Air raid on Magdeburg on January 16, 1945

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The air raid on Magdeburg on January 16, 1945 was one of the most devastating air raids on a German city in World War II . The area bombing carried out by units of the RAF Bomber Command triggered a firestorm . After the devastation of Magdeburg by Tilly and Pappenheim in the Thirty Years War (“ Magdeburg Wedding ”), the attack represents the second major destruction of the city.

The attack of January 16, 1945 was by far the heaviest of 38 Allied air raids on Magdeburg between 1940 and 1945. During these attacks a total of 5,000 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the American air force dropped 12,500 tons of bombs on the USAAF City. Industrial plants, residential areas and cultural buildings were hit hard. The total degree of destruction in Magdeburg was 60%, that of the living space was 68%, the inner city was almost completely destroyed. 5,000 to 6,000 people died, 16,000 were injured, thousands went missing and well over 200,000 were homeless.

Meaning of Magdeburg

Below city map of the old town in 1946. Above 1960

Magdeburg was the capital of the Prussian province of Saxony until June 1944, and from July 1, 1944, after its division, capital of the province of Magdeburg . In the list of the largest German cities in 1939 , including Vienna, Breslau and Königsberg, Magdeburg is in 21st place, just behind Chemnitz . The population of the medium-sized city was around 346,000 in 1940/41. Magdeburg was a city of culture, an administrative center and one of the most important trading and industrial cities in Central Germany with important food and metal processing companies. The location at the intersection of the Middle Elbe , Mittelland Canal and Elbe-Havel Canal played a major role for inland shipping . The port of Magdeburg was connected to the Mittelland Canal and thus to the Ruhr area via the Rothensee ship lift, which was inaugurated in 1938 .

From the time before the Thirty Years War, only the Magdeburg Cathedral , the Church of Our Lady and a few other churches were preserved. Many buildings date from the Wilhelminian era and in the course of high industrialization in Germany , many buildings were built in the Wilhelminian and Art Nouveau styles . There were still many houses from the Baroque period, especially on the main shopping street, Breiter Weg .

The fortress was razed at the end of the 19th century, but the city remained an important garrison location for the Prussian Army , Reichswehr and Wehrmacht . Of particular importance for the armament of the Wehrmacht was the new Heerespanzzeugamt Königsborn , built from 1934 east of Magdeburg , where new armored vehicles from all plants in the Reich were equipped for use. There were also other new buildings such as the Hindenburg barracks in Herrenkrug .

The metal industry was particularly important for warfare. Largest operation was to Essen Krupp company owned Grusonwerk in Buckau where various " special vehicles " such as the Panzer I , Panzer IV (until the end of 1941 the only manufacturer) and the assault gun IV were built (from end 1943). Polte-Werke , a manufacturer of large armatures , founded in 1885 , was also one of the largest ammunition producers in the world and one of Magdeburg's most important employers. The engineering works Buckau R. Wolf provided u. a. In addition to field howitzers, they also produced the 8.8 cm cannon for the Tiger tanks .

In Rothensee there was a coal-fired power station for generating electricity and the large gas plant . In addition, a large hydrogenation plant for the production of synthetic gasoline was built there in the 1930s by BRABAG (lignite-gasoline AG) , which the Air Force specifically needed. At the same time, the engine construction branch Magdeburg (MZM) of the Dessau Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke was built in Schwiesaustraße in Neue Neustadt .

Air defense and air defense

Magdeburg, together with Dessau , was classified as a "first-order air raid shelter". Air raid shelters in existing buildings were reinforced at the beginning of the war, 120 public air raid shelters and rescue stations were set up, and an underground connection and escape network was created. In addition, more than 6,000 firewall breakthroughs were made. Magdeburg was included as a focal point in the air raid shelter construction program, which was promoted from autumn 1940 . Ten air raid bunkers were built: in the breakthrough street as a pillar bunker on the Stromelbe (1,750 berths), a bunker under the Rathausplatz, a raised bunker in the former Friedrichsbad, a bunker on Tannenberg-Platz, one on Nicolai-Platz, a bunker at the Nordfriedhof (613 berths) , a bunker at Körnerplatz, a large one at the Stadttheater (200 recliners, 1,800 seats), one bunker each at the commercial port and one at the freight station. There were also three “bomb-proof operating bunkers”: one each at the Sudenburg hospital , one in the old town and one in the state women's clinic. The air raid readiness services for public buildings were increased, increasingly with women and older students. Women were also accepted into the fire brigade from 1943, the works and volunteer fire brigades were strengthened and supplemented by a youth fire brigade. 17 underground water basins and ten fire ponds were built

Magdeburg was assigned to the "Luftgau Command III". Fighter planes were stationed near Burg , Zerbst and Heyrothsberge . In Prester a barracks facility that was Flak regiment 52 were built. Magdeburg was surrounded by a belt of anti-aircraft guns, which were intended to protect military installations, the armaments industry, the hydrogenation works and traffic centers (ship lift). There were light anti-aircraft guns for direct object protection, medium and heavy flak with a caliber of up to 12.5 cm, also as railway guns. Headlight batteries should allow you to aim at night. From 1942 anti-aircraft batteries were relocated to the fronts, which led to their partial replacement by "home flak". This was mostly served by soldiers who were not fully fit for military service and young air force helpers, often supported by prisoners of war willing to help.

