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Cologne at war

Subdeacon Joe

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Sobering. Especially if you play the sounds on the left side of the page as you read.




Because of the western exposure of the city and the existence of the Rhine as a good navigation help, Cologne was a preferred target for the Allies during WWII. On 12 May 1940 there was a first smaller raid on Cologne, on the night for the 2nd March 1941 the first major attack with about 100 bombers. On 2 March 1945, there was the last of 262 air strikes in all. During this years there were a total of 1,122 air-raid alarms, and 1,089 "Public Warnings" (which were introduced in August 1942 as a new alarm signal). These alarms made sure that the people spent up to 2,000 hours in bomb shelters or basements, which corresponds to about 83 days and nights in all - or almost 3 months.

The biggest destructions were caused by the first 1,000-bomber raid of the war - code name "Operation Millennium". Exactly 1,096 Allied bombers took off from airfields and flew in the night of 30 at 31 May 1942 between 0.47 am and 2.25 am a violent attack on the city. Until shortly before the start of the operation the city of Hamburg was an alternative target for the first 1,000-bomber raid too. But because of bad weather over northern Germany Cologne was choosen finally. 243 ha / 2.4 square miles of the city were destroyed - about 30.000 houses damaged or destroyed. Only 300 houses were preserved during the two hours air raid. About 1,500 tons of bombs were falling on the city. There were "only" about 500 deaths owing to the fact that many inhabitants had already left the city during the war, in addition there were about 5,000 injuries. Two-thirds of the bombs dropped were incendiary bombs that caused about 12,000 small fires, which led to 1,700 big fires. 45,000 people became homeless.

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