Four in a row: 31 August 1940

R.A.F. planes renew attack on Berlin…

…Sirens Sound in Capital After Heavy Bombing of Previous Night.’ 

– The New York Times, Sunday, September 1, 1940 –

[Photo: Fotosearch/Getty Images.]

Following the attacks made on three previous nights, the British air bombing offensive didn’t stop: on the last night of the month (31 August / 1 September) Berlin, Cologne and several airfields in Holland were the target for 77 RAF Blenheim light bombers and Hampden, Wellington and Whitley medium bombers.

Bad weather prevented some of the bombers to reach their targets, in this case Tempelhof, the BMW factory and a gas work; most of the crews were somewhere on the Berlin area but failed to see under the cloud cover. This would be the fourth bombing raid in five nights against the Reich’s heartland, following the previous attack made the night before which, as we see on the previous post hit Kreuzberg district again with some bombs hitting and for the first time some bombs reached the large Siemensstadt industrial area.[1] This new attack, aimed to keep the pressure on Hitler’s home and ordered by Churchill and the War Cabinet, has been normally forgotten by aviation historians or mainly confused with the previous one, few studies separate one from the other as two different bombardments. 

Documentary evidence, in this case each squadron operational records (ORBs), reveals that London finally sent twenty-eight medium bombers to the German capital tasked to attack industrial targets, although the partial description of that night on the different squadrons’ logs makes it difficult to know the exact number of planes of those despatched that managed to reach Berlin, but roughly this figure reaches the twenties.[2].

Bomber Command’s operational handbook (Middlebrook, 1985) as usual was a reference to set the overall figure of the night operations: 77 Blenheims, Hampdens, Wellingtons and Whitleys attacked Berlin, Cologne and airfields in Holland and Belgium. 1 Hampden lost.[3] Author Paul Tweddle, in his Bomber Command summer of 1940 chronicle, describes some of the actions of this night highlighting that Command’s main thrust was again made towards Berlin” and includes an oral testimony but does not mention the number of aircraft involved.[4] Most of the authors, like Bowman just mentioned this raid to narrate the exciting return flight of F/O Romans and his crew who ditched their Hampden bomber after running out of gas over the North Sea.[5] Donnelly, as usual, gives us a more detailed breakdown of the bombers’ night sorties including some of the targets and the fate of RAF crews lost on the operation although it does not specify neither the exact number of aircraft sent.[6] 

On the other hand, the extensive German study of the air bombings on Berlin city, led by Dr Laurenz Demp listed the number of attacking planes to just eleven.[7] 

[Family portrait of 144 Squadron aircrews in front of one of their Hampden bombers in the summer of 1940 at RAF Hemswell.][8]

Photo: IBCC Digital Archive. https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/27259

Bomber Command operation involved two of its ‘medium’ bombers groups, in this case Nos 3 and 5. This time, the Whitley force from 4 Group was sent to other targets in Occupied Europe. 

In the early afternoon the headquarters of 3 Group sent via teleprint Order Form B.256 to its squadrons ordering To cause maximum damage to targets given in para. ‘G’ and to create maximum disturbance over GERMANY during the hours of darkness.[9] The Wellington-equipped squadrons would be despatched to attack Tempelhof Flughafen A385 (9 sorties) and the Schönefeld aerodrome and aircraft factory (9 sorties), with gasworks (B59) and marshalling yards (M499) as alternative targets at the Reich capital. Of interest that the HQ order precised that “As many sorties as possible detailed to attack A.389 and F.24 should be loaded with 2,000 lbs of bombs.”[10] Some others were sent to destroy targets in Hamm, Schwerte and Soest.

Photo: TNA AIR-27-894_2 © Crown Copyright.

Meanwhile, No 5 Group led by Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Arthur Harris and equipped with Handley Page Hampdens, addressed Order Form B.208[11] to its Waddington, Hemswell, Scampton and Lindholme stations. The operation planned that six bombers from Waddington (No 44 Squadron) bombed hangars and buildings at Tempelhof (H324) listing the marshaling yards (M.499) and oil storage of the aerodrome as secondary objectives. The Group’s order noted that ”the most important buildings at H.324 are on the North and East side of the Aerodrome.” [12] and required photographs of the target. These bombers would carried 250-lb GP bombs with different delay fuzes and four canisters of incendiaries.[13]

Photo: TNA AIR-27-453 © Crown Copyright.

The Hemswell squadrons (61 and 144 Sqn) for their part received orders to sent nine bombers to destroy the B.M.W. aeroengine factory in Berlin-Spandau, very close to Siemensstadt and coded as target F.118. In the case they didn’t find it, alternative target was G.161 the Siemens & Halske works. Some of the bombers carried 500-lb GP bombs and some others a mix of those with the smaller 250 ‘pounders’.[14] Another 15 bombers of the Group would visit on this night an oil refinery at Magdeburg.

[The red-brick factory halls of the BMW Flugmotorenbau Berlin-Spandau, located in am Juliusturm 14-38 Zitadellenweg, where today the Bavarian company still builts motorcycles. These buildings housed the Brandenburgische Motorenwerke GmbH (BRAMO) plant until 1939, when BMW purchased Bramo (a former subsidiary of Siemens Halske) and its air-cooled aircraft engines production. Between 1937 and 1944 this plant built together with the larger Basdorf and Zühlsdorf BMW plants, in Berlin too more than 5,500 units of aero-engines such as the Bramo 323 “Fafnir” or the similar BMW 132.]

Photo: BMW Group Archiv.

Photo: Histomap/©Landesarchiv Berlin.

Attack on aerodrome and industrial targets
At RAF Marham station in Norfolk, the two units based there prepared the incoming sortie and briefed their crews. Just before dusk, twelve Vickers Wellingtons from No 115 Squadron took off starting from 20.20hrs at intervals and nine of them bound for Berlin to attack the Henschel-Schönefeld aircraft factory. The squadron’s log described weather conditions as “very bad” and low visibility due to ground haze and waving searchlights, which made that main target was not found by the bombing crews. One of the bombers claimed to have attacked the Tegel gasworks and another Stendal and Tegel aerodromes, meanwhile the remaining aircraft attacked alternative targets in Hamm and Soest. Two crews returned with their bombs to Marham.[15]

Photo: Friends of the Royal Air Force 115 Squadron.

Sharing the station’s grass was 38 Squadron, which contributed with twelve more ‘Wimpys’ to the night’s operations. Led by Sqn Leader Gosnell (in A9250) nine of the bombers flew to the German capital where they found ground haze which was described as very thick at times. Some crews claimed to have bombed Tempelhof but no results were seen, with one crew reporting a tremendous explosion seen from cover of cloud after attack target A.385. By 04.20hrs all the aircraft had returned to their base safely.[16] R.J.P. Warren, a navigator/bomb aimer of the squadron recalled the sortie: ‘There was ten-tenths cloud over that part of Germany so, because we were not allowed to bomb unseen, we started to bring the bombs back home. Unfortunately, having spent some time searching for the target, we were running a little low on fuel so the skipper decided to drop the bombs in the North Sea.[17]

[Armourers load a 250-lb GP bomb into the bomb bay of a Wellington of No 3 (Bomber) Group at Wick.]

Photo: © IWM (CH 109).

Photo: © IWM (CH 109).

Meanwhile, 5 Group squadrons bombed up their aircraft too: at RAF Waddington in Lancashire No 44 Squadron five Hampden bombers took off from 20.05 hrs and bounded for Berlin with three of the crews claiming to have bombed targets H.324 and A.389 in Tempelhof, dropping several 250-lb bombs and incendiaries. The fifth bomber dropped bombs on a marshalling yard (M.499) and observed three bursts in the target area.[18]

At Hemswell, 61 Squadron for his part put up five more Hampdens which were to attack the BMW aero engine factory.[19] In spite of the bad weather encountered, four crews reached Spandau and claimed to drop bombs on the target without observe the results. The remaining bomber returned to base early with inter-communication trouble.[20]

Parked next to 61 Sqn, four aircraft of 144 Squadron took part on this raid too but low cloud encountered and the intense AA fire barrage over the German capital prevented the crews to find their targets; one of them bombed an aerodrome near Wonstorf, a few miles from Hannover during the return flight.[21] 

[Hampden bomber crews of No. 61 Squadron at Hemswell putting on flying kit before a night bombing sortie over Germany.]

Photo: © IWM (HU 104630).

[A Handley Page Hampden bomber of 61 Squadron prepares to take off on a night raid from RAF Hemswell.]

Photo: © IWM (HU 104631).

A perfect pancake landing
RAF’s only loss on this raid was Hampden P2123 of 44 Squadron: piloted by twenty-year-old Flying Officer Romans, this bomber found adverse weather over Berlin and after delivery the bombs on Tempelhof area the crew faced the return journey running out of fuel over the inhospitable North Sea. Finally, after being airborne for 9 and 30 minutes the engines stopped and Romans skilfully ditched the plane less than two miles off Salthouse others say Cromer on the Norfolk coast at 05.35 hours and the crew, unhurt, took to their dinghy and paddle to shore during more than 3 hours to safety.[22] 

[A fine portrait of F/O David Albert A Romans (DFC) and Corporal Harry Logan (W/Op) of No 44 Squadron from Waddington. Romans, a Canadian who joined the RAF was the pilot at the controls of the Hampden bomber lost (P2123) during the return flight from Berlin after bombing the city on the night of 31 August. The rest of the crew was formed by navigator P/O Donald E Stewart (a Canadian too) and Cpl Jimmy Mandale as Air gunner.]

Photo: Williston, GSPH, 1996.

[Cpl Jimmy Mandale (middle) of 44 Sqn poses with two RAF comrades. He was flying as air gunner on Hampden P2123 on this night. Mandale’s logbook, preserved by his grandson Mark, shows that night they had been 9 hours and a half on the air for the Berlin operation.]

Photo: Williston, GSPH, 1996.

Berlin Battered 3 Hours
Following the attack, the Air Ministry statement in London announced that the raid, aimed at “selected military targets” in the Berlin area battered aircraft factories, electric power stations and airports of the Nazi capital with explosions and fires that did “considerable damage”.[23] 

Actually, this was mostly an ineffective raid, the German capital was obscured by clouds and the adverse weather conditions made almost impossible to British aircrews to get any landmark on route to the target, forcing them to a dead reckoning navigation and to bomb relying on their estimated time of arrival (ETA), which resulted in a poor bombing pattern and several crews overflying the capital without drop their bombs. 61 squadron log sums up this: “Weather conditions were bad. 10/10 clouds down to 2000’ made it impossible for pilots to pin-point with accuracy. Those who bombed the target found breaks in cloud but only made approximate positions over the target area.[24] Returning crews reported also that the anti-aircraft fire over the city was intense but generally below the height of the aircraft.[25]

As on previous raids, bad weather forced them too to spent considerable time trying to locate the objectives. Targets such Berlin or Stettin in Poland were at the very limit of the Hampden’s range, where severe headwind or minimal navigation error could make force landing on the return flight as happened with Romans’ bomber loss. 

[Luftwaffe’s air assault on England: a formation of Dornier Do 17Z bombers in flight on their way to ‘blitz’ some English target during an August 1940 summer raid. Ironically, this German medium bomber was powered by two Bramo (BMW) 323 radial engines built in factories located in Berlin.]

Photo: Bild 101I-342-0603-25.

In the meantime, air sirens sounded in London but the real target of the night was further northwest, more than 150 Luftwaffe bombers hit the Merseyside area including Liverpool and Birkenhead where thousands of incendiaries were dropped in a six-hour raid.[26] Some chronicles related the Berlin raid as a retaliatory attack but RAF officers stated that this was part of “one phase of a tireless mass offensive”.[27]

[Bomb damage in Liverpool: an air raid shelter which withstood the strain of a tall building which fell upon it, September 1st, 1940.]

Photo: liverpool.echo.

Our next post will cover the German reports and the consequences of this fourth raid on Berlin by British bombers. This attack was a small air strike which caused a minimum damage on the Reich capital but it was one step more in the bombing campaign started in this early stage of the war.

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Notes:

[1] see Berlin Luftterror, RAF’s third raid on Berlin <https://www.berlinluftterror.com/blog/30-august-1940-raid>
[2] The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Operations Record Books: AIR 27. © Crown Copyright.
[3] MIDDLEBROOK, Martin and EVERETT, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. 2014 Ed, p 78.
[4] TWEDDLE, Paul. The Other Battle of Britain: 1940: Bomber Command’s Forgotten Summer. The History Press, 2018, pp 183-5.
[5] BOWMAN, Martin. Bomber Command. Cover of Darkness 1939 - May 1942. Volume: 1. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2011, p 70.
[6] DONELLY, Larry. The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain. Red Kite/Air Research, 2004, p 122.
[7] DEMPS, Laurenz. Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014, p 238.
[8] https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/27259 “144 Squadron at RAF Hemswell,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 30, 2022.
[9] see TNA AIR-27-894_2.
[10] ibid.
[11] see TNA AIR-27-453.
[12] ibid.
[13] see TNA AIR 27-453 and AIR-27-447-22.
[14] see TNA AIR-27-453.
[15] see TNA AIR-27-887-20.
[16] see TNA AIR-27-397-20.
[17] quoted in TWEDDLEop. cit. p 184.
[18] see TNA AIR-27-447-22.
[19] see TNA AIR-27-576-20.
[20] see TNA AIR-27-980-18.
[21] see TNA AIR-27-980-20.
[22] CHORLEYWR. RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War. Volume 1 1939-40. Classic Publications. 2nd edition, 2013, p 196; see TNA AIR-27-447-22; BOWMANop. cit. p 70. Romans had take part on the three raids over Berlin made by 44 Sqn during that month with different crews, only to be killed on 8 September 1941 over Norway in a B-17 Fortress Mk. I of No 90 Sqn sent to bomb the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, one of the first Flying Fortresses downed over Europe during WW2; see also DONNELLYop. cit. p 122; TWEDDLEop. cit. pp 184-5.
[23] The New York Times, September 1, 1940, page 2.
[24] see TNA AIR-27-576-20; TWEDDLEop. cit. p 184.
[25] see TNA AIR-27-576-20.
[26] Battle of Britain Historical Society website. The Chronology: page-31. Friday August 30th - Saturday August 31st1940. <https://www.battleofbritain1940.net/0031.html> Raymond Daniell to The New York Times, September 1, 1940, page 1.
[27] James MacDonald to The New York Times, September 1, 1940, page 1.