Despite successful defenses, anti-aircraft guns and decimated hunting protection could not withstand the increasing force of the Allied air raids. Area bombing using mine bombs and triggered firestorms naturally overwhelmed the rescue and fire- fighting forces on the ground despite all efforts. Quote from the notes of Dr. Trimborn: "Most of the people (from Magdeburg) also knew that all the many air raid protection measures ... could not save the city from doom ..."

Attacks from 1940 to 1944

Halifax heavy bomber
Avro Lancaster heavy bomber

From 1940 to 1943, air raids on Magdeburg were carried out only by the British Royal Air Force (RAF), from their bases in southern England . They always took place at night.

  • 21./22. August 1940 : First bombs on Magdeburg. The affected houses in Ottersleber Strasse and Jordanstrasse in Sudenburg and the slaughterhouse. There were three dead and seven injured.
  • December 16, 1940 : Around 25 planes dropped bombs at night on the Friedrich Krupp AG Grusonwerk in Buckau , on railways in Salbke and residential complexes in Buckau and the Neue Neustadt . There were 9 dead and 24 injured.
  • April 18, 1941 : A small group of bombers dropped 5 high- explosive bombs and around 100 stick incendiary bombs on the old town , Braunehirschstraße, Beaumont-Straße and Venedische Straße at night . There were 12 dead and 37 injured.
  • August 13, 1941 : A small group of bombers dropped bombs on houses in the garden city of Westernplan at night . There were 7 dead and 23 injured.
  • December 29, 1943 : 8 RAF aircraft attacked targets in Magdeburg with 5.4 tons of bombs at night. No information is available on the dead and injured.
  • January 11, 1944 : light daytime attack (USAAF?) On targets in Magdeburg. No information on dead and injured.
  • January 14, 1944 : 10 RAF aircraft dropped 6.9 tons of bombs at night. No information on dead and injured.
  • January 21, 1944 : First major attack on Magdeburg. From 10:50 p.m. to 11:20 p.m., 585 four-engine RAF aircraft, mostly Avro Lancaster , attacked the city with 2,272 tons of bombs. 55 (61) bombers were shot down, mainly on the outbound flight by night fighters . The area bombing in accordance with the Area Bombing Directive did not take place as planned. The fighters, the flak and the meteorological conditions were involved. Strong wind drove the highlighted markings away to the east and southeast, so that most of the bombs fell on the Elbe landscape, on fields and on places south and east of Magdeburg. A total of 23 small towns and villages were affected. 69 residential buildings were destroyed or damaged in Magdeburg. There were also bomb hits in the Pfeiffer foundations (Samariterhaus), on the Luther Church in Magdeburg-Friedrichstadt , the flak barracks, the share brewery, a transformer station and the Buckau waterworks. The Natural History Museum on Domplatz burned down, the cathedral windows shattered and some government buildings were damaged. 120 dead and 400 wounded were registered. The public memorial service took place in the town hall in front of 70 coffins lined up under an iron cross. Over 1,000 citizens of Magdeburg were left homeless. In total, the dropping of 13 mine bombs , 456 high-explosive bombs, 70,000 stick bombs, 1,256 phosphorus incendiary bombs , 53 liquid incendiary bombs and 81 phosphorus canisters could be determined.
American heavy bomber Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress"

Immediately after this attack, the evacuation of women with children, schoolchildren and parts of the non-working population from Magdeburg was accelerated: "Aktion Magdeburg".

From February 1944, the Americans began participating in the bombing. The 8th Air Force of USAAF led, from their bases in England from Tagangriffe with their heavy bombers, accompanied by hundreds each long-range fighter aircraft on Magdeburg. Four-engine bombers of the types B-17 "Flying Fortress" and B-24 "Liberator" were used, and the P-51 "Mustang" and P-47 "Thunderbolt" in particular were used as fighter planes .

  • February 22, 1944 : First US attack on Magdeburg. It should apply to the BRABAG hydrogenation works , the Junkers aircraft engine works and the Friedrich-Krupp-Gruson works . 16 B-17s attacked the eastern part of the city with 42 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs. Destruction and damage occurred in the residential areas of Magdeburg-Friedrichstadt (today Brückfeld ), the Pfeiffer foundations and the flak barracks. The Junkers factories did not suffer any damage. 41 dead and 194 injured were registered.
  • 28 May 1944 : 55 American B-17 attacked with 114 tons of bombs 14:08 to 14:23 as the focus Rothensee on. The BRABAG hydrogenation works were hit particularly hard, but so were the zinc smelter , a power plant and the Magdeburg gas works . There were 24 dead and 72 injured. The official funeral ceremony took place in front of lined up coffins, under the Iron Cross, with the police force, reading out the names of the dead and with a funeral march from Wagner's “Götterdämmerung” on the old market. As after other attacks, the Magdeburger Zeitung published a list with the names of the dead: "Again we mourn those who fell from our ranks who were claimed by the terrorist attack on Magdeburg".
  • June 20, 1944 : 95 American B-17s (3 casualties) attacked Rothensee from 8:10 a.m. to 9:16 a.m. 48 dead and 148 injured had to be registered. The public memorial service took place in the auditorium of a Magdeburg school.
  • June 29, 1944 : 83 American B-24s (2 casualties) dropped 221 tons of bombs on Magdeburg from 9:01 to 10:01 a.m. There were 92 dead and 291 injured.
  • August 5, 1944 : This American attack was the second most loss-making in the war for the population of Magdeburg. 179 B-17s (3 casualties) attacked the city from 12.02 p.m. to 12.24 p.m. They dropped 432 tons of bombs on the Junkers factories in the Neue Neustadt , on Krupp-Gruson and other factories in Buckau. Residential areas were also hit hard. 683 (693) dead and 881 injured had to be registered. 13,000 Magdeburgers were left homeless. The funeral took place "with great sympathy from the population" on the old market. The burial took place on the "Ehrenfeld" of the Westfriedhof , which had already been laid out in October 1939.

