Air raids on Weimar
In 19 air raids on Weimar during World War II , the United States Army Air Forces , with the main focus between February 9 and March 31, 1945, dropped 965 tons of bombs on the urban area of Weimar and industrial plants. 1,254 residents and 600 concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war were killed. The historic city center was particularly hard hit by the bombings. Many cultural buildings, public facilities, residential buildings and industrial facilities in Weimar were destroyed or significantly damaged in the process. In a heavy American air raid on August 24, 1944, the armaments industry facilities on the Ettersberg near Buchenwald concentration camp were destroyed (500 dead).
Air raids 1940 to 1944
- Light air raids by the British RAF on Weimar during World War II began at night on April 23 and 24, 1940. Individual high-explosive and incendiary bombs fell in the vicinity of the city without causing major damage. At night on July 24, 1940, British planes dropped 50 incendiary bombs on the Ettersberg Forest from a height of about 100 meters . They also attacked Buchenwald concentration camp at low altitude with machine guns without causing personal injury. On the night of August 16-17, 1940, Goethe's garden house , the park, the DRK office in Belvederer Allee and an auxiliary hospital were hit by bombs. There was strong anti-aircraft defense.
- In 1941 there were 33 air raids, but no attacks. In 1942 there were 3 air raids, no attacks.
Weimar had been on a British target list with fish aliases from German cities as "Gwyniad" ( Great Vendace ) since the early 1940s . In 1942 the British Air Marshal Arthur Harris planned two thousand bomber attacks on targets in Germany every month . In this planning there was also a target complex of the combined cities of Eisenach , Erfurt , Gotha , Jena and Weimar . In November 1942, Weimar was on a British list of German cities with planned "cremation bombings", which Churchill withdrew for strategic reasons. In November 1943 Weimar was included as a destination in a "small Ruhr area" of central German cities.
- On the evening of May 27, 1943, a single plane attacked Weimar train station with high-explosive bombs. Four civilians died, including three railway workers. In 1943 there were 100 air raids.
- On the evening of March 24, 1944, the USAAF attacked the Weimar train station, the armaments factory Gustloff-Werk I and the surrounding area in three waves from a height of 4,000 to 5,000 meters with 300 to 400 incendiary bombs. There were numerous fires, a guard died and around 80 people were left homeless.
Air raid on Buchenwald
- On August 24, 1944, from 12:18 p.m. to 12.48 p.m., the 1st Bombardment Division of the 8th Air Force attacked the large armaments of the Buchenwald concentration camp with 129 B-17 “Flying Fortress” in 6-8 waves from 7,500 meters as its primary target , the German equipment works (in the fenced-in storage area), the Gustloff II plant (adjacent to the camp) and SS facilities on the Ettersberg . The “flying fortresses” were accompanied by numerous Mustang fighter planes , which operated by sight and took part in the bombing as fighter-bombers. The attack is recorded in the war diary of the US 8th Air Fleet under "Weimar ... an Armament Factory". The factory halls and other targets were badly hit by a total of 303 tons of bombs: 175 1,000 pound high explosive bombs, 583 500 pound high explosive bombs and 279 500 pound incendiary bombs. Serious fires broke out. In addition to the two arms industry facilities mentioned, the station with its service building, tracks and 29 wagons, administration buildings, the SS troop garages, other SS facilities, residential buildings of SS members, peripheral areas of the prisoner camp (crematorium, laundry, disinfection) and that Adjacent special camp "Fichtenhain" for celebrities. 388 prisoners, 82 SS men and 24 family members lost their lives, 65 SS men were missing and 238 wounded. There were 2,000 (1,462) wounded prisoners, including a very large number (up to 525 or 600) seriously injured among them. The camp fire brigade, made up of prisoners, had three dead and ten seriously injured. There are no figures on killed German civilian workers and employees. After the attack, the SPD politician Rudolf Breitscheid was also found dead under rubble in the special area “Fichtenhain” (which was outside the actual concentration camp), while his wife Tony Breitscheid survived. Her neighbor, Princess Mafalda of Hesse , daughter of the King of Italy and wife of Landgrave Philip of Hesse , succumbed to her wounding and burns on August 27th. Another victim was the Czech architect Hugo Foltyn. The Nazi propaganda claimed that Ernst Thälmann had also died in the bomb attack. According to witnesses, however, he was shot on August 18, 1944. An incendiary bomb destroyed the mighty "Goethe oak", which was spared during the construction of the camp and was felled a little later.
In 1944 there were 138 air raid alarms in Weimar, or 225 according to another count.
