At night, Berlin first system defence was based mainly in the use of anti-aircraft searchlights (Flakscheinwerfer). Hundreds of them were positioned around- and in the city, and their task were to find and track enemy bombers, showing them to the anti-aircraft batteries at night.

[A German Flakscheinwerfer in action during the war.]

[Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

[Photo: Wikimedia.]

[Berlin 1943: Flakscheinwerfer. Brandenburger Tor under the searchlights, against an incoming British night-bombing raid.]

[Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

[Here, members of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) served as crew of one during their duty with Luftwaffenhelfer in Berlin Tiergarten in 1943. Literally “air force assistants”, the Luftwaffenhelfer service was posted from January 1943 to aid in the Defence of the Reich. The order called for drafting school classes with male students born in 1926 and 1927 into a military corp, organised by Hitlerjugend and Luftwaffe staff.

They were know as the “Flakhelfer-Generation”. Their average age when they were called up was sixteen and a total of about 200,000 served during the war, including females from Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM).]

[Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

The searchlights were based around extremely high-powered Carbon Arc lamps, and the German iused three types divided by the size and diameter parabolic glass reflector: 60 Centimetre, 150 Centimetre and 200 Centimetre.

In September 1940, Germany had 2,540 searchlights (60 cm and 150 cm). During the war, this number grew rapidly — by February 1944,  this figure has raised to 13,748 searchlights.

[A British four-engined bomber (most probably a Lancaster) caught at night during an air raid over the objective, as viewed from an above fellow bomber.]

[Photo: Imperial War Museum.]

The silhouette of the bomber is clearly evident as German searchlights raised their light against the clouds and overcast, showing the sky as a bright screen. The white traces are a mix of searchlights and British target indicators (TI), flares dropped by the bombers to mark and illuminate the target.

This photo was taken over Hamburg, on the night of 24/25 July 1943 during the infamous “Operation Gomorrah”. That summer night, the RAF Bomber Command created a perfect “fire storm” that engulfed the city and more than 50,000 civilians were killed.

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