Bibliography:

  • BRITISH BOMBING SURVEY UNIT. The Strategic Air War Against Germany 1939 - 1945 - The Official Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit. Frank Cass, 1998.
  • Churchill, Winston. Their Finest Hour. Houghton Mifflin, 1949.
  • Materna, Horst. Die Geschichte der Henschel Flugzeug-Werke A.G. in Schönefeld bei Berlin 1933 bis 1945. Rockstuhl Verlag, 2010.
  • Spandau Siemensstadt. Berliner Industriekultur – Die Metropole neu entdecken. Berliner Schriften zur Industriekultur, Hg. Berliner Zentrum Industriekultur, Band 1, 2021.
  • Tress HB. Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 65–78. 1982. 
  • Ward, Chris. 5 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Pen & Sword Books, 2007.
  • Ward, Chris and Smith, Steve. 3 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Pen & Sword Books, 2009.
  • Williston, Floyd.Through Footless Halls of Air: The Stories of a Few of the Many who Failed to ReturnGSPH, 1996.
  • Young, Neil. The Role of the Bomber Command in the Battle of Britain. Imperial War Museum Review No. 06, 1991.

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Previous post >


Einmannbunker at Tempelhof

Tempelhof’s BWS
We were ‘revisiting’ some colour footage taken in the Flughafen Tempelhof area some minutes after a 1944 air raid when we noticed, just before the end of the video, a clear example of a BWS (Brandwachenstände) or ‘einmann bunker’ in Berlin (see our previous post about these small structures, to protect from the bombs splinters during an air raid) or that until now had gone unnoticed (extreme right of the picture). This particular one seems to be a concrete hexagon-shaped type.

Photo: still from film, AKH-media.

Close examination of the post-strike footage reveals the exact location of this BWS/SSZ (red spot on the image, a PR taken on 22 March 1945 by USAAF aircraft): it was located outside Tempelhof next to the northeastern complex of buildings (which housed the Bauleitung der Luftwaffe) adjacent of the airport surrounded by debris and what looks like a working area, more or less where today stands the Columbiahalle concert hall at Columbiadamm.

Photo: NARA.

There were at least two more SSZ ‘bunkers’ similar in shape at the same area across the street, next to Tempelhof’s eastern wing, clearly seen in this aerial image taken facing southwards a few months after the end of the war in 1945. Notice the line of parked American C-47s transport aircraft, which means that the airport was already in US service

The original AKH-archiv footage of this post-strike sequence at Berlin-Tempelhof taken in 1944 can be found on Youtube:


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Previous post >


Heart of Berlin Bombed

‘British Bombs set Big Fires in Berlin. Nazis Blast London’ 

– New York Journal-American, Saturday, 31 August, 1940 –

Photo by UMBO/ ullstein bild.

On the night of August 30/31, 1940, the air alarm sirens and the anti-aircraft bursts woke up Berliners from their sleep again, who hurried get dressed to go to the cellars and makeshift air raid shelters: the Royal Air Force was visiting the Reich’s capital for the third time. 

As we have seen on the previous post, that night Berlin targets were the large Siemensstadt works in the northwestern sector, Tempelhof airport facilities and oil storages and the Henschel-Schönefeld factory. In all, London sent forty-one medium bombers with 34 of them reaching the city and dropping their deadly cargo with more or less success over their assigned targets, covered by darkness and heavy clouds.[1] This was the ninth air alarm of the war in Berlin and this time the sirens howled over Germany’s heartland from 01.39 hours until the all-clear alarm (‘Entwarnung’) finally sounded at 03.15, nearly two hours later.[2] 

Press reports described three waves of enemy planes coming from the northwest with German Flak (AA guns) firing minutes before the first alarm sounded, followed by fires and explosions concentrated on the same district as the previous attack two nights earlier (Kreuzberg, author’s note). It was reported that some of the raiders were flying lower than before and that flares were dropped over the city’s center, remarking a big explosion that sent sparks into the air in the southeastern section of the city.[3] Some correspondent described it as the fiercest, but one of the shortest air raids the Reich’s capital has yet experienced.’ [4]  

The official OKW report summed up the events on the next morning: “Last night British planes continued their attacks on Berlin and other cities in the Reich territory. A number of bombs fell in the city center and in workers’ residential areas of the Reich capital. Here, as in other parts of the Reich, the damage to property is insignificant. There are no deaths to complain about. Some civilians have been injured.” [5] Dr Laurenz Demp, in his study about the bombing war, listed the amount of bombs dropped on that night on the city as 19.7 t of explosives and around 1,110 4-lb of incendiaries.[6] 

Photo: John Frost newspapers/ Alamy.

“British Blast Center of Hitler’s Capital”
As on previous raids, the Abschlußmeldung des Kommandos der Schutzpolizei recorded every bomb hit and issued on September 28th a report that allow us to list all the damage taken by the districts on that night. The Berlin-Mitte district was hit by several high explosive bombs: in Axel-Springer-Straße (part of Lindenstraße until 1996) an 125 kg explosive bomb fell on number 40-41 where the Hauptfeuerwache (main fire station) was located, causing heavy damage on the frontyard’s window panels, garage doors and several pipes. It blasted a six-foot crater in the stone pavement. Another HE bomb hit the adjacent Reichstierärztekammer headquarters in Nr 42, which destroyed the roof structure and top floors of the building, with some debris falling on the courtyard of the fire station too. A third bomb hit Sebastianstr 26, damaging the Luisenstadt Schüle and destroying the apartments across the street, number 61.[7] 

[A 1934-view of Lindenstraße 40-41 in Berlin-Mitte during the Third Reich days. From 1864 to 1961 here was the Hauptfeuerwache, or main fire station. The building has been preserved and is home of the municipal youth facility Alte Feuerwache e.V.]

Photo: Berliner Feuerwehr.

Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

Most of the bombs fell on the southeastern residential district of Kreuzberg, where caused severe damage with fires and some buildings collapse. In Alexandrinenstraße 22-26 and 105-106, roof fires were started after several explosive bombs hit the area and in Nr 43 an explosive bomb destroyed the roof structure. At Ritterstraße 79-87 roof truss fires were reported and the tram overhead lines were also destroyed here. One more explosive hit the street in front of number 36, a large commercial building, home of the August Wellner Söhne AG Metallwaren-Fabrik: the blast destroyed a gas street lamp and caused heavy damage to the facade smashing every window, further significant damage affected all houses within a radius of about 100 meters with more explosions in the adjacent Mathieustraße. A block away, another bomb hit Wassertorstr. 35 causing heavy damage on the roof and last floor.[8] 

[German police and SD members inspecting the burned out and smashed facade at Wassertorstr. 36 after an HE British bomb died on the street next to the building. Note the Wellner Söhne AG lettering.]

Photo by Keystone-France Gamma.

[Closer look which appeared on a German newsreel after the attack showing the damage caused by the bomb at Ritterstr. 36, which destroyed the gas candelabra.]

Photo: Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung (02892900_p).

[Bomb damage caused in Alexandrinenstraße, when several fires and explosions destroyed the facade of this residential block of apartments and several roofs on the street buildings after being hit by a stick of small bombs dropped during the Royal Air Force raid on 30 August 1940.]

Photo via Julian Hendy.

[The destroyed facade of a residential apartment in Alexandrinenstraße after a bomb hit. After being passed by the censor, this picture was published by the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and was distributed to the international press agencies.]

Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann/ ullstein bild.

A stick of enemy’s incendiary bombs fell on the Hohenstaufenplatz surrounds, hitting the side wing of the Bethesda Hospital at Dieffenbachstraße 39. Police reported that the patients were prepared for evacuation but the fire was soon curbed and the hospital was not in danger. Two more incendiary bombs set a fire in the adjacent evangelisch-methodistische Christus-Kirche but thanks to a Hauswarten that put them out, only two pews and small sections of the floor were charred.[9] More bomb hits were reported at Boppstr. 3-4 and Schönleinstr. 13, and in Planufer 91-92, where a pair of ‘duds’ found forced some Berliners to be evacuated from their houses.[10] 

[Taken a few minutes after the air attack, this picture shows the flames of the fire caused when RAF incendiary bombs hit the Bethesda hospital building and the adjacent Christus-Kirche in Dieffenbachstraße, Kreuzberg. Built in 1906, the damage was repaired at expense of government agencies, but in February 1944 the church was hit again destroying its roof completely.] 

Photo by Heinrich Hoffman/Associated Press Radiophoto.

[Curious Berliners take a look at the fire damage done on the Bethesda Hospital and Christus-Kirche at Dieffenbachstraße the following morning after the raid, August 31.]

Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

[Two members of the Berliner Feuerschutzpolizei are seen clearing debris in the destroyed top floor of Wassertorstr. 35 in Kreuzberg, after being hit by an explosive bomb.]

Photo: Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-L08580.

Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

In the Neuköll ‘Kiez’, a small fire began at Flughafenstraße when an incendiary bomb fell on the roof building of street number 21 and a ‘dud’ from a fire-bomb was found at Jägerstraße 62 too (today’s Rollbergstr.), in front of the Berliner Kindl Brauerei, but the biggest headlines went to the fire bomb on the Karstadthaus’ roof garden at Hermannplatz. The bomb was thrown onto the street by RLB members, damaging the tram’s high-voltage line.[11] 

[The roof garden atop of the Karstadt AG department store seen in 1940. Known as the ‘Dachterasse des Karstadt-Hauses am Hermannplatz’ it had 4,000 square meter and could accommodate over 500 people. The music bands playing every afternoon and the view over Kreuzberg and Neukölln from a height of 32 m created a unique atmosphere in its rooftop cafe.]

Photo: Culture Club.

Photo: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv.

Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

Meanwhile, in the northwestern Spandau administrative district the British raiders achieved the most important hit of the night when incendiary and high explosive bombs fell in the Siemensstadt area, hitting some buildings of the Siemens-Schukkert werke AG halls although damage was slight. Some minor damage and roof truss fire were done by other incendiaries hitting the Haselhorst area and Otterbuchtstr. Some other explosives struck Gartenfelder Str. 53 with little damage to property and no personal injuries. The Germans found two unexploded ‘duds’ at the Haselhorst Exerzierplatz too.[12] 

Finally, at Löwenhardtstraße, which belongs to the Tempelhof district, a chimney fell to ground after being hit by an anti-aircraft shell.[13] 

[This is an overall view of the locations where British bombs fell on that night superimposed to a 1940-map of Berlin. In this case the numbers refer to the amount of bombs (HE– black colour; incendiaries– red and ‘duds’- orange) reported on every district.]

Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

Although on first reports it was stated that there were no victims, the raid left one dead (who died in the Wassertorstr. 36 fire) and eight more people injured, all residents of Kreuzberg. Nearly a hundred people were evacuated from their homes, NS-authorities providing collective accommodation at Alexandrinenstr. 5-6 and Dieffenbachstr. 60-61 in Kreuzberg, and at the Evangelisches Gemeindehaus in Siemensstadt. Many of the families could back to their houses hours later but the most affected received emergency apartments to stay or were sent with relatives. Emergency ration cards were issued giving money, cloth and shoes, some of them provided by the Bethanien, Bethesda and Am Urban hospitals and field kitchens were delivered. Of interest is that Siemens provided lunch for 17 homeless people too, but at cost price of RM 0.40 per portion.[14]

Photo: Alamy E5GGFR.

“Wohnviertel, Krankenhaus, Kirche. Die englischen Bombenwürfe auf Berlin”
As previous raids, British and American press covered on the very next morning the attack on Berlin and listed the effects of the bombardment sharing headlines with the parallel raid on Krupp’s factory in Essen. The Allies described it as the most extensive assault on the German capital since the war began’ by RAF raiders[15] and highlighted the damage done to the city’s center, specially the bomb hit on the Lindenstraße’s fire station (‘…only four blocks east of Wilhelmstrasse.’), stating that the bombers wrecked several apartment houses and business buildings starting fires in the southeast zone.[16] 

For the first time, the Nazis admitted that the raid caused some damage in the industrial complex of Siemensstadt but curiously the German press didn’t mentioned it on their following morning articles. They carried word by word the official press released by the authorities, and remarked its daily basis theme in all their text: the RAF had bombed ‘blindly’ the capital, attacking residential quarters, hospitals and churches again.[17] 

The Propaganda Ministry prepared to take foreign correspondents again to an auto tour of locations being bombed, and the minor damage to the factories was openly admitted, reasserting on it the non military value of the installation (‘authorities said that the damage to such establishments as might be considered military objectives was extremely small; that the nearest thing to a military objective struck was the vast Siemens Schuckert factory in west Berlin’)[18]. New York Times correspondent P Knauth reported Siemens’ damage as slight and from 50-kilo bombs.[19] More interesting is that despite of the effusive accuracy claimings by British airmen none the Henschel factory in Schönefeld or the Klingenberg power station were listed as being hit. Of course, there is the possibility that the Nazi regime hide the damage in the event that they were actually hit by the night raiders. 