In January 1945 the British Bomber Command had a list of new targets (small and medium-sized towns) drawn up in Germany. Weimar was also on this list for area bombing , for area attacks on residential areas to “break the morale” of the civilian population. At the beginning of February 1945, a priority list with “alternative industrial targets” (including Weimar) was decided on "at the highest (Anglo-American) level", which was issued as an order to the chiefs of staff of the 8th Air Force and the British Bomber Command.
- From the turn of the year 1944/1945, air alarms and light air raids were part of everyday life in Weimar.
At the beginning of 1945, Weimar had 57,400 inhabitants, more than ever in the history of the city, including a large number of evacuated from the air war and refugees. Schools had been converted into hospitals. In addition to the usual air raid shelters , the park cave served as the “Weimar air raid shelter” set up in 1944. There was no longer any noteworthy anti-aircraft or anti-aircraft defense. The flak batteries were withdrawn from Weimar in September 1944 for use at the front. The German National Theater was closed in October 1944 and the Goethe-Schiller monument in front of it was walled in for protection as early as 1942. The coffins of Goethe and Schiller were brought from the Goethe-Schiller crypt to a protective bunker in Jena . The Cranach -Altar in the Herder Church had been outsourced in 1940.
Major attack on February 9, 1945
February 9, 1945 went down in Weimar history as “Black Friday”. It became the greatest catastrophe that had struck the city until then. The USAAF classified their attack as "moderate". On the morning of February 9th, 198 B-17s and 271 P-51 Mustang escorts of the 3rd Air Division of the 8th Air Force took off in the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk . Armaments factories were designated as targets of attack. At around 12:00 p.m., the 7 squadrons reached the city of Weimar following a flight route via Ostend, Aachen, Cologne, Fulda, Suhl, Plauen and Jena from the southeast to the northwest. After marking the target with a smoke bomb above the webicht, the bombers dropped 418 tons of high-explosive high-explosive bombs (1,925 500-pound bombs) in 3–4 waves between 12:24 and 12:37 p.m. from a height of 5,000 to 7,600 meters on the city center , industrial plants ( Gustloff-Werk I: 275 hits) and the Reichsbahn area (main and freight depot, depot). “The city center was a field of rubble,” including many of its numerous cultural buildings. The electricity and water supplies collapsed. 560 houses were destroyed or badly damaged, leaving 2,000 people homeless. Destroyed or badly damaged were, among other things, the Goethe and Schiller houses , the city church of St. Peter and Paul , the German National Theater (which burned out in flames), the Wittumspalais , the north side of the market and the town house . 461 residents, together with foreign workers, prisoners of war and prisoners over 1,100 people lost their lives. In the NSV kindergarten on Richard-Strauss-Strasse (today the “Hufeland” day care center), 31 children died as a result of a direct hit, a total of around 85 children in Weimar. After the attack, 16 new bomb-proof rooms in the park cave were built using clinker construction. After this attack and the others, in addition to air raid personnel, soldiers and Hitler Youth, prisoners of war and prisoners were also used to rescue buried victims and corpses, as well as to clear rubble in residential areas and factories. The self-help of the affected population played a major role, even when fighting fires on roofs and removing incendiary bombs.
Only a few interceptors and light flak were deployed in the north of the city as German defense. The Americans had no casualties over Weimar; three flying fortresses were shot down on the return flight.
Further air raids in 1945
- On February 11, a nightly bomb strike claimed 6 lives.
- During the bombing raid on February 23, 1945 as part of Operation Clarion , 32 people were killed, especially Am Horn, east of the park on the Ilm and on the Lindenberg, on Jenaer Strasse and Webichtallee. There were many buried and wounded. The 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force had the railway facilities and the armaments industry as its “primary target” from 11.46 with 57 B-24 “Liberator” bombers and a strong fighter escort from 5,800 meters. 136 tons of bombs were dropped (543 500-pound high explosive bombs and 8 100-pound incendiary bombs). The Gustloff factory I was missed, track systems hit. That day there were 7 air alarms.
- On February 25, further bombing raids followed without major damage.
- At noon on February 27, the USAAF launched an air raid with 500 stick incendiary bombs and a few high explosive bombs. Police headquarters and the surrounding area suffered severe damage. There were three civilian German deaths. Emergency services were hindered by low-flying aircraft while extinguishing the numerous fires.
- On February 27, American low-flying aircraft attacked a convoy of Allied prisoners of war (Russians, English, Belgians and French) on the open road. 117 (118) of them were killed, 175 others injured, some seriously. Two German soldiers were also killed and four wounded. This process occurred on the Reichsautobahn near Weimar (between the Gelmeroda and Nohra exits) at the height of Obergrunstedt . The fallen prisoners of war were buried by survivors below the Obergrunstedt cemetery. First, wooden crosses were set up for each nation. In 1965 a memorial was erected, which by 2015 was “forgotten”.