"It was obvious that in addition to the objects of the arms industry, residential areas were now being bombed in a very targeted manner."

  • August 16, 1944 : 154 American B-24s (5 casualties) attacked Rothensee, Buckau and Magdeburg-Neustadt with 414 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs. Heavy destruction occurred in the entire Neustadt, for example in Lübecker Strasse, Nicolai-Platz, Alexanderstrasse and Schmidtstrasse. In Buckau, the Krupp-Gruson works were badly hit. There were 91 dead and 66 injured in Magdeburg that day.
  • September 11, 1944 : 130 American B-24s (4 or more casualties) dropped 300 tons of bombs between 11:15 and 12:10. 120 dead and 212 injured had to be found.
  • September 12, 1944 : 217 American B-17s (7 casualties) attacked Rothensee and Magdeburg-Friedrichstadt in particular with 498 tons of bombs. The cathedral was hit by high explosive bombs in the nave. There were 136 dead and 143 injured in Magdeburg.
  • September 28, 1944 : 417 American B-17s (23 casualties) dropped 1,062 tons of bombs on Magdeburg from 11:34 a.m. to 12:12 p.m. For the main unit with 359 machines and 918 tons of bombs, Magdeburg is specified in the war diary of the 8th Air Fleet as a "secondary target". The Reichsbahn and especially the city center were badly affected. The Katharinenkirche burned out. Three hits destroyed the roof of the Johanniskirche and caused larger parts of the vault to collapse. The Jakobi and Sebastian churches suffered damage. The monastery church of our dear women ("the most beautiful spot in Magdeburg") was badly affected. Damage occurred to the Prinz-Heinrich-Palais and the Zeughaus-Museum . The town hall , the Central Theater and the Altstadt hospital were also destroyed. The first gaps were torn in the fronts of the baroque buildings on Breite Weg . 261 dead and 492 injured were registered.
  • October 7, 1944 : 87 American B-24s (1 loss) attacked Rothensee and Buckau with 310 tons of bombs from 11.40 a.m. to 12.25 p.m. The Sudenburg hospital was also hit (the hospital roofs were marked with large red crosses). There were 50 dead and 112 injured that day.

The exhibition "Then the sky turned blood red" names the following figures for Magdeburg for the year 1944 : 1,966 attacking Allied aircraft, dropping 5,714 tons of bombs, 1,658 killed and 2,882 injured citizens, and 40,000 Magdeburg residents, the "apartments, house and yard" had lost.

In the weeks prior to January 16, 1945, only relatively weak air raids were carried out on Magdeburg. The majority of the air alarms were triggered because bomber formations were sighted on the Hanover - Braunschweig route with the goal of Berlin .

Attacks in 1945

  • January 14, 1945 : 90 American B-17 bombers (2 losses) attacked Magdeburg as the primary target with 223 tons of bombs from 1:13 pm to 1:24 pm. The number of dead and injured is unknown.
  • 16 January 1945 : Day Attack of the USAAF: 122 American B-24 attacked 11:30 to 11:59 with 237 tons of bombs the commercial port , the BRABAG - Hydrierwerk in Rothensee and heavy industries (inter alia the.. Friedrich Krupp AG Grusonwerk in) Buckau on. The destruction caused by this attack in the north and south of the city - accompanied by fires - was considerable: in the industrial plants and the adjacent residential areas, especially on the “northern front”. The fire brigades in Magdeburg and the surrounding area were strongly tied up by this operation, which was to have a very negative effect the following night. 40 deaths were registered.

The major raid by the RAF on the night of January 16, 1945

Aerial photo of the destroyed city center taken at low altitude
  • January 16, 1945 : Night raid: This RAF air raid on Magdeburg was one of numerous planned area bombings against large German cities and was code-named "Grilse" ( young salmon ). The deputy of Arthur Harris , Commander in Chief of the RAF Bomber Command , was Air Vice-Marshal Robert Saundby , who, as an avid fisherman , provided a fish code to all of the German cities that were eligible. The British air attacks on civilian area targets (downtown, residential areas and others) were made in accordance with the area bombing directive ( "statement to carpet bombing" ) of the Air Ministry on 14 February 1942. In terms of Magdeburg on 16 January 1945 Magdeburg mayor wrote Wilhelm Polte 1995 : "Your target (the British bombers) were not the barracks and armaments factories on the outskirts, but the densely populated center"

Chronology of the night attack of January 16, 1945

On January 16, shortly after 7:00 p.m., the Royal Air Force bomber association took off with a total of 371 aircraft from the 6th (Royal Canadian) and 4th Bomber Group in south-east England. After six sub-units had crossed the English Channel, initially in different directions, and before they entered the territory of the Reich, a large number of electronic jamming aircraft of the RAF with "mandrel screens" had partially overridden the German radar detection and prevented them from following the planned route early determine the bomber. The course of the combined bomber stream with a length of tens of kilometers initially corresponded to the route towards Berlin . Then he abruptly changed his course to the southeast over the Gardelegen / Fallersleben area and flew to Magdeburg. This deception made it unclear until shortly before the start of the air raid that Magdeburg was his target. When the air raid sirens warned the population, the first bombs detonated. The people who fled were often unable to reach the bunkers.