[This is a newspaper clipping from the German Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (DAZ) published the following morning of the attack with a striking headline based on the DNB communique: ‘Wohnviertel, Krankenhaus, Kirche. Die englischen Bombenwürfe auf Berlin’.]

Photo: Zeitungsauschnitte zur Berliner Kriegschronik/ A Rep. 021-02 Nr. 123.

By the end of August, Berlin, the capital of the Third Reich, has sustained the third air attack in four nights and the Royal Air Force has proof that Hitler, even with the most powerful army and air force and having conquered half of Europe, was unable to defend Berliners at home. The political fallout was substantial and as Goebbels noted, the Führer was outraged and in open disposal to bomb heavily London as a reprisal.[20] 

Damage has been slight and none military targets were hit but Bomber Command, in clear inferiority, was able to keep pressure on Germans (ordered by Prime Minister Churchill as a retaliation campaign) and was close to achieve its prime goal: to strike back and to relief Hitler’s attention from the Fighter Command airfields in southwestern England.

_______________

Notes:
[1] see Berlin Luftterror, RAF’s third raid on Berlin; The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Operations Record BooksAIR 27.
[2] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff; DEMPS, Laurenz (Ed). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014, p 238.
[3] Percival Knauth wireless to The New York Times, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 1.
[4] ibid.
[5] OKW report, dated August 31, 1940; see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff.
[6] DEMPSop. cit. p 285.
[7] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff; The New York Times, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 1.
[8] report in the Deutsche Allgemeine ZeitungIn der Ritter- und Alexandrinenstraße, 31 Aug. 1940; see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff.
[9] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 5 ff.
[10] ibid.
[11] ibid.
[12] ibid.
[13] ibid.
[14] ibid.
[15] The Sun, New York, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 1.
[16] report in the New York Post, Saturday August 31, 1940, page 1. “British blast center of Hitler’s capital four blocks from Wilhelmstrasse” and “Apartments in flames” were among other big headlines published by British journals.
[17] Deutsches Nachrichtenbüro report from 31 Aug. 1940; Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 31 Aug. 1940; MOORHOUSE, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, 2011. p 141.
[18] The Sun, New York, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 1.
[19] The New York Times, Saturday, August 31, 1940, page 2.
[20] MOORHOUSEop. cit. p 141; FRIEDRICH, Jörg. Deutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945. Ullstein Heyne List, 2002. pp 56-57. Should be remembered that in that same night German aircraft headed in large formations to bomb Liverpool: about 130 Ju 88 and Heinkel bombers attacked meanwhile some others hit parts of London and Portsmouth, and Manchester, Bristol and Worcester received German bombs too with some 50 people killed.

Bibliography:

  • Frankland, Noble. Bomber Offensive - The Devastation of Europe. Ballantine Books, 1970.
  • Materna, Horst. Die Geschichte der Henschel Flugzeug-Werke A.G. in Schönefeld bei Berlin 1933 bis 1945. Rockstuhl Verlag, 2010.
  • Middlebrook, Martin and Everett, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. Reprint Edition 2014.
  • Overy, Richard. (2013). The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane.
  • Shirer, William L. (1997). Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Galahad Books.
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
  • _______________

    Previous post >


    RAF’s third raid on Berlin

    ‘Two nights later we returned to Berlin…

    …to be met by numerous searchlights and well directed and intensive flak. The raids must have destroyed the myth of German invincibility, thus causing considerable anger to Hitler and Goering who had boasted that such raids would never happen.’ 
    – Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson, DFC, No 149 Sqn –

    Photo: © IWM (C 428).

    On Friday 30 August 1940 afternoon, Bomber Command men were briefed to raid Berlin again. This would be the third bombing raid in four nights against the heart of the Reich, following the previous attack made two nights earlier (28/29 August) which, as we see on previous posts, hit the city center for the first time causing death victims among the Berlin population.[1] 

    From the initial retaliation raid, Churchill continued his strategic air campaign against the Third Reich’s capital, overruling the initial Bomber Command objections of bombing Berlin.[2] The Germans had increased the number of raids on the previous night when nearly 200 bombers dropped bombs on Merseyside and Manchester. On the 30th, from early morning Luftwaffe aircraft maintained its pressure on the RAF attacking several airfields in southeastern England. Those bombings, view as indiscriminate and aimed to Britain’s civil population, marked the continuation of night attacks on Berlin by the Prime Minister but justified targeting industrial and military objectives on the city.[3] 

    This third raid has been normally omitted in Second World War general studies and often confused or mixed with the previous one, both their figures and damage caused, even detailed and focused on the air campaign works such as the one by Prof Overy wrongly states the exact dates of the bombardment.[4]

    As with previous raids, first question to aboard was the exact number of bombers sent to attack Berlin. Again, started from Bomber Command’s operational reference book (Middlebrook, 1985) to get an overall figure of that night sorties, which surprisingly, not mentioned Berlin: ‘87 Blenheims, Hampdens, Wellingtons and Whitleys to 5 targets in Germany and to airfields in France, Holland and Belgium.’ [5] Author Larry Donnelly as usual describes in his book a more detailed breakdown of the night operations, giving a more precise number of the bombing force sent and losses, naming the most important targets of the mission too.[6] Napier, author of the latest book about the Wellington bomber, for his part just refers to the squadrons of the type involved on this operation, without any figure or brief description of the raid[7] meanwhile others like Bowman not mention it and jump to the next raid on the very next night.[8] Paul Tweddle, in his Bomber Command summer 1940 book, narrates the mission with reference to ‘a twenty-nine-strong force [3 Group]’ and a further dozen Whitleys from 4 Group and includes a pair of crew testimonies relating that night sorties over Berlin.[9] Finally, looking at German historians research, Dr Laurenz Demp refers in his study about the bombings on Berlin the number of planes over the capital, according to British sources, as being just twenty-six.[10]

    Careful study of primary sources, in this case each squadron operational records (ORBs), let us to affirm that London sent forty-one twin-engined bombers to attack the city as part of a 87-aircraft force targeting objectives in Germany, Holland and France. In all, 34 crews of those sent reached Berlin with more or less success.[11]

    [The crew of a Vickers Wellington of No. 99 Squadron RAF get into their Irvin two-piece flying suits in the crew room, before taking off for a night raid to Berlin.]

    Photo: © IWM (CH 2505).

    Industrial targets
    Bomber Command allocated two of its bombing groups the mission of targeting the ‘Big City’ —as British crews known the German capital— on that late summer night. Each bomber would fly individually the 650 miles to its assigned Berlin-target in darkness and radio silence. In Suffolk, home of the No 3 Group, the squadrons stations received on the early afternoon Order Form B.255 which ordered “to cause max damage to targets given in para ‘G’ and to create maximum disturbance over Germany during the hours of darkness.” [12]

    Again, main target of the operation was Siemensstadt, where the Siemens & Halske works (coded G.161) at the northwestern part of the capital was the intended objective for fifteen of the raiders. Another squadron of the Group would target F.23, British codename for the Henschel Flugzeug-Werke A.G. (HFW) aircraft factory located in Berlin-Schönefeld, where the Hs 123 dive bomber and parts of the Hs 126 reconnaissance aircraft among other types were built. Alternative target for the bombing force were the Tempelhof oil storage facilities, although half of the attackers finally bombed the already known Klingenberg power station in Rummelsburg (B.57).[13]

    [A view of the assembly line of Hs 126 aircraft at the Henschel Flugzeug-Werke factory in Berlin-Schönefeld.]

    Photo: Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo (00319536).

    [A map showing Schönefeld area in the early 1940s with the Flugplatz and the Henschel HFW buildings installed nearby, very close to today’s Berlin-Schönefeld airport.]

    Photo: AMS M841 GSGS 4414, Courtesy Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

    No 3 Group’s operation order also shows the vital importance that the Air Ministry gave to halt production at Siemens works ordering that as many sorties as possible detailed to attack G161 to be loaded with 2000 lb of bombs” and requested pictures of the factory to be taken.[14]

    Photo: TNA AIR-27-793 © Crown Copyright.

    Meanwhile, in North Yorkshire, No 4 Group was given operations Order No 67 which ordered “to inflict maximum damage to Target allotted” and assigned two of its squadrons equipped with Whitley bombers to the task. Primary objectives were two oil storages located in the capital (coded A.155 and A.156) with a munition factory in Spandau coded C.18 as alternative target.[15] Bomb load of this force consisted in two 500-lb bombs, four 250-lb, one 250-lb delay-fuze bomb and one canister of incendiaries (IBs) carried by each Whitley bomber.

    This time none of the Hampden squadrons (5 Group) participated, being assigned to harass Germany’s oil supply installations on that night.[16]

    Photo: TNA AIR-27-659A © Crown Copyright.

    R.A.F. Lands Explosives in Middle of Berlin”
    The more experienced unit of the 3 Group, No 149 Squadron, was briefed to attack objectives A.78 in Magdeburg and Siemens & Halske Werke in Berlin, departing RAF Mildenhall aerodrome at intervals from 20.21 hrs totalling ten aircraft. The squadron’s ORB noted that the mission was carried out and that all machines returned safely to base. One of the bombers (Wellington R3161 ‘O’ manned by P/O Loat crew) returned early with a sick man aboard.[17]

    [500-lb MC and 250-lb GP bombs, being delivered to bomb a Vickers Wellington Mark IC of No 149 Squadron RAF at a dispersal at Mildenhall airfield.]

    Photo: © IWM (CH 2676).

    Making its combat debut on a Berlin raid on this night was No 214 Squadron from RAF Stradishall, in Suffolk. At this station, five crews were detailed to attack the Siemens works (G.161) and another five to bomb B.57 Klingenberg power station. Four of them reported to have attacked G.161 dropping their bombs effectively, meanwhile two more attacked Klingenberg although the O’ Connor crew was only able to drop incendiaries on it. Two other crews failed to reach Berlin due to engine issues and had to attack targets of opportunity on the Zuider Zee area and a third, piloted by P/O Simson, returned to base early, bringing back home all the bomb load. Nothing was heard or seen of Wellington T2559, declared missing with F/O Craigie-Halkett crew aboard.[18] 

    Finally, 99 Squadron flying from RAF Newmarket, Suffolk, contributed with six Wellington bombers sortied. Two of them bombed Tempelhof’s marshalling yards (M499) and at least one reported seen huge flashes and bursts. Four other crews attacked the Henschel factory in Schönefeld but none of them seen results due to haze and clouds.[19]

    [Vickers Wellington Mark ICT2470 ‘BU-K’, of No 214 Squadron RAF, is towed into a C-type hangar at Stradishall, Suffolk, for repair and overhaul following damage sustained on operations. ‘K-King’ took off at 21.29 hrs piloted by F/L Kauffman tasked to attack the Siemens works in Berlin on that evening.]

    Photo: © IWM (CH 1415).

    [A 214 Squadron (‘BU’ codes on the fuselage) Wellington takes off just prior night falls in eastern England. The ‘Wimpy’ was the best and most advanced bomber the British had at the time.]

    Photo: Paul Tweddle/ Historypress.

    Meanwhile, No 4 Group men readied for the forthcoming operation too. The two assigned squadrons from this group Nos 58 and 77 were both based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse aerodrome at the time. The attack route was planned via Bridlington coast and from then set direct course to Berlin individually covered by darkness.[20]

    The 58 Squadron went first and, soon after dinner, detailed nine aircraft with mixed results, just four claimed to have bombed the city: one bomber hit A156 and saw a red glow, another one attacked Tempelhof with 3 sticks of bombs from 8,000ft reporting seeing fires started and a huge explosion and a third one bombed Siemensstadt instead and a rail junction south of target. Another crew noted to have bombed an aerodrome in the Spandau area. The others failed to locate their objectives (including Sqr Leader Barlett which encountered heavy AA fire and searchlight that prevented target ID) or abandoned the mission and jettisoned their bombs in the sea on the return flight.[21] 

    Minutes later, 77 Squadron dispatched six more Whitleys. They took off from 20.35 hrs similarly tasked and headed to Berlin. Crews reported clouds all the way to the target and very heavy AA fire met over Bremen area, but not so intense over the Reich capital. Back in England, all reported to have dropped their bombs over the target from an average height of 8,000 feet, claiming several direct hits and violent explosions seen and considerable fires started by incendiaries.[22]

    [RAF armourers ‘bombing up’ an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mark V with 250-lb General Purpose bombs in 1940.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU 107777).

    [The pilot of a Whitley bomber gives the “thumbs up” during the pre-flight check prior to take off to another bombing sortie, August 1940.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU 104667).

    Radar-controlled night victory
    The RAF lost two aircraft in this Berlin sortie: one was Whitley P5002, a bomber from 58 Squadron coded ‘GE-T’. The crew failed to locate any target so bombed a factory near Nordhorn. On the return leg, the aircraft was low on fuel and pilot P/O Neville O Clements ordered to abandon the aircraft circa 05.00 into the North Sea, off Hornsea. All crew was rescued minus Sgt Hill, who was presumed drowned, his body being lost.[23]

    The other victim was Wellington IA T2559BU-A’, a 214 Sqn machine which during the outward-flight to Berlin was shot down at 23.24 hrs by Oberleutnant Werner Streib of 2./NJG 1, who was flying a Bf 110 night fighter from Anholt airfield. The bomber crashed near Halle (Gelderland), the Netherlands, the impact detonating the bomb load. This was the first ground-radar tracked victory at night, Streib and his ‘bordfunker’ being led by a ‘Wurzburg’ radar in Raum 5B based at Deurne. The ‘Wimpy’ was coned before for 3 minutes by two searchlights of III./Flakscheinw. Rgt 1 and downed in flames by Streib, who observed no chutes from the fallen bomber.[24] 

    The crew of six perished in the crash (Sgt. G H Bainbridge, F/O LM Cragie-Halkett, P/O WS Cunynghame, Sgt. SJ Haldane, Sgt. GE Merryweather and Sgt. AB Puzey) and were all buried at the local cemetery in Halle. The story behind the loss of T2559 has been well researched by Bennie Eenink. 

