After the end of the Second World War and with the Iron Curtain already instaured, and the subsequent division of the city into four sectors, Berlin Steglitz continued its reconstruction work as an essential part of the US occupation zone. But that effort and money went principally to the main artery of the suburb’s life, Schloßstraße and its surrounding area. With streets cleared of rubble stores, groceries, markets and cinemas reopened and a new commercial life sponsored by the American giant glow on the great avenue that crosses that district from north to south with the red Rathaus building as an a iconic.
In the aerial view of the reconstructed Steglitzer Schloßstraße in the 1950s seen above, it seems like war has ever happened, with clear streets, the majestic Rathaus and the new Volkswagen-pavilion (built in 1951) at left. Notice at right that there is no Hermann-Ehlers-Platz yet.
[A scene in a street market at Steglitz after the war.]
In this silent film footage taken at Steglitz after the end of the war we can see the Rathaus Steglitz from Albrechtstraße with trams and buses running again and finally the street market next to Hermann-Ehlers-Platz, with several scenes showing Berliners’ new life at Schloßstraße. Notice the Albrechtshof-Lichtspiele cinema at Albrechtstraße (01:47) and the Titania-Palast theatre views’ (02:05).
[Video credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Theodor Röckle Collection. ID:3917.]
Much of that American economic support was managed by the High Commission for Occupied Germany - Alliierte Hohe Kommission (AHK). Established in 1948, the USHICOG was created by the victorious Western Allies to supervise and regulate the politic, economic and social directives of the new born West Germany. For example, in 1951 a program of USHICOG was carried out with 8 1/2 million Deutsche marks to deliver food between the population.
[Here we see food distribution in the hall of a Steglitzer Grundschule (a primary school) in November 1950 at Berlin Steglitz.]
One of the highlights of Steglitz district throughout its Berlin history has been transportation, as we saw in previous posts the world’s first electrified tram line ran through there in 1881. As the rest of the Western zone, it had to restart and rebuild the entire transport and communications network after the war, a very hazardous enterprise not only difficult due to the economic precariousness but also due to the recent tension and division of the capital by the victors.
The Berliner Verkehrs-Gesellschaft(from 1938 known as BVG or Bezeichnung Berliner Verkehrs-Betriebe) was responsible of all tram and omnibus systems, the last was part of the bus network so it carries identical characteristic yellow colour too.
[Taken in 20 August 1948 by Fritz Eschen, this photo captures the first tram running between the districts of Steglitz and Wilmersdorf in Berlin after the war. Note the anti-fascist banner decorating the wagon and the flags of the Four Victorious powers (and the city’s bear flag) on the front.]
[The Siemensbrücke across the Teltowkanal at Siemensstraße in Steglitz was inoperable after been hit by a bomb during July 1944. Until establishment of an electrified alternative route over the Hannemannbrücke / Stindestraße, the BVG’s Oberleitungsbus (Obus) had to be towed by a tower wagon as seen in this image. The air-raids suffered by Berlin on July 1944 were made by RAF Mosquitoes night-intruders, with Bomber Command sending around 25-30 Mosquito bombers per mission to harass Berliners morale. On April 11, 1945 the BVG closed the A32 line.]
[1963: a Steglitz district trolley-bus at Schloßstraße Ecke Albrechtstraße. The Oberleitungsbus, Obus or O-Bus system in Berlin city began in 1882 (world’s first) with Oberleitungsbus Steglitz running from 1933. This was the fourth on the current urban area of Berlin existing trolley-bus system and the first modern of its kind in the city. Reopened in 1949, the A32 on trolley-bus lasted until 22 March 1965 with the shutdown of all the trolley-bus operations on West Berlin as a result of the rebuilt of the western tangent. In the background can be seen the Rathaus Friedenau tower.]
[A pre-war colour picture taken in 1937 of that same Steglitz trolley-bus from Linie A32 driving around Schloßstraße Ecke Albrechtstraße to the northwest. Note the red “Adler am Rathaus Steglitz” lettering.]
Next, as a conclusion about the history of this Berlin city district during the air-bombings, war period and subsequent years, we share several scenes of the post-war years. Life goes on at Steglitz and after reconstruction Berliners go about their business, and we hope that never again it be known as ‘steht nichts’ - nothing is standing.
[At the corner Albrechtstraße with the old brick building of the Rathaus Steglitz, seen in 1950.]
[Street scene taken by photographer Ernst Hahn of postwar West-Berlin at the Schloßstraße, near Albrechtstraße in 1947, today here stands the Steglitzer Kreisel tower. Note the Bären Stiefel bear-shaped advertisement on top of the nearest car, a Standard Vanguard Estate produced by the Standard Motor Company England, from 1947 to 1963.]
[Peaceful view from 1953 of Ecke Feuerbachstraße/Schloßstraße in Berlin Steglitz-Friedenau. In the foreground we can see a Kaufhaus Leineweber department store. Note the modernist Titania Palast cinema-theatre in the background at left.]
[A nice nightly colour view of the reconstructed Berlin Schloßstraße taken in December 1955. Leineweber GmbH & Co. KG is a clothing manufacturer based in Herford in East Westphalia, which emerged from a garment factory founded in 1888 by Berlin businessman Bernward Leineweber. It was one of the first manufacturers of men’s clothing, which he produced himself and sold in his shop at Oranienstraße in Berlin.]
[Christmas 1955, Schloßstraße, taken in the direction of Rathaus Steglitz, with Leiser store in the background. Leiser is a shoe retailer founded in 1891 in Berlin Oranienstraße. Owned by a Jew family, it was sold 75% to the Bahner family, owners of the Saxon stocking producer Elbeo, in order to avoid expropriation by the Nazis in 1935.]
In the aftermath of the war, Berliners began the long and arduous reconstruction task. From August 2, 1945, the suburb of Steglitz became part of the administrative US sector of the city, in the new division of Postwar Germany decided by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union during the Potsdam Conference celebrated days before (from 17 July to 2 August 1945). The Soviet troops retreat from the district on 4 July 1945, taking over control the newly arrived US forces led by the experienced 2nd Armored Division and their tanks.
The photo shown above was taken in 1950 from the top of the Rathaus, looking northwards to Friedenau, and allow us to appreciate how effective was the reconstruction of the Steglitz district, without any doubt due to be located within the US occupation zone. But the reconstruction was caused not only by the economic aid of the American giant, but much effort and work for the surviving Berliners, who tried to return to normal after the disaster of the war.
[Here, schoolgirls from the Augusta-Viktoria-Schule work as a chain gang to clear rubble from a bombed out part of their school on 24 September 1945.]
