Jena, Jülich, Kaiserslautern, Karlsruhe, Kärnten, Kassel and Kempten


On October 14, 1806, Napoleon fought and defeated the Prussian army at the old Thuringian town of Jena. Resistance here against French occupation was strong, especially among the town students, many of which fought in the Lützow Free Corps in 1813. Their activism for a united Germany play a big role.

Jena was destroyed 15% by World War II bombs.


Jülich was a historical treasures in North Rhine-Westphalia and played a major role from 1234 through the Middle Ages up to the 17th century. Jülich is first mentioned in Roman times as Juliacum. Fortified by Romans, it was taken over by the Franks and grew to be a strong regional power. The counts and dukes of Jülich extended great influence during the Middle Ages.

On November 16, 1944, 97% of ancient Jülich was destroyed during Allied bombing. The ruined city was subject to heavy fighting for several months. Jülich’s historical town center was rebuilt vaguely along the plans of the Renaissance town. All that remains of its medieval splendor are small parts of the old city walls with two towers. There is a plaque made for the bomb attack which states: “On this day, Jülich sank to rubble.” The ancient casements of the citadel of the fortress of Jülich which had once served the rich and powerful Dukes of Jülich as part of the United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg (shown in the photo in 1589) now served as an air raid shelter. It was one of the oldest and most unusual testimonies of fortress architecture of its time north of the Alps. The renaissance citadel and Napoleonic bridge were possibly the most important ensembles of early modern military architecture in Germany, indeed in Europe.

In the bombing of November 16, 1944, it was badly damaged and all the buildings burned. In the Bastion St. John, numerous civilians who had sought refuge there were killed. More bombings, shelling and looting continued the destruction. In 1964, the ruins and about two thirds of the castle were simply blown up. There has since been some reconstruction.

Operation Queen was a lethal but militarily ineffective joint British-American operation carried out between Aachen and the Rur river in November 1944. 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 destroy the ancient cities of Jülich and Düren, 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.

The raid on Jülich was particularly fierce because French and U.S. military maps still showed it as a fortress, which it had ceased to be in 1860. The goal was to destroy the alleged “heavy fortifications” by smashing the whole city. The attackers dropped seventy-five 4,000 lb bombs; 361 2,000 pounders; 1,945 1,000 pounders; and 1,613 500 pound bombs. A total of 3,994 bombs with 1,711 metric tons, plus 123,518 firebombs, were dropped individually or in clusters of 106 pieces. The city was completely destroyed, and burned for several days. Roads and railroads, industry and infrastructure, including the bridge across the Ruhr, were wiped out and an estimated 4,000 citizens and soldiers killed, and about 97% of all buildings destroyed. Düren was also utterly obliterated, and Heinsberg took heavy damage as well.


The symbol of the city of Kaiserslautern is a red and white shield-shaped coat of arms with an open-mouthed carp on it, reportedly the favorite dish of the great Emperor Barbarossa . The royal court of Lutra is first mentioned in a document from 830 AD., and in one in 985, in which Emperor Otto III granted it market rights. Barbarossa, who gave the town its name, was so impressed by the area’s forested beauty 800 years ago, that he had a palace built for himself in his favorite hunting spot at “Lautern” in 1152. But, there is archaeological evidence that the area was fortified even before Roman times, and 2,500 year-old Celtic tombs were found in nearby Miesau. The oldest church in Kaiserslautern was constructed from 1250-1350.

Ten years of brutal Spanish occupation which had devastated the medieval city ended when the Protestant Swedish army liberated the area in the Thirty Years’ War, and in 1635, ruthless Croatian troops of the Austrian empire entered the town and plundered the city before murdering 3,000 of the 3,200 residents. The French repeatedly invaded and occupied the area, and in 1713, destroyed Barabrossa’s castle and the city’s wall towers. From 1793 until Napolean’s defeat, the area was under French administration. At the end of Napoleon’s reign, the city and the Palatinate became part of Bavaria until 1918. After World War I, French troops occupied the Palatinate. Again.

World War II nearly destroyed Kaiserslautern, with more than 60% of the city bombed and destroyed by Allied aircraft. Heaviest attacks occurred January 7th, August 11th, and September 28th, 1944. Of the 20,000 homes, 11,000 were destroyed or damaged. More than 516 civilians lost their lives, and 4,132 buildings had been destroyed or damaged. By January 5, 1944, the population had run to shelters 243 times under the howling sirens.

Although the city of Kaiserslautern still stood intact, the attacks on periphery of the Pfalz, on Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Karlsruhe and Saarbruecken, increased in violence. An 8 pronged attack on April 23, 1944 caused major damage. Then, a second attack followed on August 14, 1944, which was aimed at the city center, the east, south and partial north side of the city. 342 houses were totally destroyed, 79 heavily damaged. But that was not enough for the Allied bombers. When the middle of the night on September 28, 1944 arrived, an inferno was in store. People frantically raced to shelters in their nightclothes as the incendiaries started to rain down around them, and with every dull thump of detonation, the cracking and bursting of collapsing buildings melded into the sizzling echo of the surrounding fire.

There was no escape for those who were late fleeing, and despite attempts by rescue units, salvation was usually unsuccessful. The danger of suffocation or fire drove the people from their homes, and they raced about the street finding no place to go. The working class houses were hit with numerous incendiary bombs, causing chaos and death. After only one hour, the city was a only one moaning, smoking sea of flame and on the next day, the complete destruction of Kaiserslautern was final. Over 1,000 fires had consumed 190 roads, 2143 houses and a few hundred civilians. But it was not over yet. 28 more brutal attacks took place, until March 17, 1945. On March 18, “Hornets” circled the defenseless town, dropping bombs and machine gunning any moving object below.


