Wilhelmshaven, Wismar, Witten, Wittenberg, Worms, Wupperfeld, Wuppertal, Würzburg, Xanten, Zeitz, Zerbst, Zülpich and Zweibrücken


Wilhelmshaven was bombed by 25 RAF bombers on Sept. 4, 1939 in the first terror-bombing of a German city in World War Two.

Wilhelmshaven is a relatively young city founded by Prussian king Wilhelm I in 1869. There was once a castle here in the 14th century which was owned by pirates and destroyed in 1433 by the Hanseatic League.

The area had been an operating base for the German navy, but the US wire service photo, above, didn’t mention that it was the city center which was destroying by two thirds in the bombings.


Wismar is a small Hanseatic town on the Baltic Sea in Pommerania. It is said to have received civic rights in 1229, and it came into the possession of Mecklenburg in 1301. In 1259, it entered a pact with Lübeck and Rostock intended to defend against the numerous Baltic sea pirates which bedeviled the Hanseatic League. During the 13th and 14th centuries it flourished and developed woolen mills, For a time it was under Swedish rule.

In April 1945, considerable damage was done to the historic Old Town center by Allied bombing raids. Its elegant cruciform church of St George (St Georgen Kirche) dating from the first half of the 13th century was destroyed and the Gothic district beside the St.-Marienkirche was completely destroyed.


Witten is a university city in North Rhine-Westphalia and home to the first private university in Germany.

Numerous bombing attacks took place on the city, causing immense damage and killing hundreds of civilians. One Allied attack on March 18, 1945 by 324 RAF aircraft dropped 1,081 tons of bombs and destroyed 129 acres, 62 percent of the residential area. After the bombing, low-flying aircraft hunted and shot at everything that moved, and in this manner 8 running women and one child met their doom.


Although the Allies agreed not to bomb Wittenberg because of its religious significance, they did destroy an aircraft plant on the outskirts in an April, 1945 bombing which killed over 1,000 prisoners of war, including some Americans. The historic city of Luther was then given over to the Red Army and it languished under communism for decades of decay.


The Diet of Worms, and 100 other Diets, took place in the magnificent High Romanesque Dom St. Peter, c. 1132. Balthasar Neumann later designed the opulent baroque high altar. Worms, south of Frankfurt, is the oldest city in Germany and was the location for much of the of the Nibelungen saga. Originally a Celtic settlement called Borbetomagus, it and was captured by the Romans before becoming the capital of the first kingdom of Burgundy in the 5th century. The city was burned in the Thirty Years’ War and rebuilt.

Luther’s Land is sadly “reformed.” As World War Two bombing raids increased, desperate people fled the city of Worms. On February 22, 1945, she was bombed by British and American bombers, reducing her to ash, corpses and rubble within twenty minutes. 340 British bombers unloaded 361.7 tons of high-explosive bombs and 575.5 tons of incendiary bombs over the ancient cathedral city. 235 additional bombs followed with enormous explosive effect. 2,000 years of history was destroyed in those 20 minutes as the Medieval city center caught fire and burned. Many civilians were wounded and killed and two thirds of all houses were destroyed. For hundreds of miles, the bloody red glow of an incinerating ancient city was visible, yet even while it was burning to its death, the British bombed it again within 2 hours of the main attack.

March 18th and 20th, the USA began another deadly, destructive assault on the beleaguered medieval city center in 11 separate raids, dropping 1,100 more incendiary bombs and 100,000 more incendiary compounds over Worms to polish off the job, only afterward bombarding any actual remaining military targets, such as railway facilities, bridges and traffic junctions. Martinskirche, Friedrichskirche, Andreaskirche and Pauluskirche were all completely or nearly completely destroyed. The Wormser Dom, above, was heavily damaged. The 1,100 year-old Magnuskirche where Luther came to defend his doctrines at the Diet of Worms was also destroyed. Built in the 8th to 9th centuries, it was the site of the first Protestant sermon in Germany and it is the oldest Protestant Church of Southwest German Lands. It was painstakingly rebuilt and reopened in 1952.