    [German ace Hauptmann Werner Streib (left) posing with Major Wolfgang Falck, “father” of the Luftwaffe’s night fighting force. Wellington T2559 was Streib’s fourth victory claim of a total war score of 68. An hour later he dispatched another bomber, an 50 Sqn Hampden downed over Velen.] 

    Photo: © IWM (HU 108207).

    [A German Messerschmitt Bf 110D night fighter painted overall black in flight, in this case from 7. Staffel of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1. At this early stage of the war, German night fighters still lacked airborne radars so they depend of ground control to localize and engage the British raiders at night.]

    Photo: asisbiz.

    Two more ‘Wimpys’ returned safely but were damaged when they had to force land, both of them of 214 Squadron: Wellington IA P2530 piloted by F/O RR O’Connor, when returned to base and low on fuel, undershot into a ditch short of the runway with no casualties. The other was P9233 with F/O Proctor crew aboard that touched ground at Overton.[25]

    [These pictures of T2559 wreck appeared in the Dutch Graafschapbode newspaper, as well as some others from the burial of the British crew in the first week of September, 1940.]

    Photo from Bennie Eenink.

    Carefully-selected military objectives in Berlin” 
    Returning RAF crews interestingly reported that the city’s blackout was very effective and that haze and clouds made nearly impossible to observe the results of their bombing runs. Some pilots related that were unable to identify anything of interest through the clouds even after releasing flares to illuminate the zone, which forced them to turn for home or bombed some other target.[26] Others ran into AA heavy fire on route on the Bremen area and were astonished that it was less intense over Berlin centre and that it seems all the searchlights and guns were in the NW suburbs of the city.[27] 

    At the same time, across the Channel, German aircraft took off from northern France bases heading in large formations to bomb Liverpool: about 130 Ju 88 and Heinkel bombers attacked meanwhile some others hit parts of London and Portsmouth, and Manchester, Bristol and Worcester received German bombs too with some 50 people killed.[28]

    [The ruined organ of the Wallasey Town Hall in Merseyside, Liverpool, after being hit by a German bomb during the 30/31 August air raid.]

    Photo: liverpool.echo.

    On the next day, the Air Ministry released an official communiqué about the raid on Germany stating that objective for the bombers were industrial and military targets at the outskirts of the enemy’s capital city: “The R.A.F. bombers selected for special attack an objective four miles from the centre of the city”, and dropped a “large number of bombs on a series of carefully-selected military objectives in Berlin.” London admitted the loss of three of the bombers from all operations on that night.[29]

    [No. 149 Squadron aircraft flying in ‘vic’ formation in the summer of 1940. Two of the bombers, Wellingtons ‘M’ serial R3206 (at right), and ‘N’ P9247 (in the far background), were among those sent to bomb Berlin on that night.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU107813).

    The escalation of the bombing war was evident and in the next days both bands would increase their bomb tonnage dropped over civilians. The importance to keep pressure on the Reich capital in Churchill’s view and beyond its military value was shown when the Air Ministry authorized for the first time a journalist to fly on the raid aboard one of the attacking bombers.[30] The RAF’s bombing arm, at a time when Britain was isolated and standing alone against the Nazi advance to the West, went onto the offensive attacking civilian targets in Germany soil, forcing a change of strategy in the air war by German leaders. 

    Our next post will cover the German view and the consequences of this third raid on Berlin. 

    _______________

    Notes:
    [1] MOORHOUSE, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, 2011, pp 140-1.
    [2] DENIS, Richards. Royal Air Force 1939-1945, 1. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1954, p 182.
    [3] DONELLY, Larry. The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain. Red Kite/Air Research, 2004. p 120; a complete narrative of the day actions over Britain can be checked on the Battle of Britain Historical Society website. The Chronology: page-31. Friday August 30th - Saturday August 31st 1940.<https://www.battleofbritain1940.net/0031.html> The Air Ministry released a communiqué in which assumed thatthe object [of this German bombings] is to terrorize the civil population.” AIRMINDED, Saturday, 31 August 1940 <https://airminded.org/2010/08/31/saturday-31-august-1940/>
    [4] OVERY, Richard. The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane, 2013.
    [5] MIDDLEBROOK, Martin and EVERETT, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. 2014 Ed, p 78.
    [6] DONELLYop. cit. pp 120-121.
    [7] NAPIER, Michael. Vickers Wellington Units of Bomber Command (Combat Aircraft Book 133). Osprey Publishing, 2020, p 32.
    [8] BOWMAN, Martin. Bomber Command. Cover of Darkness 1939 - May 1942. Volume: 1. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2011, pp 69-70.
    [9] TWEDDLE, Paul. The Other Battle of Britain: 1940: Bomber Command’s Forgotten Summer. The History Press, 2018, pp 181-3.
    [10] DEMPS, Laurenz (Ed). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014, p 238.
    [11] The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Operations Record Books: AIR 27. © Crown Copyright.
    [12] see TNA AIR-27-1005.
    [13] see TNA AIR-27-1325.
    [14] ibid.
    [15] see TNA AIR-27-659A.
    [16] TWEDDLEop. cit. p182.
    [17] see TNA AIR-27-1000-22.
    [18] see TNA AIR-27-1319-5 and TNA AIR 27-1319-6.
    [19] see TNA AIR-27-788-20.
    [20] see TNA AIR-27-659A.
    [21] see TNA AIR-27-543-20.
    [22] see TNA AIR-27-655-24.
    [23] CHORLEY, W R. RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War. Volume 1 1939-40. Classic Publications, 2nd edition, 2013, pp 195-196; DONELLYop. cit. p 121. 
    [24] The German combat report described the action: “…enemy aircraft burned immediately between the fuselage and starboard engine. No bale-outs observed. Impact in the night-fighting zone, during which bombs detonated.” BOITEN, Theo. Nachtjagd Combat Archive. The early years Part 1. 1939-12 July 1941. Red Kite, 2018, p 24. Thanks to Ian Hunt which linked code letter ‘A’ to Wellington IA T2559.
    [25] see TNA AIR-27-655-24 and TNA AIR 27-1319-6.
    [26] In the operations order of the Group there is a clear mandatory to crews“to report on effectiveness of Black-out over Germany compared with this country”, see TNA AIR-27-659A. Some crew testimonies of this can be found at ‘Bomber Command in the Battle of Britain: Stories of The Many’ by Paul Tweddle https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/bomber-command-in-the-battle-of-britain-stories-of-the-many/
    [27] see TNA AIR-27-655-24.
    [28] Friday August 30th - Saturday August 31st 1940. Battle of Britain Historical Society. The Chronology: page-31. A chronicle of the German bombing operations can be found in: SMITH, J Richard and CREEK, Eddie J. Kampfflieger Bombers of the Luftwaffe Volume Two: July 1940-December 1941. Classic Publications, 2004, p 109; DONELLY: op. cit. p 120.
    [29] The New York Times, August 31, 1940, page 2.
    [30] TWEDDLE: op. cit. p 182.

    Bibliography:

    • Bowman, Martin. Voices in flight: The Heavy Bomber Offensive of WWII. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2015.
    • BRITISH BOMBING SURVEY UNIT. The Strategic Air War Against Germany 1939 - 1945 - The Official Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit. Frank Cass, 1998.
    • Churchill, Winston. Their Finest Hour. Houghton Mifflin, 1949.
    • Frankland, Noble. Bomber Offensive - The Devastation of Europe. Ballantine Books, 1970.
    • Materna, Horst. Die Geschichte der Henschel Flugzeug-Werke A.G. in Schönefeld bei Berlin 1933 bis 1945. Rockstuhl Verlag, 2010.
    • No. 214 (Federated Malay States) Squadron Royal Air Force <https://www.214squadron.org.uk/>
    • Oud Zelhem. The story behind the British war graves in Halle (NL) The WellingtonT2559. <https://oudzelhem.eu/index.php/2e-wereldoorlog/wereldoorlog-2e/32-wereldoorlog-2e/2e-wereldoorlog/verhalen-2e-wereldoorlog/881-britse-oorlogsgraven-in-halle-english>
    • Tress HB. Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 65–78. 1982. 
    • Ward, Chris and Smith, Steve. 3 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Pen & Sword Books, 2009.
    • Williston, Floyd.Through Footless Halls of Air: The Stories of a Few of the Many who Failed to Return. GSPH, 1996.
    • Young, Neil. The Role of the Bomber Command in the Battle of Britain. Imperial War Museum Review No. 06, 1991.

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    Previous post >


    Der Hansaplatz-Bezirk

    [Severe devastation can be seen in this aerial picture of the northern Tiergarten and Hansaviertel district after the war, taken in winter 1945.]

    Photo: Senatsverwaltung für Bau- und Wohnungswesen Berlin Luftbildstelle.

    Located in the northwestern Tiergarten, the Hansaviertel was built from the intersection of three main streets in a star-shaped square, which was named Hansaplatz in 1879. A residential ‘Bezirk’, the zone emerged from the city’s rising prosperity. The S-Bahn railway, adjacent to the river Spree and with two stations (Bhf-Tiergarten and Bellevue) located here, divided this district into a north-eastern and a south-western area. The newcomers wealthy citizens built prestigious houses with elaborately composed styles, cornices and friezes in neo-baroque and neo-renaissance façades with small front gardens along the roadsides. Many notable citizens lived here during the Weimar Republic. 

    The quarter had a remarkably high proportion of Jewish population. They were all practically deported during the Nazi period, first ‘resettled’ and later sent to the death camps, and their two synagogues used as a collection camp for Jews and later destroyed.

    [The Hansaviertel seen circa 1940 with the central square Hansaplatz, before the district was severely damaged by the combined RAF and USAAF bombing campaign. Brückenallee, where the two assembly halls were located, is seen at extreme right of the picture, running north towards Bhf Bellevue and notice at left the railway tracks.]

    ©Landesarchiv Berlin.

    [A southern view of the Tiergarten’s S-Bahnhof Bellevue train station taken in 1938.]

    Photo: pastvuu.

    [A pre-war view of the fancy Brückenallee Nr 1, known as ‘Villa Augusta’, where today stands the Akademie der Künste.]

    Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin.

    The Hansaviertel in the Bombenkrieg, 1940-1945
    The area was heavily damaged by the Allied air raids during the war, first time that the Hansaviertel appeared on the city’s bombing reports was on 20/21 December 1940, when several British incendiary bombs struck buildings at Brückenallee 2-6 and 32, and at Altonaer Str. 17. A year later, during the 7/8 November 1941 air attack, the largest single raid to date (73 RAF bombers raided the city), several bombs landed along Altonaer Str. and Hansaplatz, including some on the Hansabrücke

    When London restarted the aerial raids against the city in 1943 with a two-night small campaign, the district was hit hard on 16/17 and 17/18 January (169 and 187 bombers bombed, respectively): severe building damage resulted at Altonaer Str. 9-14, Schleswiger Ufer 12/13 and Lessingstr. 40 all hit by air-mines that left more than 200 homeless. On the Spree near the Hansabrücke, seven boats were slightly damaged by explosive bombs. 

    [A view of the bomb damage taken by Altonaer Straße during the RAF raid on 16/17 January 1943, in this case street number 12.]

    Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin.

    The northern Tiergarten and Moabit areas were completely destroyed during the British fall and winter 1943-44 raids when RAF aircraft flew 10,813 sorties dropping 33,390 tons of bombs, especially the “Hansa” quarter which was hit hard by fire and explosive bombs and air-mines with German records talking about ‘Schwere und schwerste Zerstörungen’ at the district. The Schloss Bellevue was badly hit and listed as a “total loss” too. In contrast to the severe damage to buildings, the casualties are relatively small in the district but water, light, gas and telephone connections were several days off.

    [British targets indicators (TIs) fall on the Tiergarten and the Hansaviertel and Moabit districts during an RAF night raid in fall 1943. Note the Grosser Stern at bottom left and the Westhafen docks on the upper part of the picture.]

    Photo: © IWM (C4925).

    [A 1944-view looking east of the district northwest of the Tiergarten after the RAF’s ‘Battle of Berlin’ bombing campaign. There is overwhelming evidence of a tremendous spread of fire with great number of roofless buildings. At centre is Hansaplatz, with Spree running from top right to bottom left.]

    Photo: Australian War Memorial (SUK11929).

    The American daylight air raids caused severe damage on this area too: centre of Berlin was the target for US bombers on 8 May 1944 403 bombers reached Berlin on that day under a complete overcast hitting the area around the Zoo and the Hansa-district with disastrous consequences.

    In the late stages of the war, nuisance night raids by RAF Mosquitoes also caused destruction in the Hansaviertel as reported on 31 December 1944 when a ‘cookie’ bomb hit Altonaer Str. 2, or after several bombs struck at Brückenallee 22 and Tile-Wardenberg-Str. 10 on 10 March 1945. Finally, on April 12, 1945, Mosquitoes dropped bombs again on the already ruined district, hitting Brückenallee 4, Händelallee, and the ruins of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Gedächtniskirche. More bombs collapsed part of the railway bridge at Lessingstraße.