[Another image of German girls of the senior grades at the Augusta-Viktoria-Schule in Steglitz, working to clear away the rubble left after the war. West German population was invited to volunteer for this task, but contrary to the myth, women were a minority. One exception was West Berlin, where large numbers of women and girls (about 26,000) did clear debris from the destroyed city.]
[The Augusta-Viktoria-Schule was located at Rothenburgstraße 18. It was built in 1911/12 according to plans by Hans Heinrich Müller (1879-1951), Gemeindebaumeister (Building supervisor) of Berlin’s suburb Steglitz. He was responsable of all public buildings located there too. Müller served as a lieutenant at the Eastern front during the First World War.]
Days after the end of the war, back from the exile in Moscow, the Communist Party (KPD) established this office in the Berlin district. This image of the main entrance of the office was taken before control of this district of the capital was handed over to US occupation forces. The Order No. 2 of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD - Sowjetischen Militäradministration in Deutschland) of 10 June 1945 made it possible to found or re-establish German anti-fascist parties in the new Berlin. The slogan shown refers to a call made by the KPD to the German people to build an antifascist-democratic Germany and reads ‘Die Einheit aller Antifaschisten ist die Garantie fürden Aufbaueines demokratischen Deutschlands’. Notice Soviet Union and United States flags raised in front of the entrance.
Both countries maintained good relationship although keeping in mind that a new ‘war’ had already begun.
The existing tension was going to rise until provoking the first great crisis of the city in the postwar period. On 18-20 June 1948 a reorganization of the monetary system took place in the Western occupation zones of Germany, directed by Ludwig Erhard. The Western Allies reform intended to eliminate the money overhang and stop the black market, and lay the basis for a functioning market economy, which finally succeeded eliminating the Nazi-Reichsmark (used from 1924), still circulating after the war but nearly worthless due to massive inflation. The new ‘German mark’- Deutschemark DM was born, and every West Berliner received 40 marks. The Soviet Union reaction was to carry out their own currency reform (the ‘Ost-mark’) on the Soviet occupation zone but failed in obtain the same improvement and this led to a greater division between the three Western zones and the East. Four days later, in a great and desperate measure, the Russians started the so-called Berlin-blockade.
On March 20, 1949 the US military government declared the Deutschemark as the only valid currency in the Western sectors.
[Berlin Winter February 1949, several shots showing crowds at an exchange office (Wechselstube) in the Steglitz district. Western Berliners ran to the exchange offices after rumors about the introduction of new issues of the ‘Westmark’ in the US Sector.]
The rising tension in the city led to a nearly war-status, after the Soviets have blockaded all the roads isolating the Western sectors.
On the US sectors, the force in charge of maintaining order and peace were the Constabulary, highly mobile mechanized security force units created by Gen Eisenhower after the war. Using armoured cars, tanks, jeeps, motorcycles and other vehicles outfitted with full radio and signal equipment will be organized soon in occupied Germany on an experimental basis. Units will specialize in patrolling and liaison with other control forces, checkpoints guards and control the population of West Germany. It was officially activated on 1 July 1946 and the unit fell under the command Major General Ernest N. Harmon. The Germans referred to them as the “Lightning Police” because of the insignia unit (a red lightning on a yellow background circled blue with a letter C in the middle being in blue) while the US servicemen called them the “Circle C Cowboys” because of their numerous horses.
[U.S. Army M8 Greyhound armoured cars pass by the Rathaus Steglitz at Albrechtstraße during a patrol in the American sector of Berlin. This picture was taken in June 1948. The yellow and blue stripes on their helmets and the insignia identifies them as men from the 16th Constabulary Squadron (Separate), assigned to Berlin Command as part of the Constabulary occupation force of West Berlin.]
[June 24, 1948: Berliners watch among rubble a “Lightning Police” U.S. Army M8 Greyhound armoured car patrolling at Hauptstraße in the American sector of West Berlin Steglitz / Schöneberg amid rising tension in the divided city. Note the ‘Betreten verboten!’ sign painted on the ruined building behind and the press corner. ]
West Berliners back to normality after the soviet blockade has been lifted in May 1949 thanks to the Airlift, the famous Berlin Luftbrücke.
[Here, a sign in the display window of a wine store at Schloßstraße 105 in Berlin-Steglitz around March 1949 indicates that the blockade on liquor and spirits drinks has ended (“Die Blockade für Likör und Spirituosen aufgehoben!”) and ironically remarks them against the East Germany currency - the Ostmark.]
But despite the American help and money, rubble and ruined buildings are the daily panorama seen by West Berliners during many years after the end of the war, and certain areas of Steglitz suburb remained so affected until well into the 50s.
[1952: this photograph shows the bombed-out Albrechtstraße / Ecke Sedanstraße, near Stadtpark Steglitz.]
Northwest of Rathaus Steglitz we ran into Feuerbachstraße located nearly at Friedenau. Construction of the S-Bahnhof located there (planned under the name Feldstraße) began in 1932 and was opened on May 1933, as seen on the first image taken before the war. This train station was severely damaged during a massive air-raid on April 29, 1944 by American heavy bombers (679 B-17s and B-24s bombed Berlin that day), with the area around Feuerbachstraße and Steglitz being devastated although main target was FriedrichstraßeBahnhof. It was not reopened until June 1945 when the war ended. The famous Empfangsgebäude, the modernistic reception building seen in the picture, designed by architect Richard Brademann (1884-1965), was partly repaired during 1951/52 under Karl Waske direction.
[A view of post war Schloßstraße-Feuerbachstraße in Steglitz during 1946, taken by an American soldier from the US Army Third Infantry Regiment.]
In these two photographs taken by Heinrich Klaffs during the year 1970 we can see in the background the partly restored Feuerbachstraße station during the Cold War era. In 1984 after the result of a study to check the condition of the reception building, it was demolished and subsequent reconstructed as seen today.
Today we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but November 9, known by Germans as Schicksalstag, is much more than that happy event. For the history of Germany in the 20th century and for the rest of Europe maybe … It is a key day and a turning point in history.
• 9. November • 1918
Saturday, was the birthday of democracy in Berlin. A new revolution led by workers which think in a new world after the disaster of the Great War (1914-18) and the Soviet Revolution (1917), made Kaiser Wilhelm II to abdicate and that would become the end of the Hohenzollern’s time. The new Republic of Weimar was about to start.