The area bombing carried out a force of 347 of the 371 machines launched. 10 Halifax bombers were shot down by German night fighters over the Hanover area . The aircraft reaching Magdeburg were seven Mosquitos , 43 Avro Lancasters and 297 Halifax (Mark 3) bombers. They carried the following bomb load: 881 large-caliber mine bombs of the types HC-4,000 (1,300 kg of explosives each) and HC-2,000 (620 kg of explosives each), 252 high- explosive explosive bombs , 25,638 stick bombs and 5,024 liquid incendiary bombs - a total of 1,060 tons of bombs, 641 of them Tons of incendiary bombs and 419 tons of high explosive bombs

At 9:23 p.m. 8 Lancasters flew over the city and dropped tons of tinfoil strips to make it impossible for the anti-aircraft defense to locate the bombers by reflecting the radio beams . Three minutes later, so-called scout machines dropped light bombs ("Christmas trees") over the city in order to illuminate the target area with day-bright magnesium light for the subsequent attack. From 9:28 p.m., visual markers marked out the inner city attack sector more precisely with red and green illuminated signs. After another drop of light bombs by ten Lancasters at low altitude, the first wave of attacks followed with aerial mines , which tore open the roofs and walls of the buildings due to their high explosive power. With this they created the attack surfaces for the subsequent stick incendiary bombs and liquid incendiary bombs, combined with mine bombs and high explosive bombs, from 9:39 p.m. to 9:58 p.m. in the second wave. The floor of the city shook like an earthquake due to the constant detonation of the explosive devices, which could be felt up to 70 km away. As planned, large-scale firestorms with temperatures of over 800 degrees Celsius developed due to the numerous sources of fire , which the aerial warfare historian Olaf Groehler referred to as “fire orcan” for Magdeburg. The old town burned out, suffocating and burning thousands of people. The asphalt on the streets became liquid and began to burn too. The bomber pilots flying back could see the firelight of the burning city on the other side of the Rhine at a distance of 370 km.

As a result of the violent detonations, the electricity, gas and water supplies in the city center suddenly failed. The streets were often impassable for the fire brigades hurrying to help from the far area. To rescue the buried, wounded and dead, miners from the area were called in in addition to the responsible auxiliary staff, the Wehrmacht , prisoners of war and volunteers . "The dead, often women, children and old people, were laid down on the roadsides and in front of the ruins ... They were placed in primitive coffins that had been brought up, often many corpses shrunk by phosphorus into one."

The entire air strike lasted 39 minutes, of which the actual bombardment lasted 28 minutes. In particular, the eight square kilometer area between Hasselbachplatz , Hauptbahnhof , Alter Neustadt and Elbe was in ruins after the attack and burned for several days. 90% of the inner city was destroyed; the destruction of the entire city is estimated at 60%. 2,680 people were killed, 11,221 were injured and 190,000 were left homeless. The Statistical Yearbook of the City Council of 1946 names 6,000 dead. In 1964, the ADN gave completely different figures: "After this horrific night, Magdeburg had 16,000 dead, 24,648 wounded and 244,560 homeless." The burials took place, using the Wehrmacht and prisoners of war, over 8–12 days, mainly in the Westfriedhof, but also in the other Magdeburg cemeteries

The tens of thousands of "bombed out" Magdeburgers were evacuated to the soon overcrowded villages and small towns via collection points in the outskirts of the city, and also to other central German regions by special trains. In the first few days after the attack, 10,000 residents were considered missing. Although "numerous fates became clear afterwards", at the beginning of April 1945 their number was still 2,000

"The bombing of January 16, 1945 brought almost all of life in Magdeburg to a standstill".

  • January 17, 1945 : That night 69 RAF aircraft dropped 79 tons of bombs into the city.

Attacks from February to April 1945

"The (14 now following) bombardments were aimed at the residential areas that were not yet affected, the industry and the transport network"