    [This series of pictures showing of bomb damage and devastation were taken by a German PK photographer in the Hansaviertel district after a British air raid in 1943.]

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    Photo: bpk.

    This bomb damage diagram was released by the British Air Ministry after examining numerous aerial photographs to indicate how much damage was caused by the RAF air campaign up to February 1944 (darkened areas) on the city centre. Note that practically all the Hansaviertel’s built-up area is marked as “destroyed”.

    Photo: Australian War Memorial (SUK11941).

    The 1945 fightings
    From March 1945, Berlin and its citizens prepared for the final battle with the advancing Russian troops. The Hansaviertel and northern Tiergarten park were located inside the inner circle of “the fortress”, being its first line of defence the Spree river. This area was defended by some units from Panzer-Division ‘Müncheberg’ and was hammered during all battle by Soviet artillery. Barricades and tank obstacles were built at the Hansa- and Moabiterbrücken in preparation for the intended bloody street-fighting. On the 27th April the Soviet 12th Guards Tank Corps with the 79th Rifle Corps on its right flank advanced from the north through the Moabit district reaching the river’s north bank on the afternoon of the 28th, although both units encircled the “Hansa” area: the 79th pushed east to get a direct assault across the Moltkebrücke into the Reichstag and Königsplatz and the 12th westwards to western Moabit, but finally halted due to its heavy infantry losses. No great advance was made here until May 1st, when the attacking forces penetrated into the Hansa and western Tiergarten from Charlottenburg Tor.

    [Reconnaissance aerial image of Hansaplatz area and northwestern Tiergarten looking west, taken on March 22, 1945, a month before the Soviet assault on the city, the tank barricade is already built blocking the Hansabrücke, seen at top left of the picture.]

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3176.

    After the ceasefire, a Panzer VI Tiger I tank was found abandoned at Altonaer Straße. It was positioned between the railway bridge and the Panzersperre barricade that blocked the southern end of the Hansabrücke to prevent the Soviet assault from the north. This tank, one of the last two of this type fighting in Berlin, belonged to the 3./Pz. Abt. ‘Müncheberg’.

    Photo: Archer, L. Panzers in Berlin 1945. Panzerwrecks, 2019.

    Pictures show the same Tiger in 1946 when the dismantling work had begun, surrounded by a sea of rubble and bricks, and with its main wheels and tracks missing. The tank had a mixed composition with an early built hull and a late style turret with zimmerit and commander’s cupola, and a white outlined swastika was painted on the sides of the hull. 

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,10).

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin SM 2011-1705,6.

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,31).

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,34).

    Next to the Tiger at Altonaer Str Ecke Schleswiger Ufer there was a Panzerspähwagen PAK 40, in this case facing Tiergarten. The crew abandoned the armoured car and destroyed its gun; closer pictures revealed that it was equipped with a 7.92 mm MG81Z machine gun fitted to the left armour plate. It is assumed that this vehicle belonged to the same unit as the heavy tank.

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,24).

    British Royal Engineer C S Newman captured this series of photos of a German Trümmerfrau working on some bricks seated in front of the Sd.Kfz.234/4 wreck at Altonaer Straße. The Tiger tank is seen behind. 

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1732,33).

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1711,36).

    Some blocks away to the east, American William Vandivert found more remains of German vehicles abandoned. He took these pictures at Claudiusstraße/Flensburger Straße in July 1945 in the northern part of the Hansaviertel. Among the wrecks under the S-Bahn railway bridge there were two schwerer Pz.Sp.Wg. (7·5cm Pak 40) (Sd.Kfz.234/4) armoured cars which probably belonged to Pz.Spähl.Kp. from Panzer-Division ‘Müncheberg’.

    Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.

    Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.

    Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.

    [Here, US Army Pfc. John Shoemaker is seen inspecting the same battle wrecks at Claudiusstraße on 1 July 1945. On the original picture a Sd.Kfz.250 is seen on the left.]

    Photo: R.Kraska.

    [The Lessingbrücke with the heavily damaged Haus Lessing in the background, seen in 1947 in the Hansaviertel-Tiergarten district.]

    Photo: SM 2011-1705,11.

    Post mortem
    The war bombings caused a complete destruction in the area and its fancy residential buildings. According to Dr. Sandra Wagner-Conzelmann, of the 343 houses listed in the district just 70 remain, many of them badly damaged. Nonetheless, about 4,000 people still lived there among rubble. In the devastated Tiergarten, the remaining trees were chopped down months later which, combined with the multiple bomb craters, made the area to resemble a moon landscape.

    The rebuilt program did not start until 1953, when the German Senate declared this district the core area of the imminent International Building Exhibition Interbau (Interbau 57), creating from 1957 a modern urban area designed by several internationally renowned architects. Hans Scharoun, Head of the Department for Building and Housing in Berlin, summed up the project: ‘What remains, after the loosening-up achieved by bombing raids and the final battle, gives us the chance to shape an urban landscape.’

    [Berliners collecting wood meanwhile some others grow vegetables in Tiergarten around the ruined Kaiser Friedrich Memorial church, which was destroyed during the 22 November 1943 raid by RAF bombs. A new church, designed by architect Ludwig Lemmer, was built here in 1957.]

    Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin.

    Photo: Akademie der Künste.

    [In this post-war photo we see the sea of rubble in which Lessingstraße Ecke Händelallee had become and the intense clearing debris work made by surviving Berliners in 1945/46.]

    Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin/ Erich O. Krueger.

    [The ruined panorama seen at Nettelbeckstraße and Keithstraße in the Hansaviertel district in fall 1945.]

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin (SM 2011-1695,16).

    [Post-war Altonaer Straße and some vegetable gardens in the Tiergarten seen from the Siegessäule in 1947. Note the ruined Memorial church at extreme left.]

    Photo: © Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    [Harry Croner took this picture of the railway bridge in Bellevue in 1947 showing the Allied bombers’ work done in Tiergarten. The curving tracks indicate us that the exact location was Klopstockstraße, a few metres before the S-Bhf Bellevue.]

    Photo: ©Stadtmuseum Berlin/ CronerNeg 108/D1.

    [West-Berlin, 1953: a ruined building in Brückenallee, just before the rebuilt work began here.]

    Photo: Wolff/ hansaviertel.berlin.

    Two views of today’s Hansaviertel residential area, where from an extensively war-damaged area a modern urban development with wide green spaces was born.

    Photo: Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley).

    Photo: Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley).

    _______________

    Sources and Bibliography:

    • Antill, Peter. Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich. Campaign 159. Osprey Publishing, 2005.
    • Archer, Lee. Panzers in Berlin 1945. Panzerwrecks, 2019.
    • Beevor, Anthony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. Viking, 2002.
    • Blank, Ralf. Germany and the Second World War. Volume IX/I. Clarendon Press, 1990.
    • Demps, Laurenz. Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014.
    • Hansaviertel Berlin. 22. November 1943. <https://hansaviertel.berlin/geschichte/november-1943/>
    • Hansaviertel Berlin. Geschichte der Interbau 1957. <https://hansaviertel.berlin/interbau-1957/geschichte-interbau-57/>
    • Janiszewski, Bertram. Das alte hansa-Viertel in Berlin. Haude & Spener, 2000.
    • Landesarchiv Berlin. LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 143 ff; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 698, Bl. 144 ff., s. a. Nr. 700, Bl. 270 ff; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 698, Bl. 149 f., s. a. Nr. 700, Bl. 275 f; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 701, Bl. 176; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 79 ff.; s. a. LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 185 f; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 703, Bl. 43; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 703, Bl. 87 f.
    • Le Tissier, Tony. Race for the Reichstag: The 1945 Battle for Berlin. Pen and Sword Military, 2010.
    • Moorhouse, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, 2011.
    • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag, 2013

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    Previous post >


    Hansaviertel’s runway

    The take-off was made under hailing Russian fire and as the plane rose to roof-top level it was picked up by countless searchlights and at once breaketed in a barrage of shelling’.

    – Hanna Reitsch, 29 April, 1945 –

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (115928934).

    It was mid July, 1945, when American photographer William Vandivert traveled around the devastated city accompanied by some US servicemen in one of those ubiquitous Jeeps following the capture of Berlin by Allied troops. He took hundreds of pictures with his camera of the ruined Nazi-capital for the LIFE magazine. 

    During his trip across the Tiergarten sector he found a pair of strange structures: two large hangar-style wooden halls built right on a wide street in what seems to be some kind of makeshift German depot or repair facility. In the pictures can be seen that their walls were covered by cork plates and the roof by fabric trying to camouflage it from the air; residential buildings with fancy facades are seen on both sides with the place left in an abandoned condition.

    A small and lesser known corner of the Third Reich’s capital city that still today raises many unknowns …but what really were? A shed being built to house bombed out Berliners? or they were small aircraft repair facilities used by the Nazis during the last days of the fighting?

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (115928934).

    This is an opposite view of the camouflaged structure, with some curious Berliners walking through the interior. At extreme left there is some kind of double stove pipe, note its brick construction and the considerable height of the chimney. 

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc.

    Vandivert took this picture of the second hall also, looking apparently northwards and with the first one and the stoves seen in the far background (there were some others between the two halls). This one seems to have a complete opening at both ends unlike the other and within it we can see a wide variety of objects (aircraft wrecks?), some huge wooden crates and debris everywhere. Both facilities appear to be damaged or left unfinished, with part of the roof collapsed and its fabric cover torn. 

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (641270).

    … but exactly where?
    First question to aboard is to know in which zone these structures were built. Original photo captions and brief information available until today just reported as being in the “Tiergarten section”, a very large and vast area of the German capital. It is well known that Berlin’s largest green zone was used during the last months of the war as an improvised landing strip with several oral testimonies and reports about transport aircraft’s attempts to land here (and as a drop zone for container dropping) but none of them mentioned an aircraft depot or hangar-style structure like these ones. 

    It was true that the answer was in Tiergarten but close examination of the available images and intense research work will show that it was in a different area. The few lines and sources that mentioned this stated that were probably located at Tiergartenstraße, a street in the southern part of the Tiergarten so that’s where we started the search. A very possible location because of being right next to the park: it has residential buildings between a tree line too, but soon small details cast doubt from being the actual spot: a small fence is clearly seen next to the wooden structure (extreme right, first image) and Tiergartenstr. had no such fences for example, and there are several film footage showing this street (which now lay in the British Sector) on the first days of the British and American occupation and some other pictures taken at this location and don’t match with the LIFE magazine’s pictures scenario.

    [View of Tiergartenstraße just after the end of the war in Berlin, with bombed out buildings, shrapnel scars and debris everywhere.]

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (1216582).

    Again, we turn to Allied aerial reconnaissance looking for photographic evidence of the wanted location. On March 22nd, 1945, an F-5 Lightning of the 22nd Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, USAAF, flew a long photo run over Berlin to assets bomb damage (Sortie US7-40D) after the big US air-raid made on the city four days before. 

    First, we look at the mentioned Tiergartenstr. that runs from Potsdamer Platz in the south to the Hofjägerallee at the northern end but no large structures or nothing like that or closer was found there: some minor debris with bomb craters and damaged buildings but the street is practically clear.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 715.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 4176.

    Otherwise, we continue the search on a westward path as one caption says “west of Tiergarten”: exposure #3176 from that same PR sortie shows the Tiergarten north and Moabit areas: it is an oblique aerial photograph taken facing north west capturing Hansaplatz at upper left of the image, Schloßpark Bellevue in centre with the Moabiter Brücke next to the Spree at middle right. On the upper part of the image is the Hansaviertel built-up area and S-Bahnhof Bellevue. The ruined and flattened condition of the district, gutted by fire, with many roofless buildings is evident. We look to the main street, Altonaer Straße and nothing strange is there, but a few metres away we got Brückenallee, and bingo!… the two rectangular-shaped structures are there.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3176.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3176.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3176.

    Compare it with this earlier PR aerial of the same area in Tiergarten, this time a vertical photograph taken on September 6th, 1943 by No 542 RAF Squadron (sortie: E/0138 frame #3021), some months before the fall 1943 British bombings that caused huge destruction on the district. Note the high density of trees and vegetation seen in the area, as opposed to the previous image after two years of sustained air attacks.

    Photo: NCAP [http://ncap.org.uk/NCAP-000-000-008-736]

    Furthermore, back to 1945 it seems that there was one more similar structure in this area, a few blocks away to the west and located between Hansaplatz and the Kaiser-Friedrich-Gedächtniskirche we found another rectangular structure at Lessingstraße. The absence of closer photos does not allow us to confirm additional information or if it had same purpose as the other two. 

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; exposure 3175.

    Following close examination of ALL the imagery taken then (Berlin PR images from the war years recorded and available at US and British archives), we can affirm that these are the only structures of this type found in the city.

    Down to ground level, the street views look more similar to the one where Vandivert captured the abandoned ‘hangars’ with his camera: a wide street road, sidewalk tree line, the streetlamps, small fences and prestigious houses with elaborate facades and small front gardens along the roadsides. 

    Located in the northwestern Tiergarten, Brückenallee was part of the residential Hansaviertel district that emerged from the intersection of three main streets in the Hansaplatz square. Sadly, there is no chance to examine the place today: huge devastation caused by the war and the air bombings led to a massive rebuilt of the area in the post-war years, with a reconstruction urban planning from 1953. The modern West-Berlin urban quarter developed and simplified the area and some streets like Brückenallee or Lessingstraße were removed from the map, although part of its track became today’s Bartningallee.

