in the region, a tiny village until the 19th century.

The villages of the Ruhr area were targeted by the RAF on June 4, 1940, early in World War II. Three high-explosive bombs were dropped and one house was damaged.


Homberg is a small town in northern Hesse with about 15,000 inhabitants, and it was founded by the Hessian-Thuringian Landgraves. It’s first documented mention as a town was in 1231.The town’s name comes from the Hohenburg, the castle above Homberg. The well is Germany’s third deepest castle well. Allied bombing killed 70 civilians.

Hildesheim (see under Featured Cities)

Hückelhoven (see under Heinsburg)

Hürtgen (see under Düren)

Immenstadt (see under Allgäu)


Ingolstadt is an ancient university town located on the banks of the Danube in the center of Bavaria. Spared bombing until the beginning of 1945, 650 people met their death from the first attacks in January by the 640 long-range American bombers. 782 fighters dropping 480 spring loaded bombs and 330 fire bombs. 70% of the buildings were damaged and 22 people dead. On March 1, the Americans struck again and dumped 603.3 tons of explosives and fire bombs in just 4 minutes from a height of about 5,500 meters in three successive waves, killing 133 more people and wounding hundreds. By now, large parts of the historic city were in ruins. Yet, on March 4, 1945, they struck again... and then on April 5th again, dropping 1,575 Spring loaded bombs with a total load of 621.4 tons as well as numerous propaganda pamphlets. 92 more civilians were killed, 56 seriously injured and 170 left homeless.

On April 9, 1945, no Allied air attack on Ingolstadt was planned, but as 212 American “Flying Fortresses” were returning from another mission, ten of them made a surprise u-turn and decided to dump their loads on Ingolstadt. From an altitude of about 7,000 meters, they dumped 29 tons of explosives and fire bombs on the antique Augustinian church with its adjoining Franciscan monastery. 73 bodies were later pulled from its ruins, mostly refugees from Pomerania who had fled to the church for protection. Only one young woman, after ten hours of being trapped, could be saved. 100 elderly people taking refuge in their home also died. This attack destroyed the municipal theater, the Rathaus square and numerous other residential and commercial buildings.

Attack after attack then followed: on April 10, 11, 16 and 20th, each successively bigger, more violent and destructive. The residents were no more than trapped rats in a cage, unable to change their fates. On the 21st, 30 U.S.bombers attacked in B-17s in five waves over the surviving urban area, dropping firebombs and more high-explosives on the defenseless city and even its rural surroundings. 2,000 people were now homeless.Yet, even then, U.S. low flying bombers picked off any moving life forms below and at least 28 deaths by their shelling were recorded.

Innsbruck (& Tirol)

It was in 1248 that the counties around the Brenner pass unified. Duke Friedrich IV built the castle Schloss Tirol at Meran, and Innsbruck became the capital of all Tirol in 1429. Emperor Maximilian I turned the city into a vibrant, thriving cultural and financial center in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Tirol line of the Habsburgs died out in 1665, but Maria Theresa helped the old city retain its glory.

In 1919, the Allied victors at Versailles vindictively severed South Tirol from its homeland and gave it to Italy. During the Second World War, all of the Austrian Tirol suffered massive damage from air attacks. From 1943 until April, 1945, Innsbruck experienced 21 bomb attacks and suffered heavy damage. By May 1945, Innsbruck lost hundreds of civilians to the Allied bombing. The Innsbruck cathedral, with its domes and Baroque interior featuring a high altar painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, the Bahnhof and Maria-Theresienstrasse were destroyed. 20,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Vorarlberg and north and South Tirol, killing 1500 civilians. Over 6,849 sorties were flown over targets from Verona to the Brenner Pass with 10,267 tons of bombs dropped. The Allies made sure that South Tirol remained severed from her cultural and historic roots with Austria.       Andreas Hofer       The Manesse Codex and Walther von der Vogelweide       Michael Gaismair

Isny (see under Allgäu)


Itzehoe is the oldest town in Holstein. Its nucleus was a castle, built in 809 by Egbert, one of Charlemagne’s counts, to protect them from marauding Danes. In October, 1941, nine Allied bombs were dropped on Itzehoe. From July 1943, after the attacks on Hamburg and Kiel, homeless people streamed into the pristine area and the population of the city climbed. Then in 1944, refugees from the East flooded in. In May 1945, almost 12,000 more people lived in the city than in May 1943, resulting in an extreme housing emergency.

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