  • February 2, 1945 : 42 RAF aircraft dropped 43 tons of bombs on Magdeburg at night. The number of dead and injured is unknown.
  • February 3, 1945 : 362 American B-24s (2 casualties) dropped 842 tons of bombs on the city from 11:10 am to 12:00 pm. The focus was on Rothensee and Magdeburg railway systems and their surroundings. 23 dead and 11 injured were registered.
  • February 6, 1945 : 418 American B-24s (2 losses) attacked Magdeburg as a "secondary target" with 727 tons of bombs. 167 dead and 216 injured were counted.
  • February 9, 1945 : 278 American B-24s (5 casualties) dropped 638 tons of bombs on Magdeburg, especially on traffic facilities and their surroundings. 42 dead and 52 injured.
  • February 13, 1945 : 70 RAF aircraft attacked Magdeburg at night (22.08 to 10.15 p.m.) with 84 tons of bombs. 4 dead were reported.
  • February 14, 1945 : 340 American B-24s (1 loss) threw 811 tons from 11:52 am to 1:13 pm on Magdeburg as a "secondary target", especially on traffic facilities. 77 dead and 134 injured.
  • February 15, 1945 : 353 American B-24s attacked the city as a "primary target" from 11:39 am to 11:55 am with 899 tons of bombs. 76 dead and 11 injured.
  • March 2, 1945 : 299 American B-24s (2 casualties) dropped 372 tons of bombs on Magdeburg from 10:35 am to 10:41 am, the primary targets being Buckau and Rothensee. Groehler gives 727 tons. The cathedral was hit: a 32 m² hole between the towers and damage to the main nave. The great organ was destroyed. 73 dead and 24 injured had to be registered.
  • March 3, 1945 : 219 B-24s (4 casualties) attacked Rothensee with 479 tons of bombs as their primary target from 10.13 to 10:38 a.m. The hydrogenation plant was completely destroyed. The number of dead and injured is unknown.
  • March 13, 1945 : Day attack on Magdeburg 63 dead
  • March 14, 1945 : Night raid
  • April 2, 1945 : Night raid by the RAF with 48 aircraft and 78 tons of bombs.
  • April 3, 1945 : Night raid, 62 dead.
  • April 4, 1945 : Night raid by the RAF with 35 aircraft and 54 tons of bombs.
  • April 17, 1945 : In addition to the fighter bombers constantly circling in the sky with their on-board cannons and machine guns, from which the residential areas were shelled, 360 USAAF aircraft occupied the city from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (12 p.m. to 5 p.m.) in a "rolling air raid" with a bomb carpet (770 tons of bombs). Around 3,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged. There were about 150 dead and 650 wounded
  • April 18 : Magdeburg on the left bank of the Elbe is occupied by the Americans - partly against resistance - on May 5th Magdeburg on the right bank of the Elbe is occupied by the Red Army.
  • April 19 : the eastern parts of Magdeburg still in German hands were still exposed to fire, also from heavy US artillery . German guns fired at targets on the left Elbe from Werder and Rotehorn Park . Buildings that had previously been spared from the war have now been hit: the city park restaurant on the banks of the Elbe, the building of the rowing club “Werder”, the Magdeburg rifle house and the town hall built in 1927 were destroyed, the exhibition tower in Rotehornpark damaged. The artillery duels lasted for days, from US -Site until April 30th. US fighter-bombers constantly flew over the eastern parts of the city and "shot at anything that moved".

Magdeburg experienced air raids more than 620 times during World War II

Material losses

The degree of destruction of the city as a whole was 60%, that of the inner city 90%. Of 106,733 apartments, 40,674 were totally destroyed (38%) and 31,774 were badly damaged (30%). 68% of the housing was destroyed or badly damaged. The population of Magdeburg had fallen from 335,000 before the war to 90,000 (with non-residents 120,000) in April 1945. Some of the people lived in emergency shelters. 71% of all public buildings were burned out or / and smashed. 23 schools were totally destroyed, 17 seriously and 20 slightly damaged. 1,524 shops, 1,119 retail businesses, 1,026 handicraft businesses, 224 restaurants, 196 public buildings, 130 factories, 37 ballrooms and assembly rooms, 34 hospitals and clinics, 34 department stores, 32 agricultural businesses, 23 schools, 21 cinemas, 15 churches, 15 hotels, three were destroyed Theater and three museums. The number of hospital beds had decreased from 3,825 to 398 (10%).

The inner-city Elbe bridges remained intact during the air raids. The first was blown up by the Wehrmacht on April 12, the other on April 18, shortly before the arrival of the Americans.

6 million cubic meters of rubble had to be removed.

The property damage was 1.852 billion Reichsmarks. Of this, damage to buildings accounted for 404 million, commercial damage for 520 and household effects for 928 million

Loss of cultural buildings

The losses and damage to cultural buildings - including the illustrations - are well documented by Renate Kroll in the standard work Fates of German Architectural Monuments in the Second World War , on which the following overview is based. The photos in the other books on the subject below are also very informative.

Cultural and educational buildings in Magdeburg were destroyed by the Allied air raids: 23 schools, 37 festival halls and halls, over 15 churches, three theaters and three museums.


The losses in the interior decoration of the churches would have been even greater if many movable works of art had not been outsourced.

Eight war-damaged churches (one of them after reconstruction) were blown up and demolished during the GDR era.

