User talk:Mathglot/Magdeburg air raid

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The Air raid on Magdeburg on 16 January 1945 was one of the most devastating air raids on a German city in the Second World War. The area bombing carried out by units of the RAF Bomber Command triggered a carpet bombing. The attack represents a fire storm after the devastation of Magdeburg by Tilly and Pappenheim in the Thirty Years' War. (the "Sack of Magdeburg") represented the second major destruction of the city.

The attack of 16 January 1945 was by far the heaviest of 38 Allied air raids on Magdeburg between 1940 and 1945. In these raids, a total of 5,000 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the American United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped 12,500 tons of bombs on the city. Industrial plants, residential areas and cultural buildings were hit massively. The overall destruction rate of Magdeburg was 60%, that of housing 68%, and the city centre was almost completely destroyed. 5,000 to 6,000 people died, 16,000 were injured, thousands were missing and well over 200,000 were homeless.

Significance of Magdeburg

Below, map of the old town 1946. Above, 1960

Until June 1944, Magdeburg was the capital of the Prussian Province of Saxony and from 1 July 1944, after its division, the capital of the Province of Magdeburg. In the List of the largest German cities 1939, which also includes Vienna, Breslau and Königsberg, Magdeburg is ranked 21st, just behind Chemnitz. The inhabitants of the medium-sized large city was around 346,000 persons in 1940/41. Magdeburg was a cultural city, a centre of public authority and one of the most important commercial and industrial cities in Central Germany with important food and metal processing companies. For inland shipping, the location at the Wasserstraßenkreuz Magdeburg [de] of the middle Elbe, Mittelland Canal and Elbe–Havel Canal played a major role. The Handelshafen Magdeburg [de] was connected to the Mittelland Canal and thus to the Ruhr Area via the Rothensee boat lift, which was inaugurated in 1938.

From the time before the Thirty Years' War, only the Magdeburg Cathedral, the Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen [de] and some other churches were preserved. Many buildings originated from the Gründerzeit and in the course of the High Industrialisation in Germany [de] many buildings in the Wilhelminian [de] and Art Nouveau were built. Especially on the main shopping street Breiter Weg [de] there were still many houses from the Baroque period.

The Magdeburg fortress [de] had been razed from the end of the 19th century, but the city remained an important garrison of the Prussian Army, Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht. Of particular importance for the German rearmament was the newly built Army tank office in Königsborn east of Magdeburg from 1934 onwards, where new armoured vehicles from all factories of the Reich were equipped for deployment. In addition, there were other new buildings such as the Hindenburg-Kaserne [de] in Herrenkrug [de].

Für die Kriegsführung besonders wichtig war die Metallindustrie. Größter Betrieb war das zum Essener Friedrich Krupp AG [de] gehörende Grusonwerk [de] in Buckau, wo diverse special-purpose motor vehicles wie der Panzer I, Panzer IV (bis Ende 1941 als einziger Hersteller) und das Sturmgeschütz IV (ab Ende 1943) gebaut wurden. Die 1885 gegründeten Polte-Werke [de], ein Hersteller von Groß armaturen, waren auch einer der größten Munitionsproduzenten der Welt[1] und einer der wichtigsten Arbeitgeber Magdeburgs.[2] The Maschinenfabrik Buckau R. Wolf [de] stellte among others neben Howitzers auch die 8,8-cm canon for the Tiger I her.

In Rothensee [de] befanden sich ein Kohlekraftwerk zur Stromerzeugung sowie die large gasworks [de]. Zusätzlich wurde dort in den 1930er Jahren von der Brabag (Braunkohle-Benzin AG) ein großes hydrogenation plant [de] zur Erzeugung von synthetic fuel gebaut, das speziell die Luftwaffe benötigte. Zur gleichen Zeit entstand in der Schwiesaustraße der Neue Neustadt [de] das Motorenbau-Zweigwerk Magdeburg (MZM) der Dessauer Junkers.

