Kiel, Kleve, Koblenz, Königsberg, Krefeld, Landau/Pfalz, Landshut, Langerwehe and Leverkusen


Kiel was founded in 1233 and granted rights in 1242. Kiel was a member of the Hanseatic League from 1284 until it was evicted in 1518 for giving refuge to pirates. In 1431, Kiel became home to a market for goods and money in Schleswig-Holstein, and was important until the 19th century. Kiel’s university was founded in 1665. From 1773-1864, the German town belonged to a Danish King, but he ruled Holstein as a subject of the Holy Roman Empire through a personal union, so the town remained independent of Denmark, and still belonged to Germany. Despite its rocky politics, Kiel always had one true ruler: the Sea.

Because of its status as a naval port and submarine producer, Kiel was heavily bombed by the Allies in WW Two, destroying not only 83% of the industrial areas, but the old center city itself by 80% and the residential sector 72%. On August 17, 1944, 900 tons of bombs were dropped on the city, and ten days later another 1,448 tons of bombs. At the very tail-end of the war, on April 3, 1945, 700 bombers attacked the city again and dropped 2,200 tons of bombs on its remains. Altogether the city had 90 air raids, which destroyed 36,000 (58%)dwellings and killed 3,000 civilians. There was additionally an enormous inflow of refugees from the east, more than in any other European city, and the pre-war population grew by eight times.


The Duchy of Kleve, which from late Carolingian times spread to both sides of the lower Rhine bordering on the Netherlands. In 1521, Anne of Kleve’s father, Duke Johann III of Kleve, inherited the duchies of Jülich and Berg and the county of Ravensberg. Kleve means ‘cliff ’ and its 11th century castle, Die Schwanenburg, set atop the cliff.

The story of Percival’s son, Lohengrin, was centered here according to local legend. In 1609, the male line of Kleve became extinct, and in 1614, Kleve was aquired by Brandenburg along with Mark and Ravensberg; the Palatinate-Neuburg line of the Bavarian house of Wittelsbach took Jülich and Berg. Kleve was held by France during the French Revolutiona and in 1815 was returned to Prussia.

Although Kleve provided Henry the 8th of England one of his many wives, there was no sentimentality during World War 2 when British Bomber Command instructed 285 of its aircraft to plaster 1,384 tons of high explosive on the ancient and historic town, destroying over 90% of its medieval buildings. Nothing substantial of the medieval city remains today. Kleve claimed to be the most completely destroyed town in Germany of its size.


Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus around 9 B.C. Later, it was frequently the residence of the Frankish kings. In 1018, after receiving a charter, Emperor Heinrich II gave the city to the Archbishop of Trier, and it remained in their possession. In 1249, it was surrounded by new walls by Archbishop Arnold II and future Archbishops built and strengthened the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein to dominate the city, a city always coveted by the French. Part of the League of Rhenish cities, Koblenz gained wealth and prestige until the Thirty Years’ War.

Philipp Christoph, elector of Trier, surrendered Ehrenbreitstein to the French, and in 1632, the town received an imperial garrison, soon overrun by the Swedes who handed the city back over to the French. In 1632, imperial forces succeeded in retaking Koblenz. In 1688, the city was again besieged by the French, but they only managed to leave a trail of fire and destruction. In 1786, Clement Wenceslaus of Saxony, elector of Trier, took up his residence and improved the city, which soon drew in French victims of religious persecution. By the congress of Vienna it was assigned to Prussia in 1822. Above: Koblenz in the 16th, 19th century and in 1945.

Especially at the end of the war, Koblenz was attacked repeatedly for no valid military or strategic reason. There were no important war industries and even during the attacks, the transportation facilities of the city were not the priority targets, the civilian population was. The heavy air raids of 1944 and 1945 of both the US and British destroyed 87% of the historic, 1,000 year-old inner city. The bombardment of Koblenz left thousands of dead and wounded and 2 million cubic meters of debris and rubble. Of the 94,417 inhabitants in 1943, only 9,000 remained in the city at the end of war, living for weeks in large concrete shelters, having lost even rudimentary necessities. She was assaulted until 1945 when the French occupied the city.