Dignified Karlsruhe is located on the northern fringes of the Black Forest and connected to the Rhine River by a canal. Karlsruhe was founded in 1715 by Karl Wilhelm, Margrave of Baden-Durlach. After 1771, it was the capital of the duchy of Baden. The old part of Karlsruhe was laid out as a vast semicircle with the streets converging radially upon the elegant 1752 ducal palace. The city has an old and esteemed university.

135 air raids aside, the first large scale British attack on the old college town of Karlsruhe damaged its Rhine port and military station. Then the attacks got personal as the second attack destroyed the federal state library resulting in a loss of 350,000 volumes. The third attack levelled and burned the western residential part of the city. In 1942, the first 8,000 pound British “blockbuster” bomb was dropped on Karlsruhe. After “Butcher” Harris took control, the city experienced longer and more prolonged civilian attacks.       Before and after

Karlsruhe became the pilot project for the so-called “Christmas tree” bombs, and on September 25, 1944, the housing in the suburbs as well as the eastern part of the city were bombed. On September 27, the city center was bombed. From April to December, 1944, Karlsruhe suffered 13 incendiary bomb attacks. In total, more than 10,000 tons of bombs were dumped on the city. Of 17,134 family homes, only 3,414 remained. 1,745 civilians were dead, and 3,508 injured.

After occupation, Karlsruhe was intentionally set on fire and photos were staged to make the arson seem like part of battle scenes. Plundering and rape took place for days. Eyewitnesses reported that every passer-by was stopped at gunpoint and physically searched, mostly by French colonial soldiers from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and their watches, rings, and valuables were stolen. Bicycles, radios, cameras and weapons were tracked down and taken as well. Small gangs of troops moved relentlessly from home to home, threatening, raping and stealing all they could carry. In the County Women’s Clinic in Karlsruhe alone, 276 terminations of pregnancies after rape were performed in April and May, 1945.


Kärnten was attacked 32 times until the end of the war in 1945. In the worst attack, 67 American bombers released over 200 one ton bombs with the purported principle purpose of hitting the air base in Annabichl. While 30 per cent of the factory residential area was destroyed, only 18% of the industrial section was hit. The airport in Annabichl was indeed damaged, but the attack on the surrounding urban areas was deadly, and had no militarily purpose. The venerable building of the Kärntner state museum was nearly completely destroyed. 512 civilians died, hundreds were injured and 3,556 buildings damaged and destroyed. (see more under Beethover/Bonn)


Kassel as such is first mentioned in 913 as Chasella and it was a fortification at a bridge crossing the Fulda river. In 1567, the Landgraviate of Hesse made Kassel its capital, and it became a center of Calvanist Protestantism with Catholic-proof walls and fortifications. Kassel became a refuge for 1,700 Huguenots in 1685. In the late 18th century, Hesse-Kassel langraves sold their soldiers as mercenaries to the British (the “Hessians”). The Brothers Grimm lived in Kassel where they collected and wrote most of their old German folk tales shortly before Napoleon annexed it in 1807, turning it into the capital of the Kingdom of Westphalia under his brother Jerome. But death by phosphorus burning was not reserved for the Grimm villains.

On the night of October 22, 1943, British bombers feigned an attack on Frankfurt so as to catch Kassel unprepared. Five minutes later, 569 Bombers instead turned and aimed their forces at Kassel and destroyed 90% of the ancient city center, killing over 10,000 people in a firestorm comparable to the one in Hamburg 3 months earlier. For 80 minutes, waves of bombers dropped at least 1,800 tons of high explosives and incendiaries in bombing was so intense that bombs fell with a density of up to two per square meter.

Every building in the city center was hit by at least two liquid incendiary bombs and 460,000 “firesticks” rained on the city creating a firestorm with temperatures of 1500°C and above, consuming nearly all oxygen as it pulled fresh air into the fire. People trying to escape the fire zone were caught in the ensuing 100 mph wind and sucked back into the fire. Those who fled into cellars suffocated. The attack on Kassel destroyed 76% of the houses and 85% of all dwellings. Most of the casualties were civilians or wounded soldiers recuperating in local hospitals, whereas Kassel’s heavy weapons factories survived the attack almost undamaged. It instantly left 150,000 families homeless. The attack on Kassel included one of the most accurate target markings since the Hamburg firestorm raid because the RAF introduced Operation Corona on the night of the raid to confuse the German nightfighters, making the raid a complete ‘success.’

Kassel, which had a pre-raid population of 236,000 in 1939, burned for 7 days. It took weeks to collect all the corpses from the streets and out of the ruined cellars. When Americans, the folks who would later ban the Grimm brothers’ stories for “violence,” captured the city in March 1945, only 50,000 people were living there. Civilian corpses after bombing, above left. Only a very few of the ancient buildings were restored after the war, and most of the city was almost completely rebuilt in the 1950s. St. Martin Church is only in part still medieval as the towers are from the 1950s. What historic buildings have survived are mainly outside the once lovely center of town.

“Kassel suffered over 300 air raids, some carrying waves of 1,000 bombers; British by night, American by day. When on April 4th 1945, the city surrendered, of a population of 250,000, just 15,000 were left alive.” Jack Bell, Chicago Daily News Foreign Service, Kassel on May 15, 1946.

Kempten (see under Allgäu)

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