Cathedral, central building on the western side of the cathedral (1953), before restoration
Ulrichskirche (1954), before demolition in 1956
  • Cathedral of St. Mauritius and St. Katharina : was seriously damaged by seven hits in air raids in 1944 and 1945: hit in the north tower and central building, in the second nave yoke the vaults of both aisles were broken through; further hits in the north transept next to the Paradise Gate and in the western part of the south wing of the cloister. Little gable of the south aisle damaged. Artillery hit in the bishop's corridor. In the western front between the towers there is a 32 m² hole. 300 m² vault, 460 m² brickwork, 2,300 m² window area and 5,600 m² roof area destroyed. The post-medieval furnishings and the organ were also completely destroyed.
  • Our Dear Women Monastery : The choir, the southern side chapel and the summer refectory with part of the western cloister wing, as well as all roofs, were destroyed in the air raid in 1945. Complete destruction of the surrounding buildings, thereby exposing the tower front, which was previously integrated into the street alignment of the government road.
  • Luther Church in Friedrichstadt : Partly destroyed in a British night attack on January 21, 1944. Demolished in 1951, then built over.
  • St. Sebastian Church : During the attack on January 16, 1945, the Welschen hoods burned down, the roof was badly damaged and the tracery of the windows was destroyed. Restoration.
  • St. Johannis Church : The church was badly hit in the attack on September 28, 1944. During the attack on January 16, 1945, it was destroyed except for the surrounding walls, including the interior. The pillars of the central nave remained standing together with the arches and parts of the towers they supported. Reconstruction.
  • St. Jakobi Church : on January 16, the walls were destroyed and burned out. Ruin blown up in 1959.
  • St. Katharinen Church : burned down during the air raid on September 28, 1944 However, it is also stated: on January 16, 1945, except for the surrounding walls and the south arcades, the pulpit and the baroque altar also destroyed. Ruins torn down 1964–1966.
  • St. Petri Church : on January 16, 1945 destroyed except for the surrounding walls, including the baroque interior. The tower and the vestibule showed only slight damage. Reconstruction from 1962.
  • St. Ulrich and Levin Church (Ulrichskirche): Church nave burned out in 1945 with the surrounding walls preserved, including the interior fittings. Keep towers. Despite the ability to rebuild, the church was blown up in 1956
  • Former Sankt-Nikolai-Kirche : long since profaned, from 1937/38 Zeughaus-Museum. Damaged in 1944, heavily destroyed on January 16, 1945, only the largest part of the outer walls preserved. 1959 ruin torn down.
  • Wallonerkirche : Walloon Reformed Church. Completely burned out on January 16, 1945, including interior fittings. Reconstruction.
  • Heilige-Geist-Kirche : 1945 the church and the Annenkapelle destroyed except for the surrounding walls, also the historical baptismal font and the organ prospect. Church blown up after reconstruction in 1959.
  • Magdalenenkapelle : badly damaged in air raid, roof skin destroyed, chapel vault was preserved.
  • French Reformed Church (Grosse Marktstrasse): destroyed on January 16, 1945 except for the surrounding walls. Ruin removed in 1959.
  • Martinskirche in the Alte Neustadt: destroyed on January 16, 1945. Demolished ruin.
  • German Reformed Church in the Alte Neustadt: on January 16, 1945 destroyed except for the surrounding walls, ruins removed.
  • St. Nikolai Church in New Neustadt. Badly damaged in an air raid in 1944 (?). South tower, roof and barrel vault destroyed, as well as the windows. Restoration.
  • St. Briccius Church in Cracau : in the air raid on January 16, 1945, the roofs of the tower and the nave as well as the organ were destroyed.
  • Martin-Gallus-Kirche in Fermersleben : the roofs destroyed and the inventory damaged in a bombing raid in 1944. The church was severely damaged by pressure waves in the explosion of ammunition and fuel wagons in the marshalling yard.
  • Immanuelkirche in Prester : the church was seriously damaged in a bomb attack in 1944, the organ destroyed

Public buildings

  • Altes Rathaus Alter Markt 15: hit in 1944, then badly damaged on January 16, 1945. The south and east wings were totally destroyed, the north and west wings lost their roofs. The fabric of its upper floors was badly damaged. Of the upper rooms, only the middle one on the south side of the north wing retained its two Gothic vaults.
City Theater 1950. Blown up in 1958
  • Alter Packhof (Werftstraße 40): magnificent, castle-like baroque building on the banks of the Elbe. Destroyed in 1945, ruins removed.
  • Neuer Packhof, Werftstrasse 39: located on the Elbe next to the river bridge. Destroyed in 1945, ruins removed.
  • Sterntor : baroque gate system. Destroyed or badly damaged on January 16, 1945
  • Natural History Museum on Domplatz: burned down on January 21, 1944 in an air raid. Most of the inventory had been relocated.
  • Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum : imposing building. The north-west corner with the tower and the south part of the complex were badly damaged in the war. Simplified reconstruction, even without a tower.
  • Former National Theater (until 1876 theater, then gymnasium), Dreiengeiststraße 28. Destroyed in an air raid in 1945, ruins later demolished.
  • City Theater Magdeburg : Otto-von Guericke-Strasse. On January 16, 1945 partially destroyed except for the surrounding walls. Should be expanded again. But in 1958 it was blown up and torn down.
  • Exhibition buildings in Rotehornpark on the Werder-Elbe island : town hall damaged by artillery bombardment on April 19, 1945 and burned out Sternbrücke destroyed. The exhibition halls totally destroyed. The damaged observation tower and horse gate have been preserved.
  • Circus Blumenfeld : in Königstrasse (today Walter-Rathenau-Strasse), heavily damaged on September 28, 1944, finally destroyed on January 16, 1945.
  • Central station : badly hit on January 16, 1945. Middle station building completely destroyed and not rebuilt. Eastern reception building (in the style of a Tuscan palazzo) with severe damage. 1946 Beginning of the reconstruction of the station, but without the roof structure of the destroyed historic station hall.

Town houses

Magdeburg was rich in town and commercial buildings from the Baroque , Rococo , Wilhelminian and Art Nouveau periods . Most of them fell victim to extensive bombing, especially on the night of January 16, 1945. The ruins were later removed, and little was rebuilt.

The losses on Domplatz , such as the house at Kreuzgangstrasse 5 , on the Alter Markt and on the Breiten Weg, were particularly painful . The old market had been the center of the bourgeois town, with the town hall, garment tailor and Seidenkramer guild house. The Breite Weg, the main artery in the city center, with its baroque buildings was almost completely destroyed.