    [Two old postcard views of Tiergarten’s Brückenallee. They show to good advance the similarities with the street seen on the 1945 ‘hangar’ pictures.]

    Photo: postkarte.

    Photo: postkarte.

    [This is a 1941-street plan of the Bellevue and northern Tiergarten areas in Berlin centre.]

    Photo: Histomap/©Landesarchiv Berlin.

    [A 1920s-view into Lessingstraße facing southwards, the exact spot where the third wooden structure was built; the Kaiser-Friedrich-Gedächtniskirche is clearly seen in the background of the picture. It was destroyed during the 22/23 November 1943 RAF attack.]

    Photo: Bertram Janiszewski, Das alte hansa-Viertel in Berlin, Berlin 2000, S. 84.

    [A propaganda picture of northern Tiergarten released by the Allies showing the huge devastation caused on the Hansaviertel district by the air bombings as it appeared prior to RAF night assaults in late 1943 and early 1944. Brückenallee is seen at bottom left on both images.

    Photo: NARA (342-FH-3A20876-57123AC).

    It really was an aircraft repair depot?
    In favor of this theory is its location: the proximity to the Tiergarten and the improvised landing strip “built” at Speer’s Ost-West-Achse main road towards Charlottenburg, but also far enough away to go unnoticed, hidden from the threat of marauding enemy Jabos (fighter-bombers), artillery spotting aircraft or the feared visit by Soviet Il-2s attack aircraft, made this location a good point to install a small ‘campaign’ aerodrome (although very hazardous and desperate but… desperate times call for desperate measures).

    Surrounded by wide enough streets (practically roads) which linked with the Grosser Stern, where a Würzburg radar was reported to be used as traffic command-post, ideal to acting as taxing runways at night for the small aircraft based here from the depot to the landing/take off strip. The Bhf-Bellevue train station is very close, so the depot could easily receive new shipments and spare parts via the railway line. It had a great covering by the surrounding buildings and the surviving trees, an enemy aircraft had to pass directly over that street to see these structures from the air.

    Furthermore, the Hansaviertel area was hit hard from January 1943 onwards by Allied bombs and was practically unoccupied, with most of its population being evacuated the previous year so it was a very suitable and quiet zone for this war effort activity during the last months, out of sight and suspicious eyes.  

    Finally, the adjacent Altonaer Str is referred also as an northwest-bound improvised runway (runway #29) by oral testimonies (apparently used by Reitsch on her last flight), although there is no confirmation of this.

    Photo: NARA US7/0072/D; frame 3175.

    Photo: AC Byers/ Hein Gorny/ Collection Regard.

    The reason for this place could be to act as a spartan maintenance or recycling facility, such as those that existed in a variety of locations in Germany and occupied Europe (a ‘Versorgungslager’). Some of those depots belonged to Deutsche Lufthansa (DLHas was the case of several of them based in Berlin and served by their own employees; others ‘employed’ foreign workers and slave work from the Nazi camps…

    The vast majority were large size structures built next to or around an aerodrome or small aircraft sub-assembly factory, especially after the bombing campaign forced the Germans to disperse their aircraft industry, but there are examples of small and rudimentary facilities near the battlefronts, especially in the Eastern front. What makes this facility unique is its location in the middle of the city, furthermore in the Reich’s capital. The Berlin defenders may have used this depot to engine overhauls, small repairs or servicing the intended visiting aircraft as it was planned by the Nazi leaders.

    [Luftwaffe’s ground personnel —known as ‘the black men’— were very skilled building makeshift hangars and aircraft shelters, as seen here on this bigger “house” with a Bf 109F fighter of 9./JG 26 inside seen at Liegescourt, France, in the early summer of 1941.]

    Photo: FalkeEins- The Luftwaffe blog.

    The apparent absence of cranes (at least at the time those pictures were taken) and the size of the structures discard heavy work here or machinery or big size-aircraft so this facility was intended for small planes like fighters (Fw 190, Bf 109) or most probably liaison aircraft (Fi 156, Ar 96). 

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (641270).

    Some of the parts inside the structure clearly belonged to an aircraft, in this case we have possibly identified what seems to be a rudder (at left, fabric or plywood covered), some damaged wing slats (from the leading-edge) and a metal welded structure (at left, most probably part of fuselage), a gas or oxygen tank (middle right), and a rubble tyre from a landing gear (middle right): all of these match with parts from a German Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (“stork”) liaison plane, minus the rubble tyre, too big in size so obviously from some other type of aircraft.

    It seems that there was also a small radial aero-engine at left (two more are seen on the Jeep picture inside the first ‘hangar’) but this type could not be from a Fi 156 neither from an Arado 96, since both were equipped with the Argus As 10, an air-cooled inline inverted engine. Maybe a Fw 44 Stieglitz training plane? in that case it would be a Siemens-Halske Sh14 engine.

    [A Fieseler 156 Storch with civil registration code, seen in the North Africa front, in this case a D-model, the ambulance variant of this fabulous liaison plane with very short landing capacities. The characteristic slats on the wings’ leading-edges of this model are clearly appreciated.]

    Photo: Campbell, Jerry L. (2005). Fieseler Storch In Action. Squadron Signal Publications.

    There is photographic evidence too of at least one Storch liaison plane at the Tiergarten which apparently landed on the improvised runway on the last days of April 1945. The Storch was famous for her outstanding STOL-qualities (short take off and landing) so it was the ideal airplane to operate from this location in those dramatic last moments; it was also a small airplane (it was 32 ft long and 10 ft tall) with a short wingspan (46 ft) and her wings can be folded back along the fuselage for storage or taxing in narrow strips like these ones.

    [Here, a Fieseler Storch takes off in front of the Humboldt-Universität on Berlin’s Unter den Linden during the ‘Tag der Wehrmacht’ (Day of the Armed Forces) in March 1940 to show Berliners her outstanding short landing and take off capacities.]

    Photo: akg-images (AKG285853).

    [An RAF officer inspects the wreckage of a Fieseler Fi 156 in the Tiergarten in front of the Victory Column. Often captioned as being the aircraft in which Hanna Reitsch and Ritter von Greim landed on 26 April 1945 in Berlin to meet Hitler at the Führerbunker but there is no confirmed proof of this.]

    Photo: akg-images (AKG138258).

    [In this post-war collection point, among Flak guns, howitzers and even two damaged Würzburg radar units, can be discern several aircraft parts including a shattered wing from a Fi 156 Storch (note the slats and part of Luftwaffe’s Balkenkreuz emblem) and a fuselage steel structure, with many similarities to the Tiergarten scene. It was captured by C S Newman at an unidentified location in Berlin some months after the war.]

    Photo: ©Stadtmuseum Berlin/ SM 2011-1701,33.

    Another evidence of the existence of improvised aircraft depots used by the Germans during the last months of the war could be this picture taken in summer of 1945 by an American serviceman during his duty in the occupied city. It shows the tail section of a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 ready to be assembled into the airframe. Note the factory-style wooden platform beneath, which confirms it as a sub-assembly part from a depot and not a wreck from a destroyed fighter, and the engine panel next to it.

    Photo: © Carl MacDaniel.

    More evidence of this are the wooden crates seen at right inside the second structure: many aircraft of those years had a modular design which makes easier to replace the damaged parts on the field by the mechanics; in the case of the engine, spare or new units were shipped in a modular pack known by the Germans as the ‘kraftei’ (“power-egg”). Here, a new BMW 801 radial aero-engine is unloaded by Luftwaffe ground crew from a Go 242 cargo glider in the Russian front in 1943. Note the lettering Eigentum’ and code number stenciled on the crate, similar to the ones found inside the Berlin-Tiergarten ‘hangars’. Of course, they could contain anything, not only aircraft engines like this one, but it confirms that it was equipment property of the Wehrmacht.

    Photo: Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-332-3096-12.

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc (641270).

    [This picture showing Allied soldiers inspecting an assembly line of repaired Fw 190s is often wrongly captioned as being at Tiergarten in 1945, but actually it was located a few miles away, at Tempelhof airport where a large (and dedicated) underground repair depot was built (note the railway tracks and cobbled pavement) in the tunnels. First from left is Cottbus-built Fw 190A-8 Werk Nummer 170 597.]

    Photo: LIFE © Time Inc.

    The fact that Brückenallee was a really good location for this “last-call” aircraft depot is show to good in this post-war shot of Altonaer Str and the ruined “Hansa-Viertel” area towards the Moabit district taken from top of the Siegessäule by Harry Croner in fall-winter 1945. Even from this great height the view of the street and its structures would be blocked by the buildings and the park’s tree line.

    Photo: ©Stadtmuseum Berlin/ CronerNeg 108/D1.

    At least, the exact location of these well known structures (whatever they were used as aircraft depots or assembly halls or not..) has been resolved and a new one has been revealed. There are still several questions to be resolved, such as what these stoves are and what they were used for in this place or if the facilities were actually employed before the fall of the city in May 1945.

    A small story connected with the landing of several Ju 52s transport aircraft on the Ost-West-Achse now confirmed, but also with many of those made-up myths from the closing days of the war, as are the last reinforcement flights arriving from Gatow or Hitler escaping from the Reichskanzlei’s bunker.

    In the following posts we will analyze the Hansaviertel district during the war and the use of the Tiergarten as an improvised landing strip.

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    Sources and Bibliography:

    • Antill, Peter. Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich. Campaign 159. Osprey Publishing, 2005.
    • Archer, Lee. Panzers in Berlin 1945. Panzerwrecks, 2019.
    • Beevor, Anthony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. Viking, 2002.
    • Campbell, Jerry L. Fieseler Storch In Action. Squadron Signal Publications, 2005.
    • Demps, Laurenz. Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014.
    • Hansaviertel Berlin. 22. November 1943. https://hansaviertel.berlin/geschichte/november-1943/
    • Kozhevnikov, M N. The Command and Staff of the Soviet Army Air Force in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945. Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O, 1977.
    • Le Tissier, Tony. Race for the Reichstag: The 1945 Battle for Berlin. Pen and Sword Military, 2010.
    • Lowe, Malcom W. Focke-Wulf Fw 190. Osprey Production Line to Frontline 5. Osprey Publishing, 2003.
    • Mühlhäuser, Alfred H. Hitlerfluchtberichte: Kritisch-analytische Betrachtung von sieben, an eine CIA-Methode angelehnten Fluchtdrehbüchern. Books on Demand, 2017.
    • Ott, Gunther. „Unternehmen Reichskanzlei“, Jet & Prop; Verlag Heinz Nickel in Zweibrücken, 04/95.
    • Pegg, Martin. Transporter Volume Two: Luftwaffe Transport Units 1943-1945. Classic Publications, 2007.
    • Reitsch, Hanna. The Sky My Kingdom: Memoirs of the Famous German World War II Test Pilot. Casemate, 2009.
    • Rosch, Barry C. Luftwaffe Support Units and Aircraft: Units, Aircraft, Emblems and Markings 1933-1945. Classic Publications, 2009.

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    Previous post >


    Bomben auf die Kottbusser Straße

    The photogallery we shared here show the damage inflicted by RAF Bomber Command air raid on the night of 28/29 August 1940 on Berlin, all captured in the Kottbusser Tor area within Berlin-Kreuzberg district. These pictures were taken on the following days of this second bombing, an air attack which we have already described on earlier posts (see our Britische Luftangriffe über Berlin). 

    No other raid on Berlin has so elevated number of related photographies apart of the 1945, February 3rd, massive air attack by US heavy bombers on the Third Reich’s capital.

    Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

    War had come to the Reich’s capital and became part of everyday life; Berliners were so curious at least in those early days about how this new method of make war the ‘Bombenkrieg’ was about. A large crowd ran the next morning to see the damage inflicted by Churchill’s bombers. Testimonies from those days described an extraordinary popular fascination to witness the damage and every raid’s aftermath as ‘a sensation’ which is confirmed by these pictures.

    The calm with which its inhabitants have come to check in situ the damage caused by this second bombardment seems incredible. The novelty and the null sensation of danger, enhanced by Third Reich hierarchs, made this possible, far from the terrible images of destruction that the capital would experience a couple of years later every night when the British bombers visited Berlin again. 

    American correspondent William Shirer described the aftermath the next day on his radio broadcast from Berlin: ”About an hour after the raid, the Propaganda Ministry conducted the foreign correspondents around the city to observe the damage. In the Kottbusserstrasse, about a thousand yards from a railroad station in the south-east part of Berlin, two 110 pound bombs had landed in the street, torn off the leg of an air raid warden standing at the entrance to his house, and killed four men and two women who, unwisely, were standing in the doorway.”  (This Is Berlin, Random House, 2013)

    [A view of the dramatic ‘Bombenschäden’ (bomb damage) panorama after the RAF air raid, Kottbusser Straße 15-17 buildings.]

    Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

    [A few metres away, a crowd gathers in front of the bomb crater which caused severe damage to the pavement and the tram lines at Kottbusser Straße in Kreuzberg is repair on the following day. Notice at extreme left the U-Bhf entrance (Kottbusser Tor) in front of street number 24-26, with nearly all windows smashed and facades shattered by bomb splinters.]

    Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlkex.

    Photo: bpk/ Dr. Gerhard Katz.

    Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

    Photo: bpk/ Dr. Gerhard Katz.

    [These two newspaper clippings, keeped by the Landesarchiv Berlin, are part of the Berliner Morgenpost edition describing bomb damage in Mariannenstraße and Kottbusser Str. after the air raid]

    Photo: Zeitungsauschnitte zur Berliner Kriegschronik (LAB A Rep. 021-02 Nr. 123).

    Photo: Zeitungsauschnitte zur Berliner Kriegschronik (LAB A Rep. 021-02 Nr. 123).