→ Main article: US low-level aircraft attack near Weimar (February 27, 1945)
- In the evening of March 10, individual RAF fighter planes attacked the city center with explosive bombs and air mines, causing serious damage. 9 (or 11) human lives were to be lamented.
- On the evening of March 15, the RAF again attacked the area of Webicht, Jenaer Strasse, Berkaer Strasse and Silberblick with fighter bombers.
- On March 17, the USAAF attacked Gustloff Plant I and rail facilities with 30 aircraft at noon from 1:18 p.m. to 1:25 p.m. 180 high explosive and incendiary bombs killed 12 people. There were many wounded and buried people. Bombs also fell on the Webicht , on the Lindenberg, in the slaughterhouse, on a police barracks, Am Horn and on the Wilhelm barracks in Leibniz-Allee.
- On March 31st ( Holy Saturday ) there was the 289th air raid alarm in Weimar at around 8:45 a.m. 36 B-17 bombers (with escort) of the 1st Air Division laid a carpet of bombs (208 1,000-pound explosive bombs) across from the Falkenburg over the park to the Ackerwand and on to Bodelschwingh-Straße as a "target of opportunity" from 7,300 meters Jenaer Strasse and in the north of the city. 108 tons of bombs destroyed the Tempelherrenhaus on the Ilm, numerous residential buildings and the Weimar-Jena railway line. The attack killed 77 people.
- On March 31, Weimar was initially cleared by the 12th US Army Group for a "strategic air attack" by the RAF Bomber Command at its insistence, but this approval was then withdrawn by the Americans at short notice.
The air strikes continued, however, preferably now by low- flying aircraft, also with on-board weapons on civilians. On April 5, there were 12 dead (residents and forced laborers), in the last attack on April 10, 5 dead.
The easily recognizable barracks from the 1930s, the Gauforum or the residence of the Gauleiter were not targets of air raids. The damage plan (damage map) of Weimar 1945 clearly shows two distinct focal points of the bombing: the city center and the industrial complex around the Gustloff Works I in the northeast of the city.
Weimar experienced a total of 442 (529) air raids . The sirens sounded 698 days from January 1943 to April. In 1944 and 1945 in particular, there were frequent overflights of streams of bombers with other destinations in central Germany.
The county Weimar offered to the airbase Nohra a particular military objective. But there were also increasing attacks by low-level aircraft on Reichsbahn installations (stations, signal boxes, tracks), on train trains and people outdoors.
On the morning of April 12, the first US tanks rolled into Weimar, which was evacuated by the Wehrmacht, without encountering any resistance. On the morning of that day, an ultimatum from US Colonel Costello to the German city commandant (who is no longer in Weimar) reached Lord Mayor Otto Koch . If the city were not surrendered by 8:30 a.m., it would be destroyed by heavy air bombardment and artillery fire. Koch explained the surrender without a fight to the US commander.
The number of residents killed in the air raids on Weimar is given as 1,254 (including 102 children), and that of concentration camp prisoners, foreign workers and prisoners of war killed as 600. That adds up to 1,854 fatalities. Assuming that this number does not include those who died in the attack on the armaments works of the Buchenwald concentration camp on August 24, 1944, another 500 deaths are added: that would be 2,350 in total. It is not known how many German soldiers were killed in air raids in Weimar.
Material damage to homes and public buildings
The immediate material bomb damage in Weimar was estimated at around 18 million Reichsmarks: 325 houses completely destroyed, 750 houses moderately to slightly damaged, 1,300 apartments destroyed, 4,300 apartments damaged. In addition to the total loss of 325 buildings, there is also an indication of 210 seriously, 758 moderately and 2,900 slightly damaged buildings, out of a total of 5,824.
Loss of and damage to cultural buildings
The following information comes from the chapter “Weimar” by Rudolf Zießler from the standard work “Fate of German Architectural Monuments in the Second World War” (1978). The catalog for the 2015 city museum's special exhibition gives a good impression of the extent of the destruction
- Area damage caused by the bombing raids with the total destruction of the existing monuments occurred primarily on Markt, Marktstrasse, Windischen-Strasse, Rittergasse, Frauenplan and Theaterplatz.
Destroyed or damaged to varying degrees :
- The city church Herderkirche (February 9, 1945): the pitched roof was largely destroyed, the wooden vaults and the still existing stone vaults in the eastern parts collapsed, the entire interior was affected. The rededication of the church was celebrated in June 1953 after the reconstruction.