Ironically, that newly born democracy and the new Republic would give way in a short time to discomfort of some sectors that would quickly radicalize and led to the uprising of the NSDAP party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) - the Nazi movement, led by Adolf Hitler. Hitler, convinced to be the leader of the change that Germany needed, organized a coup in a brewery in Munich on 9 November 1923, known as “the Munich Putsch”. The rapid reaction of the government forces and the last-minute abstention of several key-members for the assault, would make the coup fail. Hitler would be imprisoned in Landsberg prison, but would return with greater power and with clearer and even more radical ideas for Germany, shown in his book ‘Mein Kampf’.
During the night from the 9th to the 10th of November, 1938, known as the Kristallnacht progrom, Nazi-party SA and SS members led by anti-semite doctrines, wielding axes and torches, rampage synagogues, shops and houses of German Jews. This was the worst attack on the Jewry community since the Nazis seized power in 1933. During the 1938 pogroms, Nazi troops tore down nearly 1,400 synagogues. Thousands of Jewish businesses were destroyed. Over 30,000 Jews were arrested and taken to concentration camps and around 140 died. Testimonies from those dark days say that the local fire departments did not stop the synagogues and Jewish shops from burning; they merely prevented the flames from spreading to neighboring buildings.
[Flames engulfed the Berlin synagogue located at Fasanenstraße in the Charlottenburg district after been raided by paramilitary Nazi-SA troopers during the Kristallnacht. This big synagogue, at the time the largest one in Berlin, was opened in August 1912 and closed by Goebbles’ orders in 1936. Destroyed in 1938, the remains of the building were again devastated during a British air-raid in 1943.]
On the night of November 9, the Wall built by the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) to protect the border that divided the East from the West fell after 28 years, not only in Berlin but throughout Germany, which has been divided into two blocks after the end of the Second World War. [The actual postwar border line which divided Berlin in four sectors is painted across the Potsdamerstraße by order of the British occupation authorities in August 1948 before the infamous Mauer was built in 1961 by East Germany authorities. This action follows incidents in which the Soviet-controlled German police made illegal entries into the Western Zone, in their raids against Black Market activities.]
During the last days of April 1945, when the ‘Thousand-Year Reich’ was crumbling in ruins and blood, in most cities and towns were terrible scenes and murders. One of the most repeated scenes found by the victor Allied troops was the execution of German soldiers by members of the SS, hanged on poles or street lamps in squares as a frightening message to the people. One of those bloody episodes was remembered in Steglitz just after war.
As we have seen on the previous post, on 24 April 1945 the Soviet Red Army started the assault on the southwestern outskirts of capital Berlin. The fight lasted until April 30 when the last German forces were defeated or captured. On the 24th, an unknown German soldier who refused to continue the fight was hanged on the tram-mast by Nazi-SS retreating troops in front of a house at Albrechtstraße 2 next to the Rathaus Steglitz, as a martial execution charged with either desertion, escape, plunder or cowardice from the enemy. The dead body hung for days and it is not known who was involved in this execution.
Immediately after the end of the war a metal sheet was added to the mast by Antifaschistische members to remember this soldier, with the text: “Hier wurde am 24. April 1945 ein deutscher Soldat, weil er den zwecklosen, wahnsinnigen Krieg nicht weiter mitmachen wollte, von vertierten Nazi-Bestien erhängt.” [Here on April 24, 1945, a German soldier was hanged by outlawed Nazi beasts because he did not want to go on with the futile, insane war.]
The commemorative metal plate was changed in October 1947 by a wooden plate with a new text. This was designed by Albert Kraemer, the first art office director in Steglitz after the war and reads: “Von Deutschen wurde ein deutscher Soldat in den Tagen des Zusammenbruchs der Hitlerherrschaft am 24. April 1945 an diesem Mast erhängt.” [A German soldier was hanged on this mast by Germans in the days of the collapse of Hitler’s rule on April 24, 1945.]
In the summer of 1948, due to critical comments from people about this text, a revision was made and Bürgeramt Steglitz changed again the plate. The altered text now reads: “Am 24. April 1945 wurde hier ein deutscher Soldat von unmenschlichen Nationalsozialisten erhängt.”[On April 24, 1945, a German soldier was hanged by inhuman National Socialists.]
Today, the hanged soldier is remembered with a stele at the adjacent Hermann-Ehlers-Platz. This stele was installed in May 2009 by the Amt für Weiterbildung und Kultur of Steglitz-Zehlendorf and designed by Karin Rosenberg with text by Doris Fürstenberg, who has researched this Battle of Berlin episode in “Kunstamt Steglitz (Hrsg.). Alles neu: 50 Jahre Kriegsende in Steglitz” published in 1995. (pp. 88-98). This research along a request of the District Office Steglitz in 1994 led to a potential match to an unknown soldier buried on July 1945 at the Friedhof Steglitz at Bergstraße. The dead man carried no identification tag or papers papers - only a handbag with the inscription ‘Obergefreiter Werner, Batterie 3, Artillerie Regiment’ but today sadly there is no confirmed identification yet.
[Berlin 1/2 March 1943: this night oblique taken by an RAF bomber during the raid shows smoke drifting from fires in the Steglitz area (A) and a concentration of fires around the Tempelhof marshallings yards (B). The bomb-bay camera mechanism was activated seconds later the bomb-aimer dropped the bombs and the flash bomb. Most of the south-west area of the city suffered much damage on that night due to attacking force’s radar (H2S) difficulties to identified assigned targets, when 302 Bomber Command aircraft visited the Reich’s capital. Bombing pattern spread over 100 square miles. The British lost 17 bombers (5.6 percent of the force) and 191 Berliners lost their lives.]
Steglitz, mostly part a residential district, was one of the most bombed districts of Berlin during the war due to its location in the western area of the capital. Many bombs fell there during the initial 1940 raids, but especially during the British RAF campaign in 1943-44. It was the second most heavily destroyed district, only after Schöneberg.
A very good source about the bombings suffered by this Berlin area is the testimony of Dieter E. Zimmer, covered in detail in his work Bombenkrieg. Aus Dieter und Jürgen Zimmer: Zur Familiengeschichte, 2005.
The ancient village was founded on the twelfth century and it is first documented in 1375 as “Stegelitz”, being refounded in 1792 as a Prussian village. After the Weimar Republic was proclaimed, Steglitz was incorporated to the city in April 1920 into the Groß-Berlin-Gesetz together with neighboring villages creating new boroughs named after the largest villa in the area, a demarcation later used for reference during the division of the city in occupation sectors in July 1945. Since 2001, after a big administrative reform, Berlin southwestern area was united in the newly created Steglitz-Zehlendorf (which includes Steglitz, Lichterfelde, Lankwitz, Zehlendorf, Dahlem, Nikolassee and Wannsee). The suburb lived pioneer times at the dawn of the twentieth century, the world’s first electrified tram line ran through there (Groß-Lichterfelde village) in 1881 and Otto Lilienthal (1848-96) made his first flight jumps in 1893 from the Maihöhe nearby hills.