    [Here, window panes repair-work is done at Bahnhof Kottbusser Tor among curious Berliners with the elevated train station in the background.]

    Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

    [Around the corner, the roof structure of Mariannenstraße number 26 apartment was thrown into the street by explosive bombs, we can see here the severe damage taken by the building’s last floor.]

    Photo: bpk/ Dr. Gerhard Katz.

    After having a first taste of the air war on Berlin two nights before (25/26 August), Nazi-authorities didn’t release any image of the bomb destruction just describing it as ‘minor’ and without impact on the city. By contrast, after this second British air attack, the German press and neutral photojournalist were rushed the very next day to the Kreuzberg district to take pictures of the bomb damage to the streets and apartment buildings on that area, in what was a clearly policy change by the Nazis, now using them to denounce to the world that the RAF has attacked residential areas dropping bombs over civilians.

    Berlin admitted minor damage to several districts of the capital the following morning: the myth of the Reichhauptstadt’s inviolability had been finally shattered.

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    Bibliography and sources:

    • Berliner Morgenpost, Freitag, 30. Aug. 1940. Nr. 208.
    • BRITISH BOMBING SURVEY UNIT (1998).The Strategic Air War Against Germany 1939 - 1945 - The Official Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit. Frank Cass.
    • Demps, Laurenz. Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014.
    • Der Angriff, 30. Aug. 1940, Nr. 210
    • Friedrich, Jörg. Der Brand Deutschland Im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945. Verlag Ullstein, 2005.
    • Landesarchiv Berlin. Die Kriegschronik der Reichshauptstadt Berlin – Quelle zur Geschichte Berlins in der NS-Zeit. 
    • Landesarchiv Berlin. LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f.
    • Moorhouse, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, 2011.
    • Overy, Richard.The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane, 2013.
    • Shirer, William L. Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Galahad Books, 1997.
    • Shirer, William L.This Is Berlin. Random House, 2013
    • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag, 2013.

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    Previous post >


    Hot Time in the town of Berlin

    WAC’s Flak Fortresses

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_641268.

    During his visit to Berlin in July 1945, American photographer William Vandivert (1912-1989) took hundreds of pictures of the ruined Nazi-capital. Some of those were starred by a trio of US WACs (Women’s Army Corps) while on tour of the city (a few stayed as part of the occupying force too) following Allied takeover. Their names were Louise Evans, Mary Cornett and Arlena MacPherson and they were accompanied by the LIFE photojournalist to some of the most representative landmarks of the city during the war: the ruined Brandenburger Tor, the Tiergarten and Zoologischer Bhf, posing in front of the Siegessäule victory column at the Grosser Stern, and finally visiting the once mighty Flak towers built by Hitler years before to protect the city against the air-bombings. No significance photos but they give us the closest look to many small details of the huge concrete fortresses built here during World War II.

    Pictures show the WACs examining the radars and anti-aircraft guns atop the command tower or Leitturm of the “Zoo Flak Tower” following the capture of the city. Construction of this superstructure, the smaller of the two built at Tiergarten and codenamed “Bär A”, began at the end of November of 1940 and was finished by mid-1941. It was manned by the 123 Turmflakabteilung and the command post of the 1. Flak-Divison was located in this Hochbunker too. The L-tower surrendered to the Soviets on May 2nd, 1945 at 05.00 hrs after a long siege and heavy punishment. 

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_641302.

    The radar shown is a Telefunken Würzburg FuMG 39/62 model T, mounted on wooden pedestal. This radar unit was standard equipment for Luftwaffe AA gunnery (see previous posts about Air detection over Berlin during the war) which protected from here the western sector of the city. It seems to be an auxiliary or mobile unit because of its position on the lower platform of the tower, instead of at top where the main radar units (Würzburg, Würzburg-Riese and Mannheim) were installed and the new systems were tested even the ones captured to the enemy. Note brush paint to camouflage the radar’s dish and some bullet holes.

    The WACs had fun with the traverse and rotating mechanism of the radar unit, with one seated on the “sidecar” control seat, the usual position of the B2 crew member who moves the unit on its lateral axis. Note the Tiergarten landscape and the Siegessäule victory column in the background and one of the cranes, used by the Germans to raise equipment and ammo atop of the huge tower.

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115929085.

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115929084.

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115929086.

    Vandivert’s photographs show the women ‘playing around’ with some of the AA guns on this platform too, in this case on the western side of the bunker with the big G-tower in the background and the photographer facing southwest to Zoologischer Bhf

    The ‘großen Zoobunker’ L-Turm was equipped with light Flak guns installed on the lower platform to defend the superstructure from low levels bombers or strafing attacks by enemy fighters, in this case were double 3,7 cm Flak43 ‘Zwillings flak’. Built by Rheinmetall-Borsig, this powerful weapon had an effective rate of fire of 150 shots per second. Over 5,900 units of this type were produced during 1943-45. The Friedrichshain tower replaced them from July 1944 with the more capable MG151/20 triple-barrel gun and reduced the number of light AA on the L-tower but it seems that the Zoo Flak towers retained the Flak 43s until the end of the war. Of interest is that these guns usually had a protective shield, but all the pictures taken on this tower show them without the gun-shield installed. Some colour pictures taken in 1945 too show that these Flak guns wore a camouflaged finish, in this case painted in Dunkelgelb (dark yellow) colour with green and brown blotches like a late-war Panzer.

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115929082.

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_641297.

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115928942.

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115928945.

    The WACs with some GIs standing atop the damaged Berlin tower. Part of the brick platform has collapsed due to the damage taken during the final battles. Note the destroyed Würzburg FuMG 62 radar behind them, its dish broken in two.

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_11594.

    They are seen posing here with one of the Kommandogerät 40 rangefinders mounted on a concrete or bricks plinth, used for the German Flak 10,5 and 12,8cm main AA guns mounted on the opposite G-tower. From the 39-metres height of the L-tower flak crews watched the air battles as far as Spandau. Notice the ruined Reichstag on the background at left.

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115928940.

    [A detail view of the aerial shot taken by Vandivert on 9-10 July, 1945, overflying the devastated Berlin-Tiergarten after the capture of Nazi-Germany’s heart. The red circles pinpoint the exact location where the WACs photographs were taken atop of the Zoo’s command L-Turm.]

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc/ BerlinLuftTerror.

    [The same trio of US military women during their touring trip to Berlin, in this case in front of the Siegessäule and a Willys Jeep.]

    Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_641303.

    As some sources has reported (mistakenly) the identity of these women as the Andrew Sisters, a trio of famous American singers which made several USO tours to entertain Allied troops fighting in Europe and the Pacific, we finish this brief Berlin post with one of their greatest radio hits, “Hot Time In The Town Of Berlin” with Bing Crosby and released in 1943.

    Video credit: UMG/Geffen. (Words and Music by: Joe Bushkin and John De Vries).

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    Bibliography:

  • Ashcraft, Jenny. History of the WAC. Fold3 blog. accessed Oct 28, 2021. <https://blog.fold3.com/history-of-the-wac/>
  • Demps, Laurenz. (2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag.
  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (1997). The Flak Towers in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna 1940- 1950. Schiffer Publishing. 
  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (2007). Flak-Towers. By the author.
  • LIFE magazine, July 23, 1945. Americans find enemy’s capital bears the marks of allied destruction and Red army’s occupation. Time Inc. Vol 19- Num 4, pp 19-25.  
  • Maxene, Andrews & Gilbert, Bill. (1994). Over Here, over There: The Andrews Sisters and the USO Stars in World War II
  • Muller W. (1998). Ground Radar Systems of the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. Schiffer Publishing. Kensington Pub Corp.
  • Stivers, William and Carter, Donald A. (2017). The City Becomes a Symbol: The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Berlin, 1945-1949. Centers of Military History United States Army. CMH Pub 45–4. Available at: <https://history.army.mil/html/books/045/45-4/index.html> 
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
  • Zaloga, Steven. (2012). Defense of the Third Reich 1941–45. Osprey Publishing.
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    Previous post >


    Innsbrucker Platz

    Der „Tiroler“ Platz

    [An aerial view of Berlin-Schöneberg district with Hauptstraße running at centre, seen from the railway at Innsbrucker Platz in 1930. The original Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche and its distinctive rounded tower is at top centre.] 

    Photo: friedenau-aktuell.de

    The Innsbrucker Platz in Berlin was the post-war location of our previous post Die Amis arrive!, with some American and Soviet soldiers next to a Sherman tank in July 1945, just a few days after US forces reached their occupation zone of the German capital. Located on the southwestern zone, between the inner circle and the Steglitz and Friedenau districts, it was a traffic junction where the city’s S-Bahn, bus and tram met. In 1927 a square was built here as a starting point to Innsbrucker Str. under the name “Innsbrucker Platz” after the Tyrolean city of Innsbruck and a S-Bahnhof with the same name was opened on July 1, 1933, a few months after the country began to be ruled by the Nazis. 

    The complete history and development through the years of this place is well beyond this post, so we recommend the excellent Friedenau aktuell blog for further reading.

    [Schöneberg’s Innsbrucker Platz with Hauptstraße and the Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche at right, viewed in 1930. Heavily damaged during the war, it was demolished in 1950.]

    Photo: friedenau-aktuell.de

    [A 1939-1941 Berlin map of this area just before war’s destruction, with S-Bhf Schöneberg at right. Southwards across Innsbrucker Platz’s railway tracks is the Friedenau district.]

    Photo: Histomap/ ©Landesarchiv Berlin.

    [Berliners exiting the Innsbrucker Platz S-Bhf in the 1930s. Two SA-members can be seen on the mechanic stairs at left which connects the entrance with the train platform.] Info thanks to Matthias Arndt.

    Photo: IMAGNO/ akg-images (AKG1054853).

    Bombenkrieg 1940-45

    The square and its surrounding area were seriously damaged during the Second World War. Berlin-Schöneberg was one of the most bombed districts from the first days of the campaign, and Innsbrucker Platz would not escape destruction from the air. Virtually all of its buildings and the U-bahn station were hit. The city reports show bomb damage already on 20/21 October 1940 (30 RAF bombers raided Berlin) in this area, receiving some bombs during the 16/17 January 1943 raid too (169 bombers). First great damage came during the night of 1/2 March 1943 (251 RAF bombers) with numerous fires around this point and Ebersstraße. This attack left in flames the roofs and upper floors of Wex Str. 60/63 Ecke Innsbrucker Platz. 

    [This is a detail view of the area from a vertical PR image taken by an RAF Spitfire of No 542 Sqn on 6 September 1943, during a long photo-run flight over the capital to assets bomb damage (BDA) after the bombing raid two nights before. Note the large number of buildings already roofless at this very early date of the bombing war on Berlin.]

    Photo: NCAP http://ncap.org.uk/frame/000-000-009-009.

    [A British target indicator (bottom centre) descends over the Schöneberg and Friedenau districts, during a night raid in 1944. Innsbrucker Platz and the Ringbahn rail junction can be seen at middle right. The original IWM caption refers to a 27 aircraft-raid on that night and known nights with Light Night Striking Force Mosquitoes to harass Berlin in that number were June 25th, July 25th and September 16th 1944, so possible date for this picture must be one of those.]

    Photo: © IWM (C 4926).

    American bombers hit the Schöneberg district again on 21 June 1944 (868 a/c), some high-explosive bombs badly damaged the railway bridge next to Innsbrucker Platz. A massive daylight raid on February 26th, 1945 (US 1,066 bombers) caused severe damage to the area between this square and Bayerischer Platz with bombs hitting the Schöneberg Rathaus, Stadtpark, Hauptstr. and Martin-Luther-Str. among others, leaving 139 dead and 64 wounded only here.

    Finally, the Soviet assault caused great devastation. On April 27th, 1945, the Ringbahn circle became the front line. Train traffic and services had been stopped two days before due to fighting and lack of coal. In the case of the southwestern area from Friedenau through Schöneberg the Soviet assault was made by Red Army’s 9th Mechanized Corps with its 69th and 70th Mechanized Brigades, and after minor resistance they reached the Innsbrucker Platz line at midday meanwhile elements of the 91st MB penetrated the right flank and captured U-Bhf Schöneberg. The advancing troops encountered makeshift barricades, anti-tank barriers and strongpoints as the Germans set up the railway line as a huge defensive perimeter. Heavy fighting led to the taking of the underground station and the exit to Wex Str. by the end of the day when resistance was overcome.

    [German defensive line with ‘Panzersperren’ next to the Ringbahn railway before the Soviet assault, in this case at Hermannstraße in the Neukölln district, March 1945.]

    Photo: Bundesarchiv (Bild 183-J31386).

    [Once Soviet troops overcome Innsbrucker Platz and U-Bhf Schöneberg ran northwards to seize the rest of the district, here a Red Army column with a SU-85M self-propelled gun in the foreground at Hauptstraße Ecke Koburger Str. just a few blocks from the square.]

    Photo: Buryat-Mongolskaya Pravda No 105 (5795) May 30, 1945.

    By war’s end, many buildings have been destroyed during the fight added to the damage already caused by the bombings, like this ruined house at Innsbrucker Str. 30 located in front of the square and next to the Reichsbahn “Opel” building in July 1945, it was demolished after the war too.

    Photo: still from film/ NARA.

    [After the battle: this still from film from a Russian newsreel shows the damaged Ringbahnbrücke railway bridge at Innsbrucker Platz facing southwards, with Hauptstr. and Rathaus Friedenau’s tower as background. The complete sequence shows some dead German soldiers laying on the bridge too.]