The RAF first attacked the city on the night of August 26/27, 1944. The 174 Avro Lancasters flew 950 miles from their bases to bomb the city. Three nights later on August 29/30, 189 Lancasters of No. 5 Group struck again, dropping 480 tons of bombs on the center of the city. Bomber Command estimated that 20% of all the industry and 41% of all the housing in Königsberg was destroyed in the attack. Further destruction was brought about during the 3 month siege of Königsberg by the Soviet Red Army in early 1945 which ended on April 9 with the surrender of the local German army. The city was almost completely destroyed. What wasn’t bombed was bulldozed.       Königsberg

Krefeld (Crefeld)

Krefeld was part of the Holy Roman Empire in 69AD. Through the centuries, the town was dominated by Franks, the Earl of Moers, Prussia and Napoleon. It owes it’s modern name to the Mennonites who came there as skilled weavers of silk and velvet from France in the 17th century. In 1683, thirteen mostly Quaker and Mennonites families from Krefeld were the first close group of Germans who emigrated to America. They created Germantown, Philadelphia.

War met the small city of Krefeld on the night of June 21, 1943, when 700 RAF bombers dumped enough incendiary bombs to destroy most of the historic city center.


Landau in the Pfalz is first mentioned in 1268 and it was elevated to the rank of city in 1291. In 1324, Ludwig the Bavarian passed it to the Bishop of Speyer under whose control it remained until 1511. It was passed back and forth to various factions, and in brutality and misery of the Thirty Years’ War The number of inhabitants dropped from 2,500 to 1,500.

Since then, there was constant friction with the French. The city was rebuilt after it was burned down in 1689, and new buildings and straight roads were designed around 1700. It went from France to the Habsburgs, briefly, until it was put under Bavarian control in 1816.

The old fortress was reinforced. In 1789, the French Revolution spread into Landau, and a Liberty column and Guillotine were erected at the parade ground, renamed “place de légalité.” It went from France to the Habsburgs, briefly, until it was put under Bavarian control in 1816.

Heavy bombing by the Allies in 1944 and 1945 destroyed 40 per cent of the old town.       Thomas Nast


The Bavarian city of Landshut and Trausnitz castle were founded in 1204 by Duke Ludwig I. Landshut was already a Wittelsbach residence by 1231, and in 1255, Landshut also became the capital of Lower Bavaria. Duke Heinrich XVI was the first of three famous rich dukes who reigned Bayern-Landshut in the 15th century. The others were Duke Ludwig and Duke Georg , whose wedding with Royal Polish Princess Jadwiga Jagiellon in 1475 was celebrated in one of the most splendid festivals of the Middle Ages. In the 16th century, Landshut was a center of arts and culture and home to famous craftsmen, printers, scuptors and artists. The city has always been of national importance because of its predominantly Gothic architecture within the historic city center. Peter Apian (mathematician, geographer, astronomer & cartographer) created the astronomical data for the sundial on the Trausnitz.

Landshut was almost spared destruction until the tail-end of war when, like so many others, it met needless ruination. Fortunately, most of the downtown historic district was not destroyed, but there were several attacks on the outskirts, including a severe bombing raid on March 19, 1945 which destroyed the railway station and its surrounding residential neighborhood, churches and farms.

Langerwehe (see under Düren)


Leverkusen is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia on the eastern bank of the Rhine, half way between Cologne and Düsseldorf. First mentioned in 1145, it belonged to the Duchy of Berg since the Middle Ages.

On the night of June 5, 1940, the first air attack took place, but on the railway and factories. The city was then subjected to repeated bombing throughout the war. Finally, in August and November 1943, Leverkusen was carpet bombed. The worst attack was on October 26, 1944, when a total of 1,017 Spring loaded bombs and about 12,000 fire bombs fell, killing 124 people and causing enormous material damage. Between December 1944 and March 1945, many more lives were lost and greater destruction followed.

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