[A 1912-postcard of the Steglitz suburb, with a view of Albrechtstraße Ecke Schloßstraße and the Rathaus Steglitz townhall, today home of Bürgeramt Steglitz (“Citizens’ Office” could be a translation). Designed by architects Reinhardt and Süßenguth, it was built in 1896-97 in Neo Gothic style.]
When the war broke out in September 1939, the western Berlin suburb of Steglitz was part of the ’Groß-Berlin’ capital of the Reich and the bombs would fell indiscriminately on its habitants, from the humblest workers on the banks of the Teltowkanal to the petty aristocratics and their elegant villas of Dahlem. But they would go on, the horrors of aerial bombings were something new and even curious, the fear to air-raids and their deadly consequences would not come until months later. Life was still going on in the capital of the Reich.
[A column of new Volkswagen Beetles stops in front of the Rathaus Steglitz in January 1939 shown by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF), the Nazi-labour organization.]
[The red-brick facade of the Rathaus Steglitz town hall, seen at left, highlights in this colour view of Schloßstraße Ecke Albrechtstraße at Berlin-Steglitz district (U-Bhf Rathaus Steglitz) taken on an early evening of mid 1940 with pedestrians and parked cars.]
[This closer look was taken seconds later than the previous image, it also shows Schloßstraße Ecke Albrechtstraße. The famous 4-story dome-shaped building seen at right (Schloßstraße 88 - Albrechtstraße 132) is listed as a cinema theatre, opening in 1911 as the ‘Deutsches Theater’ with 180 seats, and still exists with minor changes. Notice the numerous electricity lines for the Berlin yellow trams all over the street. The yellow road sign next to the Rathaus points to Grunewald, some 5 km away from this spot.]
[This winterly view of that same location from a different angle (Schloßstraße Ecke Albrechtstraße), taken in 1945 shows us a more desolate scene after more than two years of continuing bombing. The “Deutsches Theater” was hit by RAF incendiary bombs on the night of August 31, 1943.]
Several works and factories were located near and on Steglitz, mainly the big AEG Telefunken factory in Goerzallee at Berlin-Zehlendorf. Also the extensive traffic of goods that traveled through the Landwehr- and Teltowkanal made the area an intended target for the enemies and the strategic bombing campaign. Another factor of the great ton of bombs dropped on this sector was that the majority of bombs fell in western Berlin on every raid because it was the closest and the first area to overfly from the English bases; sometimes due to ‘easy trigger’ too, bombardiers anxious to start the return home flight. A long list of damaged buildings hit by bombs is recorded in the capital records as are the casualties figures: Markelstraße, Lepsiusstraße, Schloßstraße, Birkbuschstraße, Feuerbachstraße…
On the very first day of the war, 1 September 1939, the air-sirens sounded on this suburb, located on the corner house at Schloß- and Feuerbachstraße (Zimmer, 2005) to alert its people of incoming aircraft. Several bombs landed here during the late summer and fall of 1940 British air-raids with the first big attack suffered by Steglitz and Friedenau being on Sunday, September 7, 1941 by RAF bombers. Steglitz, Lankwitz and surrounding areas were heavily hit when the British offensive was reactivated on January 1943, especially by the huge aerial attack on 1/2 March when 257 bombers raided the capital. This area was again bombed hard with big devastation on 23/24 August 1943 during the initial phase of the British RAF “Battle of Berlin” (in the case of Lankwitz nearly a 85% was destroyed) with severe damage done to the Steglitz power-station. Hundreds of people died during the two and a half hours raid, 174 of them at Steglitz, many were injured. The actual route of most bombers that night, further west than planned and the total failure of the radar marking system made bombing pattern very scattered, with south-western districts taking a heavy toll, far away from the intended main target: Mitte. On 24/25 March 1944 the Rathaus Steglitz building was hit by British bombs during the last raid of the air-offensive too when the southwestern area was bombed heavily again.
[Bomb damage at Schloßstraße 121 in Steglitz district. ‘Schloßstr. 121, dreistöckiges Wohnhaus total ausgebrannt’ states the city report after the 1 March 1943 British raid on Berlin.]
The greatest destruction was about to come, however, during the American attacks starting in the spring of 1944. During the first US daylight raid (6 March 1944, 730 heavy bombers of the US Eighth Air Force dispatched), the leading elements of the 3rd Air Division closed the city from the south towards their primary target: the Bosch electrical works at Klein Machnow but heavy overcast made its 4th Combat Wing to drop bombs over the only gap free of clouds they encountered: Steglitz. The 75-aircraft formation released their explosives over the southern part of the residential district causing severe destruction. One of them was shot down by flak and another 49 suffered damage. Final apocalypse came during the 1945 big US ‘area’ bombings, especially on the raid made on February 3rd, 1945,by a thousand heavy bombers.
[The ruined house at Schloßstraße nr 19 following the British RAF Bomber Command air-raids on fall 1943. Today this place is home of Schildhorn-Apotheke in a new building built after the war, next to U-Bahn Schloßstraße station and the Bierpinsel & Schlossturm.]
[Rubble and debris covered Schloßstraße 20 Ecke Ahornstraße in Berlin Steglitz district following the British RAF Bomber Command air-raids during November 1943; this image was taken in the summer of 1945 months after the end of the war. Notice the Möbel Höffner ad on the destroyed wall. Höffner Möbelgesellschaft GmbH is a Berlin-based furniture company founded in 1874 by Rudolf Höffner. Located at Veteranenstraße 12/13 (Berlin-Mitte), Höffner became Berlin’s largest furniture store until the outbreak of the Second World War.]
[March 1945: A freight train (route Potsdam - Berlin Potsdamer Bahnhof) rolls on Steglitz freight station; the damaged building seen at left was the Postfuhramt (post office) at Bergstraße and the S-bahn station is barely seen in the background. While all around the city is already in ruins, the Reichsbahn fulfills its intended task until the final collapse, and even rebuilds the destroyed signal box office.]
[Here we see a destruction scene on the southeast corner of Berlin-Steglitz district: the Siemens- and Hannemann-brücke lays in ruins after the end of the war. Both bridges linked Steglitz and Lankwitz across the Teltowkanal and were destroyed shortly before the final assault in April 1945 by Wehrmacht troops to prevent Soviet forces to cross into the inner defence perimeter of the Reich’s capital. All bridges across the Teltow- and Landwehrkanal were demolished in this action except one (Späthstraße brücke).]