    Photo: Die Hölle von Berlin - Endkampf 1945 - 2. Der Sieg.

    [Hauptstraße in Schöneberg looking towards Innsbrucker Platz, this picture was taken by an American soldier in July 1945. Rathaus-Friedenau’s tower can be discerned in the background.]

    Photo: mocr/flickr.

    [Opposite view of Hauptstraße as seen under the Ringbahnbrücke at Innsbrucker Platz, July 1945. Note the burned out DeGeWo-Hochhaus at left.]

    Photo: still from film/ NARA.

    [Gutted by fire, Innsbrucker Platz Nr 1, home of the bombed out Opel-Automobile Verkaufsstelle G.m.b.H, left as a ruined structure at Innsbrucker Platz in July 1945.]

    Photo: © Landesarchiv Berlin.

    The most significant building of this square was heavily damaged by war’s fires too. Located at Innsbrucker Str Nr 31/34 (today’s Innsbrucker Platz 4), the DeGeWo Haus (Deutsche Gelleschaft zur Förderung des Wohnungbaues) is one of the best examples of German interwar modernism. It was designed by architects Paul Mebes and Paul Emmerich as a six-story building with a perimeter-block complex, and built by Ph. Holzmann AG during 1922-28. This Weimar-era showpiece was rebuilt in the post-war years as luxury apartments and with two more floors added. It was used by Marshall Plan publicists to highlight West Berlin successes and presented as built in 1950 as “Berlin’s first high-rise”.

    Photo: © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg.

    [July 1945: destroyed and burnt out facade of the apartment building and its modern block complex between Hauptstr. and Innsbruckerstraße caused by the air raids and the ground battle.]  

    Photo: still from film/ NARA.

    Photo: still from film/ NARA.

    [A 1948-picture taken by Walter Schulze which shows the DeGeWo rebuilt works at Innsbrucker Platz Ecke Hauptstr.]

    Photo: akg-images (AKG61817).

    [The “new” DeGeWo-Hochhaus, rebuilt in 1950. At right can be seen the big Fournes lettering, for Otto Fournes’ restaurant and wine store located here. It was the first major neon sign after the war.]

    Photo: akg-images/AKG398128.

    [Rolf Goetze took this picture of the snow-covered Innsbrucker Platz in February 1954.]

    Photo: SM 2014-1914,9.

    [The modern DeGeWo Hochhaus, today’s Innsbrucker Platz Nr 4.]

    Photo by A.Savin/ Wikimedia Commons.

    Across the street, the other side of the square was severely damaged by war too. Here, Berliners gathered around an American M4A3(76) Sherman tank from the 2nd Armored Division guarding Innsbrucker Platz. Also, a pair of Willys Jeeps are parked next to the tank parked over the tram tracks. Notice the tram stop blown up at extreme right and the road signal in Russian cyrillic pointing “KARLHORST” in front of the tank. 

    Photo: https://www.how-amps.org/2nd-armored-division-history

    [A 1950-scene shot by German press photographer Georg Pahl at the ruined Innsbrucker Platz, Berliners waiting around the tram stop for the streetcar at noon time, at the same spot where the US tank was parked in July 1945.]

    Photo: akg-images (AKG55128).

    [Destroyed house Nr 96, taken by Herwarth Staudt on March 3, 1956 on behalf of the Baulenkungsamtes Schöneberg. It was demolished years later and a bigger commercial building was built there in 1984, today as Innsbrucker Platz Nr 3.]

    Photo: CC0 @ Museen Tempelhof-Schöneberg/Archiv.

    [Jürgen Henschel took this picture of West Berliners waiting in front of the DegeWo Haus for the bus stop at Haupstraße 97 - Innsbrucker Platz in October, 1982. Note that there is still an empty lot in the place where the number 96 was before.]

    Photo: CC0 @ Museen Tempelhof-Schöneberg/Archiv. (HEN3-616-5295).

    Today’s view of Innsbrucker Platz looking into Haupstraße with the DeGeWo Haus at left and the 1980s white building (Innsbrucker Platz 3) at right. The corner building with orange roof seen at centre survived the war.

    Photo: BishkekRocks/WikimediaCommons.

    The intense battle left the underground train station badly damaged and didn’t reopen until December 1945. The access in the middle of the square was closed after the area was completely rebuilt in 1954 and a new entrance was opened a few metres north in a glazed pavilion. The construction in 1971 of the new motorway Stadtautobahn 100 and the underground tunnel under the main road led to a total res¡design of the square and both train stations, the renovated Südring didn’t reopen until 1993. Today, Innsbrucker Platz remains a chaotic intersection of main streets and a traffic and train junction of the southwestern part of the city, with three S-Bahn lines (S41, S42, S46) and one subway line (U4 and the planned expansion of U10) and the road exits to two adjacent motorways. 

    [The “inner circle” of the square seen in 1953 looking southwest with the original U-Bhf entrance and the Ringbahnbrücke, just before the tram service 88 was closed and the tracks sealed. Notice at upper right of the picture the Reichsbahn building before being demolished.]

    Photo: Museum Tempelhof-Schöneberg.

    This is the modern S-Bahnhof entrance at Innsbrucker Platz adjacent to the Sudringbrücke where the original Reichsbahn building was until the 1960s.

    Photo: Dirk Ingo Franke/WikimediaCommons.

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    Bibliography and sources:

  • Demps, Laurenz. (2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag.
  • Diefendorf, J. (ed) (2014). Transnationalism and the German City (Studies in European Culture and History). Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Friedenau aktuell. Innsbrucker Platz <http://www.friedenau-aktuell.de/stra%C3%9Fen-pl%C3%A4tze/innsbrucker-platz/>
  • Landesarchiv Berlin. LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 78 ff.; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 701, Bl. 15 f.; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 701, Bl. 31. ; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 99 ff.; s. a. LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl.; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 703, Bl. 31 ff.
  • Muschelknautz, Johanna. (2001). Berlin-Schöneberg: Blicke ins Quartier 1949 - 2000. Jaron Verlag.
  • S Bahn Berlin DB. Die Historie der Berliner S-Bahn. <https://sbahn.berlin/das-unternehmen/unternehmensprofil/die-historie-der-berliner-s-bahn/>
  • Stivers, William and Carter, Donald A. (2017). The City Becomes a Symbol: The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Berlin, 1945-1949. Centers of Military History United States Army. CMH Pub 45–4. Available at: <https://history.army.mil/html/books/045/45-4/index.html> 
  • Sven, Heinemann. (2021). Die Berliner Ringbahn: Die Geschichte der legendären Eisenbahnstrecke 1871 bis heute. GeraMond Verlag.
  • The Battle of Berlin Forum. Facebook Group. Battle reports of the 3rd Guards Tank Army by Piet Vergiet.
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
  • _______________

    Previous post >


    Luftangriffe auf Pergamon

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./04906).

    During the research work about Berlin city, its streets and its inhabitants during the war and the air bombings, it is quite common to come across photos that show the ruined state and the damage caused by the war, most of them taken after the battle by the victors, some of the most remarkable buildings like the Berliner Dom or the Stadtschloss in Mitte even have a hundred snapshots showing damage after 1945. What is not so usual is to find in the archives a whole record of damage taken by the building with its corresponding image. We are fortunate that Pergamon Museum is one of the latter, with an extensive gallery of its terrible wounds caused by the Allies’ bombing campaign and the final battles with the Russians. The history and destruction of Pergamon’ during the Second World War was already told in this blog (see our previous posts - Pergamonmuseum in Berlin and Pergamonmuseum in Berlin: Post 1945) but the high number of pictures found at the Zentralarchiv der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin and new photos led us to share this extra gallery post showing the severe damage inflicted to one of the most beautiful places in the German capital. 

    Starting in mid 1943 British Bomber Command launched a stronger and dedicated air bombing campaign on the city, specially during the last week of November, damaging several cultural buildings that included Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum and Pergamonmuseum. City records reported that the latter was severely hit during the RAF strike on the night of 28/29 January 1944 -677 bombers raided Berlin- by a stick of incendiary bombs that caused severe damage to the building’s roof and the skylights after major fires were started. The museum was hit again during the big US strike on Berlin-Mitte on 3 February 1945 (with 937 heavy bombers): several bombs caused great damage on the building, including the Mschatta facade room and destroyed the footbridge which linked the Kaiser-Museum. Some bombs caused severe destruction to the Museumsinsel on March 18th, 1945 (1,263 Eighth Air Force bombers) with the adjacent Altes Museum taking the worst damage, gutted by fire and left in a ruined state. 

    Further damage was inflicted during the Soviet assault on the Third Reich’s Hauptstadt during April-May 1945, but the museum structure survived mostly intact to the ground battles. Artillery shells, splinters and small-arms fire damaged the facade and windows. Finally, on May 1st, Red Army’s troops took the northern part of the island and occupied the museums.

    [The courtyard of the partially destroyed Pergamon Museum as seen after the 1945 air-bombings. Note that one of the twin-towers has collapsed due to the damage taken.]

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz (ZA 1.1.6./07218).

    The facade of the building was completely scarred by shrapnel and explosions from bombs and fire, of which evidence remains today, and by the intense fighting that took place on its perimeter. These pictures show bullet holes and shrapnel marks on the north wing of the museum, in 1945. The S-Bahn railway is seen at left.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06858).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06815)

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06712).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06897).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06866).

    Although the several rooms and halls inside the building been secured from the ‘Bombenkrieg’ in 1940-41 by Nazi authorities with some Schutzhüllen consisting of sandbags and wooden walls, they took severe damage during Allied air raids on the city.

    The monumental Prozessionsstraße at the museum which led to the Neo-Babylon Ishtar Gate (or Babylontor) was left in this devastated condition during the war.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.19./08755).

    The main hall of the museum, which housed the reconstructed Great Altar is seen after the war with severe damage to the walls, the stairway and the colonnade. The destroyed glass roof allowed further damage with debris and exposure to elements.

    Photo: bpk/ Max Ittenbach.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./08420).

    Photo: ©bpk - Photo Agency/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    Views of the partly destroyed Markttor von Milet (Market Gate of Miletus) and the Trajanshalle at Saal V of the museum, 1945. 

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06766).

    Photo: bpk/ Max Ittenbach.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./08422).

    War damage to the Sendschirli-Saal of the Vorderasiatischen Museums at Pergamon’s building, 1945. Notice that one bomb has penetrated the room’s roof. 

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.19./08758).

    Picture evidence show that incendiary bombs did their job on Pergamonmuseum. Both British and US bombers dropped incendiaries in great numbers over German cities and these small but deadly weapons set on fire the skylight and glass roof of the building on both wings, leaving just the ‘skeleton’ metal structure and penetrating into the rooms, and burnt out walls and damaged artifacts inside. The Mschatta-Saal was one of the most heavily hit by these bombs, the first time during the January 1944 RAF raids.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.11./03265).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./08421).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./08447).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06849).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06845).

    These two pictures were taken from the partly museum’s destroyed roof and with camera facing east, showing the ruined and flattened buildings of the city after five years of sustained air bombings. The elevated train station seen at centre is S-Bahnhof Hackescher Markt, with James-Simon Park and Burgstraße just before it. Note the rounded roof of the Alte Nationalgalerie at right.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06816).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06821).

    The aerial bombings hit the footbridge which linked Pergamonmuseum and the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum (today the Bode Museum) too, adjacent to the elevated S-Bahn railway, seen here in 1951.

    Photo: ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv (ZA 1.1.5-7733).

    The transition between the two buildings under the railway was severely damaged too.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06853).

    This view of Berlin’s Museumsinsel taken in May 1945 from the Schlossbrücke by Soviet troops allow us to see in the background the roofless condition of the Pergamon Museum’s skylight, gutted by fire after five years of air raids and the final battle. Note the damaged Zeughaus building at left and the ‘Panzersperre’ barricade on the bridge.

    Photo via Piet Vergiet.

    An aerial guide of the destruction at the Museumsinsel caused by the air raids, this US reconnaissance image was taken by PR aircraft in March 1945 over Berlin-Mitte.

    Photo: NARA: sortie US7/0072/D. frame: 4167. ©BerlinLuftTerror.

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    Bibliography and sources:

    • Allen, Susan Heuck (1999). Finding the Walls of Troy: Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik. University of California Press.
    • Demps, Laurenz. (2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag. 
    • Heilmeyer, Wolf-Dieter. (1996). History of the Display of the Telephos Frieze in the Twentieth Century. In: Dreyfus, R (ed). PERGAMON: The Telephos Frieze from the Great Altar, Volume 1. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
    • Klartext Zur Geschichte des Bode-Museums von 1875 bis 2020: Chronologie. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin 
      <https://www.smb.museum/fileadmin/website/Museen_und_Sammlungen/Bode_Museum/Ausstellungen/Klartext/PDF/Klartext_Chronologie_Bode_Museum_SMB_deutsch.pdf>
    • Landesarchiv Berlin; LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl.
    • Middlebrook, Martin and Everett, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. Reprint Edition 2014.
    • Pergamonmuseum. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin <https://www.smb.museum/museen-einrichtungen/pergamonmuseum/home/>
    • Pollitt, Jerome J. (1986). Art in the Hellenistic Age. Cambridge University Press.
    • Wemhoff, Matthias. (2014). Das Berliner Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte in der Zeit des Nationalsozialiusmus. In: Blickpunkt Archäologie 3, 2014, S. 40-43.
    • Winter, Petra. Invasion auf der Insel: 75 Jahre Kriegsende auf der Museumsinsel. Blog der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz <https://blog.smb.museum/invasion-auf-der-insel-75-jahre-kriegsende-auf-der-museumsinsel/>

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