- The Yellow Castle (February 9th): destroyed except for the surrounding walls
- The Jägerhäuser (Marienstraße): the middle section destroyed
- The raft money collector (belonging to the art college, exit Marienstraße): hit
- The Zeughaus (February 9th): badly hit, the ruins removed down to the ground floor
- The Wittumspalais (February 9, 1945): badly damaged the roof, windows and doors completely destroyed
- The Tempelherrenhaus in Goethe Park, destroyed on February 9th and March 31st, 1945 except for the tower, which was preserved as a ruin
- The scenery house on Theaterplatz: roof and rear parts damaged
- The Landesmuseum (Neues Museum) : damaged by a mine bomb, especially on the roof. However, it only became a ruin after being neglected during the GDR era ("post-war ruin"). Reconstruction after the "turning point" in the 1990s.
- The German National Theater (February 9th): (was used as an armaments factory from the end of 1944): largely burned out, the backstage destroyed by explosive bombs. Preserve the murals and the exterior of the auditorium. The Goethe-Schiller monument in front of the DNT , which has been largely secured by splinter protection since 1942, has been preserved .
- The theater casino and commercial building Theaterplatz 1 destroyed
- The market (February 9th): the east and north sides, along Kauf- und Marktstrasse, destroyed or badly damaged. Of the important buildings on the market, only the Cranach House was spared with minor damage
- The court pharmacy on the market square: later completely demolished after partial destruction (right side), the initially poorly supported Renaissance bay was recovered
- The house Markt 8 from the 16th century, destroyed, remains removed
- The town house (Markt 9): destroyed except for parts of the surrounding walls and the gable
- The historic wine taverns “Fürstenkeller” (market 15), remnants removed
- The Gasthof Erbprinz (Markt 16), where the Bach family lived in a previous building : the 3 eastern axes damaged and removed to the ground floor level
- The Tietz department store: destroyed
- Frauenplan (February 9): the buildings on the north side of the square, as well as on Frauentor-Strasse and Brauhaus-Gasse from the 18th and 19th centuries, destroyed
- Goethe-Haus (February 9): severe damage to the mansard roof of the central projection, right side projection completely destroyed. Damage to the interior, affects almost all attic rooms, including Goethe's study, the cleared living rooms below and the Juno room, destroys the Urbino room and the circular staircase behind it. The extension from 1933/34 was also badly affected. The restoration work lasted until June 1949, inside until June 1954.
- Schiller House (February 9): shocked by pressure waves from high-explosive bombs. The reconstruction took years, the attic floor was opened to the public in May 1954. The inn "Goldner Anker" behind the Schillerhaus was destroyed.
- Geleitstrasse (February 9, March 10): Development between the music school (Kornhaus) and Böttchergasse badly hit and later largely removed
- The Kornhaus (Am Palais 4): built as a Franciscan church, badly damaged
- Geleitstrasse 1: Renaissance building, destroyed
- Geleitstrasse 3: 18th century building, destroyed
- Geleitstrasse 4 (corner of Rittergasse), rococo facade, destroyed
- Building of the Grand Ducal Casket Administration (at today's Beethovenplatz): badly hit on February 9, 1945 and collapsed
- Knights' House : badly damaged
- Lützelburg Renaissance house at the Zeughof: badly hit
- City library and measuring house: badly hit
- Coudraysches Torhaus (Erfurter Straße): damaged
- Buildings such as the Residenzschloss, Goethe's garden house, the Kirms-Krakow-Haus and the Saxon Court were less severely affected .
After the occupation was taken over by the Red Army , the Soviet commander ordered the mayor to remove rubble and rubbish from the streets within a week, under threat of severe penalties. All men aged 15 to 65 and all women aged 15 to 50 were obliged to do this. The systematic clearing of rubble from the ruins began in April 1947. The amount of rubble incurred was estimated at 60,000 cubic meters.
Burial and memorial sites
The dead of February 9, 1945 and the air raids that followed found their final resting place on the southern part of the Weimar main cemetery at Berkaer Strasse. A memorial stele was placed there for them. This now bears the inscription: "To the victims of February 9, 1945". Below the grave fields there are memorial stones with the names of the victims, most of the 1,254 people who died in Weimar.
Above, there was also a memorial for the SS men and relatives buried in the main cemetery on August 28, 1944, who died in the air raid on the armaments works and SS facilities on the Ettersberg (Buchenwald concentration camp) on August 24 . Now there are still some stone grave crosses with this date of death from the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge , as well as for soldiers who died or died in Weimar during World War II. The ranks on some of the crosses have been visibly deleted.
Above the grave field is a memorial stone with which the Deutsche Hypothekenbank honors its 22 male and 15 female employees by name who "lost their lives in the service of Deutsche Hypothekenbank on 9.2.1945 - due to the air raid on Weimar".
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-  Grave field for bomb victims and soldiers