[The Hannemannbrücke was rebuilt in its present form in 1955/56 as a steel girder bridge. The original bridge (seen in this photo) was a truss structure made of steel. The Siemensbrücke at Siemensstraße was rebuilt in 1956/1957 as a steel beam bridge after the canal was cleared of debris and bridge damaged parts.]
On 24 April 1945 the Red Army started the assault on the southwestern outskirts of capital Berlin. Once across the Teltow, Soviet troops of the Third Guards Tank Army and 1st Guards Army pushed on and reached Dahlem and Steglitz on that very day attacking from the south into the Berlin defensive sector “E” where Steglitz belongs. The fight lasted until April 30 when the last German forces were defeated or captured.
[A Soviet convoy of the Red Army (most probably ZIS-5 trucks produced by Moscow, by contrast third on the line is an US-built GMC truck) passes in front of the battle-scarred old Rathaus at Schloßstraße Ecke Albrechtstraße after the fight for Berlin, May 1945.]
[More Soviet Red Army vehicles with two T-34/85 tanks led by an BA-65 armoured car drive past to Rathaus Steglitz at Schloßstraße in their way through the city to the southwestern suburbs of Berlin, taken in May 1945.]
[German workers cleared rubble and debris at the destroyed streets of Berlin-Steglitz. In this silent footage filmed in July 1945, the level of destruction suffered by the suburb by the fighting and bombing raids can be seen. Video credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Theodor Röckle Collection. ID:3917.]
The destruction suffered by this area during the bombing raids and the final battle was heavy, and the Berliner sense of humor renamed Steglitz as ‘steht nichts’ - ‘nothing is standing’ after the war.
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Simon, Christian. Steglitz im Wandel der Geschichte: vom grössten Dorf Preussens. be.bra-Verlag. Berlin. 1997.
Berliners in front of a radio store listen to news of the invasion of Poland by German forces on September 1, 1939. The capital lived its first experience in aerial warfare when an air siren sounded that evening, the first of many to come. It was a false alarm, probably caused by a single plane straying too close to the city.
A new war had begun, but as Hew Strachan says in “The First World War”: (…) “in 1918 the Germans had also learned what modern warfare entailed. They did not take to the streets to show their enthusiasm when the conflict broke out in 1939” (…) as they had done in 1914 to fire and cheer their soldiers on their way to the front. Hitler had unleashed a war like never seen before and would cost the destruction of Germany and much of Europe and the death of more than 60 million people.
This city is in continuous development and innovation and the past of time is changing the capital, further away from the wounds suffered during the 1939-45 war. The new James-Simon-Galerie, designed by David Chipperfield Architects serves as the new entrance building for Museum Island, completing the ensemble between the Kupfergraben canal and Neues Museum. It is located next to our beloved battle-scarred building at Am Kupfergraben ecke Dorotheenstraße 1 (at left in the first image, see our This is Berlin post).
The new museum is sited on a narrow strip of land where Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s ‘Neuer Packhof’ administration building stood until 1938.
On July 4th, 1942, RAFBomber Command sent 12 Boston Mk III light bombers (American built Douglas A-20s bearing British roundels) to bomb in a daylight raid four German Luftwaffe airfields on Holland: De Koog, Bergen/Alkamaar, Haanstede and Valkenberg air bases. Half of these bombers were assigned to the newly arrived in Europe US 15th Bomb Squadron and manned by American crews. 2 bombers were lost in this low-level attack, shot down by anti-aircraft fire; 6 airmen were missing in action: American manned AL677 piloted by 2nd Lt FA Loehrl was hit by Flak and crashed in flames over De Kooy, and Lt Lynn’s BostonAL741 was hit after dropped their bombs over Bergen.
This would be the first operation of what would become the mighty Eighth Air Force of USAAF, and the first American bombing raid in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). When the war ended, American bombers had flown more than 1,440,000 sorties, with the Eighth ‘heavies’ dropping 557,643 tons of bombs over Germany itself.
[In the images we see a bomber crew of 15th Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group with an RAF Douglas Boston of No 226 Squadron, after being awarded medals, Independence Day. Left to Right: Sgt Bennie Cunningham, T/Sgt Robert Golay, Major Charles C Kegelman and Lt Randall Dorton.]
[Original caption: “Orders are read presenting Major Charles C Kegelman with the Distinguished Service Cross and Lt. Randal M Dorton, T/Sgt. Robert L Golay and Sgt. Bennie B Cunningham with the Distinguished Flying Cross for their low altitude bombing raid on 4th July 1942.”]
This baptisme of fire had resulted in the loss of one third of the American forces sent but had great morale for the Allied cause: the United States are now active in the air war over Western Europe against the Nazi Germany. Actually, the first action on any USAAF crew to bomb occupied Europe was made by Captain Charles C Kegelman’s crew, flying on a mission with 12 RAF Bostons of No 226 Squadron were dispatched against Hazebrouck marshalling yard, France, on 29 June 1942.
Sources and Bibliography:
American Air Museum in Britain. First 8th Air Force Operation (04 July 1942). <http://www.americanairmuseum.com/mission/1241>
Churchill, Winston. Their Finest Hour. Houghton Mifflin. 1949.
Freeman, Roger. The Mighty Eighth. A history of the units, men and machines of the US 8th Air Force. Cassell & Co. 2000.
Middlebrook, Martin. The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. 2014.
Overy, Richard. The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane. 2013.
So far in the war, Berlin has not been attacked; there have been some air alarms (the first one on the day the war started, 1 September 1939) but not actual raids, apart from a sole French bomber that made an isolate bombing run on the capital on 7th of June, 1940. Fear of being bombed by the enemy was there nevertheless. This calm was to change on the night of Sunday, August 25, when, shortly after midnight, the capital’s air-raid sirens blazed again, alerting the population from the danger coming from above.It was thesixth air-raid alarm on Berlin since the war outbreak, but this time it wouldn’t be a false alarm.
As we have seen on the previous post, 86 British bombing aircraft took off for Berlin on that evening. So, just 35of thoseclaimed to have attacked their assigned target or an alternative in the Groß Berlin area, the rest failing to locate their objectives due to the heavy overcast. The weather conditions made the attack almost fruitless and most of the crews reported heavy flak and searchlights. RAF targets were the Siemensstadt works complex in the northwestern area, the Klingenberg power station in Rummelsburg and the main airport, Tempelhof.