Wupperfeld (see under Wuppertal)


Wuppertal is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia on the Wupper river south of the Ruhr area. Aspirin was invented here and one of the city’s greatest attractions is the suspended monorail (“Wuppertaler Schwebebahn”) which was established in 1901. The city was formed in 1929 by merging several surrounding towns and hamlets, including Barmen, Elberfeld, Vohwinkel, Ronsdorf, Cronenberg, Langerfeld, and Beyenburg. The name was initially Barmen-Elberfeld, and after 1930 Wuppertal (“Wupper Valley”). It was half destroyed by Allied bombing.       More on Wuppertal


Wurzburg was a university town and capital of Lower Frankonia in Bavaria, situated on the Main River at the junction of main lines to Bamberg and Nürnberg. The bishopric was probably founded in 741, but the town probably existed in the previous century. Statues of Saints adorned an ancient stone bridge from 1472. The fortress of Marienberg, the residence of the bishops from 1261 to 1720 was perched high atop the Leistenberg. Wurzburg was a gem of medieval architecture with numerous ancient churches, the main one being the imposing Romanesque cathedral begun in 1042 and finished in 1731. There was also the beautiful Gothic Marienkapelle of 1377-1441, embellished with twenty statues by Tilman Riemenschneider.

The Italian Renaissance style Haugerstifts church was built in 1670, the Neumunster church in the 11th century, the church of St Burkhard was built in 1033-1042 in the Romanesque style and restored in 1168 with a Late Gothic choir dating from 1494-1497. The Neubaukirche, or university church, and the Protestant church of St Stephen also lent their beauty to the city. The most conspicuous building in Wurzberg was the palace, built in 1720-1744 in imitation of Versailles, and formerly the residence of the bishops and grand-dukes of Wurzburg. There was the Julius hospital, founded in 1576 and the old Rathaus, in part dating from 1456, and the buildings of government, offices, courts, theater, plus the Maxschule, observatory and the various university buildings founded by Bishop Julius in 1582.       Tilman Riemenschneider       Würzburg Before and After


Xanten, a historic town in the North Rhine-Westphalia, was settled by neolithic farmers thousands of years before the first settlements by isolated German tribes around the year 2000 BC. Romans founded a military camp here in 15 BC. Castra Vetera I was situated on the Fürstenberg, a hill-top location which was easily defendable and had a view of Germania. Destroyed       Xanten


Zeitz is an old town in the south of Saxony situated on the river Weiße Elster in the middle of the triangle of the federal states Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony. Zeitz was first recorded under the name Cici in the synode of Ravenna in 967. Between 965 and 982, it was the chief fortress of the Margrave of Zeitz. Between 968 and 1028, Zeitz was a bishops’ residence which was once moved to Naumburg. But since the end of the 13th century, the bishops were again residing in their castle at Zeitz.

The attacks by Allied bombers levelled many houses in the city before it was thrown into Communist slavery in the GDR-era.

Zerbst (see under Dessau)

Zülpich (see under Trier)


Zweibrucken was defended by the Swedish under Gustav Adolph during the Thirty Years’ War, but left damaged. In fact, three Swedish kings were descended from the Zweibrucken Ducal line, Karl X, Karl XI, and Karl XII, who married a Swedish princess. Since the Swedish crown couldn’t pass to a woman, he became the Swedish king, and Zweibrucken in effect became a Swedish province. The ancestral castle of the house of Wittelsbach was in Zweibrucken, and the Alexanderkirche held the Wittelsbach Royal crypt. The architecture of the heart of the city once reflected a unique blend of Swedish Renaissance and Baroque. Karlsberg Castle, built by Duke Karl August, was once the most impressive in the Palatinate and rivaled those of Ludwig II of Bavaria. This magnificent castle was completely destroyed by the invading French in 1794.       A Horse, a Rose and two Bridges

On March 14-15, 1945, World War Two was all but over. Nonetheless the Baroque gem of Zweibrucken was completely destroyed when the Allies chose as their target the historic city center. Although the weary city had suffered over 230 air raids, 812 sortees and continual harassment, this early spring evening was to bring destruction. A sortie of 98 Halifaxes joined by 98 Lancasters flew for the attack at Zweibrucken. The crews released their deadly high explosives. In minutes the place was obliterated. The whole center and the residential areas were gone in a million flashes, another old castle was almost levelled, and the ancient churches in ruins.

200 Canadian Air Force bombers flew over the groaning city in several waves, dropping nearly 1,000 bombs, with a weight of 815 tons and 97 aerial mines of which 20 were “hundredweights” (4,000 English Pounds). Approximately 30 “block busters” fell into the center of the old city. The American had already had their go at it in their Thunderbirds. The original historic stud farm was demolished in the bombing of Zweibrücken. “Zwei” became an Allied military base.