The Magdeburg chapter in the fate of German monuments in World War II shows with its illustrations particularly impressively the losses of town houses

Sacrifice and burial place

Grove of honor (detail) Magdeburg bomb victims on the war cemeteries of the Westfriedhof

Adding the found and registered fatalities of all 38 air raids from 1940 to 1945 results in a number from 4,500 to over 5,000 to 6,000

  • Broken down result for the attacks

from 1940 to 1944 a total of 1,689 deaths,

40 dead for the daytime raid on January 16, 1945,

2,680 deaths for the night attack on January 16

737 dead for the attacks from February to April 17, 1945:

a total of 5,146 deaths. The figures are incomplete because of 10 attacks (eight in 1945) not documented.

  • Cemeteries : Most of the dead found were buried in individual row graves in coffins at the Westfriedhof war cemetery , including after January 16, 1945 . The burial of the 600 unidentifiable, mostly charred corpses from the fire attack on January 16, 1945 also took place there, in a mass grave, but also in coffins. Other dead were buried in other Magdeburg cemeteries - for example in the cemetery of the Pfeiffer Foundations .
  • Number of people killed and buried in bombing raids on Magdeburg . Cemeteries and number of people buried. As of 1985. After 1990 there were still transfers from the burial grounds of the reserve hospitals to the Westfriedhof.

Westfriedhof 2,680 (including 600 unknown)

South Cemetery 246

Westerhüsen 70

Lemsdorf 14

Salbke 46

East 70

Rothensee 13

Old military cemetery 10

Prester 14

Sudenburg 30

New cemetery Sudenburg 117

Reserve Hospital II 57

New town 357

Friedrichstadt 12

Pfeiffer Institutions 20

Total 3,756

  • Total number of victims : Already in the first days and weeks after January 16, 1945 there was talk of 16,000 fatalities. Even during the GDR era, this number held up until 1989. Freya Paschen, spokeswoman for the Magdeburg museums, said: There was no historical evidence for this statement. Nobody could say where the number came from. With the political change, the Museum of Cultural History did further research and looked for sources. But even after this, the number of victims cannot be determined with certainty. That is understandable. In the firestorm / Feuerorkan some of the corpses found had shrunk so much that they fit the size of a doll in buckets or bags and several in a coffin. In and after the inferno, there must also be no remains in the rubble and the dead can be cremated without residue have come.
  • British and Americans lost 140 bombers in the attacks on Magdeburg by German flak or fighters. This results in around 1,300 crew members who were shot down, some of whom fell, while the others fell into German captivity after parachuting.


After the war, the city center and the other affected districts were cleared of rubble (see “ Rubble Women ”). Due to a lack of money as a result of the reparations by the SAG companies , but also with the ideological goal of creating a new socialist city, only a few of the damaged buildings were saved, or the buildings less affected by destruction were restored, including the Magdeburg Cathedral and the monastery Our Lady and the City Hall . Today only a few of the baroque houses on the Breite Weg , the Wilhelminian style and Art Nouveau buildings characterize the city center, supplemented by some buildings from the national tradition of the post-war period, which are also based on Soviet architecture from the Stalin era. The urban structure, which had grown over the centuries, was largely abandoned, so that in place of dense urban development, wide open spaces appeared, which were lined with buildings in the style of socialist classicism . Several churches, some of which were still relatively well preserved and which had shaped the cityscape for centuries, were blown up because they stood in the way of the ideological conception of a socialist city. Since reunification, many large and small construction projects have changed the cityscape significantly, for example the central axis of the city, the Breite Weg (one of the longest shopping streets in Europe before the Second World War), has been closed again since 1990 with many new developments.

In the architects' competition in 1946 for the reconstruction of the city, a memorial “Victim of the Air War” was proposed. It did not come to fruition.

Celebrate the anniversaries

On and around January 16, numerous commemorative events take place in Magdeburg every year to commemorate the destruction of the city. At the memorial for the victims of the air raid on “16. January 1945 ”(actually of all attacks) on the Westfriedhof report witnesses of their experiences, and representatives of Magdeburg put down wreaths of flowers. The Magdeburg Philharmonic Orchestra traditionally plays Beethoven's 9th Symphony in the opera house of the Magdeburg Theater together with the Magdeburg Opera Choir and the Singakademie . In the Monastery of Our Lady annual organ concert takes place. Following these events, at 9:28 p.m., when the bombing began on January 16, 1945, the bells of all churches in the city will ring for about ten minutes.

Neo-Nazis have been commemorating the bombing of the city every year since 1999. With 1200 participants, the “funeral marches” in 2012 reached their largest participation in numbers to date. Civil society protests are directed against these marches. Since 2009, the city has organized a “ Mile of Democracy ” as a counter-program , which in 2015 saw the largest participation to date with around 15,000 visitors.

See also


  • Maren Ballerstedt and Konstanze Buchholz: It's raining fire! The night of horrors in Magdeburg on January 16, 1945 , Wartberg Verlag, Gudensberg-Gleichen 2003. ISBN 3-8313-1367-9
  • Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille : Magdeburg in a firestorm. A documentary report. On the history of the destruction of the city by Anglo-American bombing raids in World War II . Edited by the City Council of Magdeburg. Magdeburg 1985
  • Manfred Wille : The sky is burning over Magdeburg. The destruction of the city in World War II . Edited by the City Council of Magdeburg. Magdeburg 1990
  • Then the sky turned blood red. The destruction of Magdeburg on January 16, 1945 . Exhibition in the Kulturhistorisches Museum Magdeburg, 1995. Catalog, Ed. Matthias Puhle . Magdeburg 1995. ISBN 3-930030-12-8
  • Olaf Groehler : bombing war against Germany . Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1990. ISBN 3-05-000612-9
  • Renate Kroll: Magdeburg . In Fate of German Monuments in World War II . Edited by Götz Eckardt. Henschelverlag, Berlin 1978. Volume 1. pp. 247-270
  • Martin Nathusius: The "Magdeburg Line" of the Nathusius family, illustrated line of trunks. IRL Imprimeries Reunies Lausanne, Saint-Sulpice (Switzerland) 1985.