The official OKWreport summed up the events on the next day listing every bomb hit or damage taken by all the city quarters and suburbs: ‘…for the first time since the beginning of the war, several enemy planes flew over Berlin and threw several incendiary bombs on the outskirts… Neither here nor in Berlin was damage done. One of the planes flying over Berlin was shot down by flak on the way back.’ 
The Abschlußmeldung des Kommandos der Schutzpolizei from that night recorded that main Fliegeralarm sounded in Berlin from 0.19 hours and bomb danger lasted until 03.24 hrs, when the all-clear alarm (‘Entwarnung’) finally sounded, three hours later.
[Artist Paul Nash made in 1941 this watercolour and chalk drawing of Berlin’s RAF first attack. It shows an aerial view of four Whitley bombers in flight over a target area of Berlin.]
First agency report cables of the night were very plain and confusing, reporting that the raid consisted in three waves of bombers (others say four), and that a high number of them was overflying the city’s northern and western suburbs during the three-hour attack. Some witnesses stated that ten heavy explosions were “heard to the North-West of Berlin in the first ten minutes after the air raid alarm was sounded”meanwhile others reported that “just one incendiary bomb [was] dropped and some leaflets”, the bomb was said to have landed on a nursery, where it caused a fire that was quickly extinguished by a gardener. Further strikes were listed on the industrial northern suburbs and first testimonies even talk about raiders overflying the centric Wilhelmstraße.
…but, did RAF bombers actually hit their assigned targets?
[Tuesday August 27th, 1940, Daily Mirror frontpage after the British raided Berlin and Luftwaffe bombings on London the South East, the first air bombings on both cities.]
“First hand taste of aerial warfare” The British were very optimistic about the bombing raid but Berlin suffered minor damage actually, no bombs were dropped or hit on the capital itself apart from some on the outskirts. The number of weapons dropped was virtually insufficient: Prof Demps resumes in 18,6t of explosives and about a hundred 4-lbs fire-bombs the amount of bombs droppedwith most of them targeting open fields in the north and south of Berlin. Some of these fell into several farms -known as ‘Stadtgüter’-owned by the city; quickly the famous Berlin sense of humor came to the rescue: ‘Now they are trying to starve us out’.
Thanks to the German official report, we can be able to list every bomb that hit Berlin on that very first night. In Rosenthal,within Berlin-Pankow district, several incendiary bombs hit the area, falling on some arbors (one of them burned down); they caused some fires too on two residential buildings with minor damage. Also in Pankow, further north in Stadtgut Blankenfelde, some 40 incendiaries were reported with no damage. In the Weißensee district, Stadtgut Malchow was hit by 7 incendiary artifacts. More explosives fell on Wartenberg, causing minor property damage there.
Beyond Berlin city limits, a explosive bomb landed at Selchow and another one in Waßmannsdorf, both located south of the capital near Schönefeld, with no damage. A little bit far from there, four high-explosive bomb were dropped on Deutschwusterhause(sic) in Königs Wusterhausen, Brandenburg state.
Ironically, part of the damage taken by the city’s districts was caused by the local heavy anti-aircraft guns defending the capital. Minor damage to property from Flak shells splinters –Flakgranate– fired against enemy raiders was reported in Dragonerstraße (today’s Max-Beer-Str) in Mitte destroying some windows of the closer buildings andTiergarten (which shattered the window panes of the Rathaus) too. Further damage by shrapnel was reported at Neue Hochstraße Ecke Schulzendorferstr. in the Weddingdistrict, damaging several roofs of residential buildings there.
[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 each circle refers to the number of bombs (HE– black colour; incendiaries– red; flak splinters– orange) reported by German authorities on every district.]
According to a Swedish correspondent the Berliners “took it calmly” and most of the citizens were at home when the warning was given, as the weather had been dull and rainy.
Even so, a total of 11 people resulted injured during the air strike, not from RAF bombs but from splinters from the shells fired by the city anti-aircraft defences during that night, seven of them (one seriously) at Neue Hochstrasse in Wedding and another four in the Mitte district. Finally, some sources stated that one of the bombs killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo during this first raid, an unconfirmed loss.
[This first raid was so important in the morale aspect to London that was widely shared all across the British Empire on the next days, in this case the frontpage of the Hindustan Times, New Delhi newspaper in India.]
Broadcasting the raid At this early time of the war Berlin was still an open city, and several international correspondents reported every day’s life at the Third Reich’s capital. The Berlin correspondent of the Stockholm-based Dagens Nyheter covered the raid on Sunday night reporting that heavy explosions were heard in the German capital and that Unter den Linden was plunged into dead silence when Berlin people took shelter at the warning. Berliners had only taken the raid seriously when anti-aircraft batteries fired back, and went to the shelters, as many had believed the official Nazi-propaganda that no enemy plane would overfly and attack the mighty capital.
The most widely known report from that night is from American journalist William L. Shirer (1904-1993), who was at the time of the raid broadcasting from Berlin on the CBS radio network. Shirer wrote in his diary: ‘We had our first big air-raid of the war last night. The sirens sounded at twelve twenty a.m. and the all-clear came at three twenty-three a.m. For the first time British bombers came directly over the city, and they dropped bombs. The concentration of anti-aircraft fire was the greatest I’ve ever witnessed. It provided a magnificent, a terrible sight. And it was strangely ineffective. Not a plane was brought down; not one was even picked up by the searchlights, which flashed back and forth frantically across the skies throughout the night. The Berliners are stunned. They did not think it could happen. When this war began, Göring assured them it couldn’t. He boasted that no enemy planes could ever break through the outer and inner rings of the capital’s anti-aircraft defence. The Berliners are a naive and simple people. They believed him. Their disillusionment today therefore is all the greater. You have to see their faces to measure it.’ 
[American William L. Shirer from CBS radio, at left, seen at the broadcasting center in Berlin in 1939.]
The raiders dropped more than explosives and incendiaries on Berlin: hundreds of ‘Nickels’ —the British codename for leaflets— fell on the city during the attack. On it, the population of Berlin was requested to realize the futility of the Nazi cause with propaganda messages in German text like “the war which Hitler started will go on, and it will last as long as Hitler does” a straight proclamation headed by “Berliners, Do You Comprehend Now?”. A list of targets in Germany bombed by the RAF in the previous weeks was listed too and also some statistics of the war progress comparing British resources to those of Germany and proclaiming the overwhelming power of the British Empire.