Individual evidence

  1. Gem Astrid Pawassar. Bildatlas Leipzig, Halle, Magdeburg. Volume 233 of the HB Bildatlas. 2007, p. 96 f. largest ammunition producer in the German Reich
  2. At the beginning of the Second World War, around 14,000 Magdeburg residents worked in the Polte works, according to Martin Nathusius: The Magdeburg Line. , see LitVerz. (P. 109)
  3. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition, Magdeburg 1995. P. 50 ff
  4. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition, Magdeburg 1995
  5. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition 1995. p. 65
  6. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition 1995. p. 201
  7. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition in Magdeburg in 1995. Pp. 58, 59
  8. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition, Magdeburg 1995. p. 59
  9. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition, Magdeburg 1995. p. 78
  10. Manfred Wille: The sky is burning over Magdeburg . 1990, p. 26
  11. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition 1995. p. 65
  12. Fish code names , (British original, PDF; 292 kB), German translation (PDF; 214 kB), on: ( Bunkermuseum Emden ), accessed on June 24, 2019
  13. Jörg Friedrich , 2002, title Der Brand, p. 83 Ullstein Verlag, Munich.
  14. ^ Wilhelm Polte: Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition in Magdeburg 1995. pp. 4 and 5 (preface by the mayor)
  16. ^ Olaf Groehler: Bomb war against Germany . 1990, p. 396
  17. Olaf Groehler : 40 years ago . Flieger-Revue 2/85 (1985). P. 50 f
  18. Manfred Wille : The sky is burning over Magdeburg . 1990. p. 28 ff
  19. ^ Olaf Groehler : Bomb war against Germany . 1990, p. 396
  20. Manfred Wille: The sky is burning over Magdeburg . 1990, p. 113
  21. ^ Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg in the firestorm . 1985, p. 70
  22. Manfred Wille: The sky is burning over Magdeburg . 1990, p. 36
  23. Federal Archives Image 183-C0107-0006-001. Magdeburg city map.jpg
  24. ^ Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg in the firestorm . 1985, p. 69
  25. Olaf Groehler : 40 years ago . Flieger-Revue 2/85 (1985), p. 50 f
  26. Then the sky turned blood red . 1995, p. 95
  27. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition 1995. p. 207
  28. ^ Olaf Groehler: Bomb war against Germany. 1990, p. 396
  29. ^ Maren Ballerstedt: It's raining fire. 2003, p. 50
  30. ^ Maren Ballerstedt: It's raining fire. 2003, p. 50
  31. ^ Maren Ballerstedt: It's raining fire. 2003, p. 50
  32. Manfred Wille: The sky is burning over Magdeburg . 1990, p. 38
  33. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition 1995. pp. 133-134
  34. ^ Maren Ballerstedt and Konstanze Buchholz: It's raining fire . 2003, p. 50
  35. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition, Magdeburg 1995. pp. 137, 138
  36. Manfred Wille: The sky is burning over Magdeburg . 1990, p. 45
  37. Manfred Wille: The sky is burning over Magdeburg . 1990. pp. 45, 47
  39. Manfred Wille: The sky is burning over Magdeburg . 1990. pp. 45, 47
  40. ^ Renate Kroll: Magdeburg . In: Fate of German Monuments in World War II . Edited by Götz Eckardt. Henschelverlag, Berlin 1978. Volume 1. pp. 247-270
  41. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition 1995. p. 64
  42. ^ Renate Kroll: Magdeburg . in: Fate of German Monuments in World War II . 1978. Volume 2. p. 253
  43. Then the sky turned blood red . Exhibition Magdeburg 1995. p. 138
  44. ^ Renate Kroll: Magdeburg. In: Fate of German Monuments in World War II . 1978. Volume 1. pp. 260-269
  45. Maren Ballerstedt and Konstanze Buchholz: It's raining fire! The night of horrors in Magdeburg on January 16, 1945 . Wartberg-Verlag 2003, p. 50
  46. ^ Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg in the firestorm . 1985, p. 70
  47. ^ Statistical yearbook of the city of Magdeburg from 1946. Quoted from Manfred Wille: The sky burns over Magdeburg . 1990, p. 36
  48. ^ Hans-Joachim Krenzke: Magdeburg cemeteries and burial places . Magdeburg 1998
  49. ^ Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg in the firestorm . 1985. Documentaries . P. 69
  50. Manfred Wille: The sky is burning over Magdeburg. 1990, p. 36
  51. File: Federal Archives Image 183-C0107-0006-001. Magdeburg, city map.jpg
  54. ^ Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg in the firestorm . 1985. p. 27, p. 47
  55. Manfred Wille: The sky is burning over Magdeburg . 1990, p. 70
  56. ^ Olaf Groehler : Bomb war against Germany . 1990. p. 396 f
  57. ^ Bells ringing on the 70th anniversary of the air raid on Magdeburg (2015) on YouTube .
  58. Mile of Democracy (Internet site)

Web links

Commons : Destruction of the Second World War in Magdeburg  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files