Percival Knauth, the NYT correspondent, described on his cable that ‘[leaflets] were covered with fine print on each side’ and ‘were gathered up by souvenir hunters as rare prizes.’ Shirer added on his diary too: ‘This was good propaganda but the thud of exploding bombs was better…It was an early sign to those in the regime that the war might be longer and more bitter than many had expected.’ 
[Some of the air leaflets, known as ‘Flugblätterabwurf’ by the Germans, dropped by RAF fliers over Berlin during the first air raids on the German capital.]
There are no known pictures of this first air-raid on Berlin or the bomb damage taken by the city’s buildings and streets, something that gonna radically change after the next bombing (Aug 28th) when Joseph Goebbels rushed press journalist into a tour to see the bomb craters and shattered windows in the Kreuzberg district (see our post Bomben auf die Kottbusser Straße). This first air attack had an official German reaction surprisingly muted, the event warranted only a few lines in the local newspapers the next morning after the DNB, the official press agency, released a modest six-line communiqué.
International observers were aware of this correction picture painted by the regime and the press: ‘Today the bombing is the one topic conversation among Berliners. It’s specially amusing therefore to see that Goebbels has permitted the local newspapers to publish only a six-line communiqué about it (…) There is not a line about the explosive bombs which we all plainly heard. Nor is there a word about the three streets in Berlin which have been roped off all day to prevent the curious from seeing what a bomb can do to a house.’ wrote Shirer about the Germans reaction following the bombing.
[This is the front page of the Völkischer Beobachter, the Nazi party newspaper,on 27 August 1940, accusing the British of using the previous attack on London —intentionally or not— as an excuse to bomb Berlin. Note that this first bombing of the capital was overshadowed by other news of the day.]
[Calm reigns in this Agfacolor colour picture taken in 1940 which shows the Reich government buildings at Berlin-Wilhelmstraße. ‘Ten Heavy Explosions: Raiders above Hitler’s Chancellery’ was one of the optimistic headlines that can be read in some British newspapers on the next day of the raid.]
London turns attack on Berlin into retaliation Following the raid, the RAF admitted to the press on the following days that the attack was not so successful as planned but attributed this to bad weather encountered by attacking crews after poor bombing pattern was evident.Both the Air Ministry and the international press announced that this raid was a reprisal for the German bombing of London on Saturday night and that all the RAF targets were selected military objectives as well as anti-aircraft batteries and searchlight concentrations, meanwhile German authorities said that the heavy explosions heard on downtown Berlin were detonations of anti-aircraft shells and minimized the attack rating it as ‘extremely small.’ ‘Enemy aircraft over Berlin. Several hours of air-raid alarm’ wrote Goebbels in his diary, who on the next day found the mood of its citizens as ‘all of Berlin up in arms.’ The Nazi minister of Propaganda quickly tried to put the attack on behalf of the German cause: ‘Now Berlin too is in the midst of war, and that’s a good thing.’ 
[The Grosskraftwerk Klingenberg in Rummelsburg seen at night some time before the war. Located in the eastern part of Berlin and one of the RAF main targets of that night, not a single bomb hit the power plant or the nearby area. Brightly illuminated on the image, RAF crews found the area on that night in a completely darkened condition due to German blackout regulations to protect the city.]
This first raid left no great damage on Hitler’s capital but the real impact of the attack was the profound moral effect, a serious warning to Berliners of what will comes, a population that as Prof Overy noted ‘had been told repeatedly that German air defences would keep British bombers at bay’  although Jörg Friedrich, author of bestseller Der Brand (‘The fire’)defined the attack as ‘Churchill’s unsuccessful reprisal’.
Two days later, RAF bombers appeared over the capital once again. The German indiscriminate bombings had turned back against the Nazi’s heartland, Berlin.
Notes and Citations:
 DEMPS, Laurenz (Ed). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014. pp 33-34. Berlin Luftterror. The first one: August 25th, 1940;The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Operations Record Books: AIR 27.  see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 2 f.  see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 2 f; DEMPS: op. cit. p 238.  The Evening News, Monday, August 26, 1940; ‘most of the noise came from the north, where the armament factories are’: SHIRER, William. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-1941. Taylor & Francis, 2002. p 489.  C. Brooks Peters wireless to the New York Times, August 26, 1940, page 1.  Daily Mirror, Tuesday, August 27, 1940; The Evening News, Monday, August 26, 1940; BRITISHBOMBERSFLYOVERBERLIN by C. Brooks Peters wireless to the New York Times, August 26, 1940, page 2.  DEMPS: op. cit. p 285.  MIDDLEBROOK, Martin and EVERETT, Chris. The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation, 1985 (2014 Ed), pp 76-77. MOORHOUSE, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, 2011. p 137.  see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 2 f; MOORHOUSE: op. cit. p 136; SHIRER: op. cit. p 489; AP report quoted in New York Times, August 26, 1940, page 1.  see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 2 f.  see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 2 f; Daily Mirror, Tuesday, August 27, 1940.  Daily Mirror, Tuesday, August 27, 1940; Berlin arms factories bombed in three-hour raid,The Guardian, Tuesday, August 27, 1940.  see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 2 f; MOORHOUSE: op. cit. p 136. Still today several authors and historians mislead the number of victims, overlapping the casualties and damage of the second raid to this one. Sweeting, C G. Target Berlin: The First Air-Raid on the German Capital <https://www.historynet.com/target-berlin-the-first-air-raid-on-the-german-capital.htm>  The Evening News, Monday, August 26, 1940, page 1; MOORHOUSE: op. cit. p 137.  Shirer continues the narrative: ‘I was at the Rundfunk writing my broadcast when the sirens sounded, and almost immediately the bark of the flak began. Oddly enough, a few minutes before, I had had an argument with the censor from the Propaganda Ministry as to whether it was possible to bomb Berlin. London had just been bombed. It was natural, I said, that the British should try to retaliate. He laughed. It was impossible, he said. There were too many anti-aircraft guns around Berlin.’ SHIRER: op. cit. p 416; MOORHOUSE: op. cit. p 142.  SHIRER, William. Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. Simon and Schuster, 1990. p 778; Nazi Air Blockade is a Failure, Berlin Reads in R.A.F.’s Leaflets, The New York Times, August 28, 1940, page 5.  Percival Knauth wireless to TheNew York Times, August 27, 1940, page 3.  Quoted in TWEDDLE, Paul. The Other Battle of Britain: 1940: Bomber Command’s Forgotten Summer. The History Press, 2018. p 165. OVERY, Richard. The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Penguin, 2014.  SHIRER (2002): op. cit. p 489.  “Listeners in the centre of the city estimated that the bombs were falling about twenty miles away” said the NYT chronicle.Weather Hindered Attack on Berlin,The New York Times, August 27, 1940, page 3; Daily Mirror, August 26th, 1940.  The Guardian, Tuesday, August 27, 1940; The Times’s aeronautical correspondent cautions that: ‘It should not be imagined for a moment that Sunday night’s raids on the outskirts of Berlin were intended as a “tit-for-tat” reprisal for the indiscriminate bombing of London during the week-end. Whereas the German aircraft jettisoned their bombs with little or no regard for direction or what they were going to hit, the R.A.F. raids were directed against definite military objectives, which had been singled out for attack some time before.’ Tuesday, 27 August 1940. Airminded<https://airminded.org/2010/08/27/tuesday-27-august-1940/>; The Hindustian Times, Tuesday, August 27, 1940.  C. Brooks Peters wireless to The New York Times, August 26, 1940, page 1; Völkischer Beobachter, 27. Aug. 1940, Nr. 240; MOORHOUSE: op. cit. p 137.  Quoted in FRIEDRICH, Jörg. Deutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945. Ullstein Heyne List, 2002. pp 52-55; OVERY: op. cit.; FRÖHLICH, Elke. Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels. Sämtliche Fragmente. Teil 1. Band. 4: 1940-1941. Saur, 1987 p 296.  OVERY: op. cit.  FRIEDRICH: op. cit. p 55.
Bowman, Martin. (2015). Voices in flight: The Heavy Bomber Offensive of WWII. Pen & Sword Aviation.
BRITISHBOMBINGSURVEYUNIT (1998).The Strategic Air War Against Germany 1939 - 1945 - The Official Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit. Frank Cass.
Davis, Richard G. (2006). Bombing the European Axis Powers A Historical Digest of the Combined Bomber Offensive 1939–1945. Air University Press. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
Frankland, Noble. (1970). Bomber Offensive: The Devastation of Europe, Ballantine Books.
Tress HB. Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 65–78. 1982.
Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
‘The sporadic raiding of London towards the end of August was promptly answered by us in a retaliatory attack on Berlin. The War Cabinet were much in the mood to hit back, to raise the stakes, and to defy the enemy. I was sure they were right…’
As seen before, RAFBomber Command raided Berlin for the first time on the night of 25/26 August 1940, following orders by Prime Minister Churchill and the War Cabinet. The German bombing by Luftwaffe aircraft in central London on the previous night had to be avenged and RAF bombs hit the nazi back. On 29 August, Churchill told the War Cabinet he proposed sending a message of congratulations to Bomber Command on the bombing of Berlin.
The morale and propagandist potential of the attack was evident, so a press event was mounted by the Air Staff to recreate the landing back from that historic mission soon as possible. Actually the press event happened on 30 August, the day after the second air-raid on Berlin by RAF aircraft (August 28/29th).
In the act took part No 115 and No 38 Squadrons’ crews, two of the six operational units flying the Vickers Wellington Mk 1C in No 3 Group. Both units were based at the time at RAF Marham air station, in Norfolk. At 12.00 hrs under blue skies, pilots and crews who went on the Berlin raid were photographed and filmed by Movietone News and Fox Photos recreating for the cameras their landing back from the previous night attack, with their Wellington medium bombers, studying maps relaxed and the post-strike debriefing with an intelligence officer. This of course was very far from war reality, tragically and deadly different.
Ironically, they had missed the first raid two nights earlier. Marham’s bomber squadrons, departing that night from Norwich airfield as advanced base to conserve fuel, visited the German capital for the first time on the night of 28/29 August when 47 Hampdens and Wellingtons bombers were sent to raid Berlin. RAF Marham contribution to the raid were nine bombers from 115 Sqn and nine more of 38 Squadron. The Squadron’s ORB (Operational Record Book) recorded about this raid: ‘This was our first attack on BERLIN district. Electrical installations at KLINBERGERG and TEMPELHOF aerodrome were the targets. Fires were started, and explosions seen. Haze made observation difficult. Heavy Flak and searchlights were met on the way to and returning from the target.’ It shows that the first bomber took off at 20.28 hrs and the last landed back at 05.52.
[Close view of a Wellington bomber pilot on 38 Sqn photographed in his aircraft at a press event at RAF Marham air base after the second raid on Berlin, 30 August 1940.]
[30 August 1940: British RAF bombercrews from Nos 38 and 115 Squadron read a map in a staggered pose for the press covering the post-strike debriefing at RAF Marham after the second trip to Berlin.Notice all airmen here wear 1930-pattern kaki ‘Sidcot’ suits for protection from the cold air at high altitude, except the man at far right who wears an Irvin heavy sheepskin flying jacket over it.]
George Bury, a navigator in a 115 Squadron Wellington, recalls (Bowman, M. 2014): ‘The target was Klingenberg Electric. Having been warned that the area was very heavily defended, we decided to fly at 15,000 feet. That was 5,000 feet higher than our normal height. At this height it was essential to use oxygen all the time, but after a few hours the masks became wet and uncomfortable to use. (…) Searchlights were very active. Although one did pick us up, he failed to keep us within his beam long enough for the others in the group to join in. When just ahead we saw a Wellington caught by two at the same time and quick as a flash many others concentrated on the same target as he was caught in a cone of a least ten searchlights. The whole area around the aircraft was as bright as day and no matter which way he turned and twisted, they easily held on to him. The last we saw of him he was in a steep dive with shells bursting all around. This was our eighth flight and the first time that we had seen another aircraft. We were beginning to think we were fighting the whole war on our own.’
Bombing pattern was poor and results unimpressive, it was a little succeed in the goal to destroy the German capital, but a tremendous impact in the moral of the British; from this point the ‘Big City’, as the Nazi-capital become known to the crews, became a regular target for small forces of Bomber Command aircraft.
[30 August 1940: Studying a map are members of the crews who took part in the retaliatory bombing of Berlin after the Luftwaffe attacks on London.]
[A close portrait of a cheerful Bomber Command crewmember, Arthur Landon Todd of 115 Sqn, who took part on the first Berlin raids. Original captions reads: ‘They Returned From Berlin. R.A.F. personnel who took part in raids on German Capital. One of the pilots who took part in the raid on Berlin. He was formerly an insurance agent.’]
British Pathé recorded the event in film too, seen later on cinema screens on Movietone News, entitled “With The Air Force - Back From Berlin”, this morale-booster footage shows the Squadron crews recreating a post-strike debriefing. Martin Pathé sent a telegram to Wing Commander Thomson, OC No 38 Squadron, RAF Marham, to advise him when the film is to be released locally.