Air raid protection and air defence


Magdeburg, together with Dessau, was classified as an "air-raid shelter of the 1st order". 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 programme that was pushed from autumn 1940 onwards. Ten air-raid shelters were built: a pillar bunker in Durchbruchstraße on the Stromelbe (1,750 berths), a bunker under the Rathausplatz, a high bunker in the former Friedrichsbad, a bunker on Tannenberg-Platz, one on Nicolai-Platz, a high bunker on Nordfriedhof (613 berths), a bunker on Körnerplatz, a large one on Stadttheater (200 berths, 1,800 seats), one bunker each on Handelshafen and Güterbahnhof. In addition, there were three "bomb-proof operation bunkers": one each at the Sudenburg [de] hospital, in the old town and at the state women's clinic. The air-raid-preparedness services for public buildings were increased, increasingly with women and older schoolchildren. Women were also admitted to the fire brigades from 1943 onwards, the factory and volunteer fire brigades were strengthened and supplemented by a youth fire brigade. 17 underground water basins and ten fire ponds were built.[3]

Magdeburg was assigned to "Luftgau-Kommando III". Fighter aircrafts were stationed at Burg, at Zerbst and Heyrothsberge [de]. In Prester [de], a barracks facility had been built for the flak Regiment 52. Magdeburg was surrounded by a belt of anti-aircraft emplacements, which were particularly intended to protect military installations, the armaments industry, the hydrogenation plant and traffic centres (ship lift). There was light flak for direct object protection, medium and heavy flak with calibres up to 12.5 cm, also as railway guns. Searchlight batteries were to enable night aiming. From 1942 onwards, anti-aircraft batteries were transferred to the fronts, which led to their partial replacement by "Heimat-Flak". This was mainly operated by soldiers not fully fit for military service and young Luftwaffe helpers,[4] not infrequently supported by willing prisoners of war.

Despite defensive successes, flak and depleted fighter protect.

Attacks from 1940 to 1944

British heavy bomber Handley Page Halifax
British heavy bomber Avro Lancaster

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 time.

  • 21/22 August 1940: First bombs on Magdeburg. Residential buildings in Ottersleber Straße and Jordanstraße in Sudenburg and the slaughterhouse were affected. There were three dead and seven injured.
  • 16 December 1940: About 25 aircraft dropped bombs at night on the Friedrich Krupp AG Grusonwer [de] in Buckau, on railway installations in Salbke [de] and housing estates in Buckau and the Neue Neustadt. There were 9 dead and 24 injured.
  • 18 April 1941: A small group of bombers dropped 5 spreng [de] and about 100 Stabbrandbombe [de] on the Altstadt [de], Braunehirschstraße, Beaumont-Straße and Venedische Straße at night. There were 12 dead and 37 injured.
  • 13 August 1941: A small bomber group dropped bombs at night on residential buildings in the Gartenstadt Westernplan [de]. There were 7 dead and 23 injured.
  • 29 December 1943: 8 RAF aircraft attacked targets in Magdeburg at night with 5.4 tons of bombs. There is no information about deaths and injuries.
  • 11 January 1944: light daylight raid (USAAF ?) on targets in Magdeburg. No information on dead and injured.
  • 14 January 1944: 10 RAF aircraft dropped 6.9 tons of bombs at night. No data on deaths and injuries.
  • 21 January 1944: First major attack on Magdeburg. From 10.50pm to 11.20pm, 585 RAF four-engined aircraft, mostly Avro Lancasters, attacked the city with 2,272 tons of bombs. Fifty-five (61) bombers were shot down, mainly on the outward flight by night fighters. The carpet bombing in accordance with the area bombing directive did not materialise as planned. Fighter planes, flak and meteorological conditions were all involved.[5] Fierce winds drove the set flares off to the east and southeast, so that most of the bomb load fell on the Elbe meadows, on fields and on towns south and east of Magdeburg. In total, 23 small towns and villages were affected. In Magdeburg, 69 residential buildings were destroyed or damaged. Bomb hits also occurred at the Pfeiffersche Stiftungen [de] (Samaritan House), on the Lutherkirche [de] in Brückfeld [de], the Flak barracks, the Aktien brewery, a transformer station and the Buckau waterworks. The Natural History Museum on Domplatz burned out, the cathedral windows shattered and some government buildings were damaged. 120 dead and 400 wounded were registered. The public funeral service took place in the town hall in front of 70 lined-up coffins under an iron cross. Over 1,000 Magdeburgers were left homeless. In total, the dropping of 13 mine bombs, 456 high explosive bombs, 70,000 stick bombs, 1,256 phosphorus fire bombs, 53 liquid fire bombs and 81 phosphorus canisterss could be determined.[6]
American heavy bombers 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".[7]

From February 1944, the Americans began their involvement in the bombing. The 8th Air Force of the USAAF, from their bases in England, carried out daylight raids with their heavy bombers, each accompanied by hundreds of long-range fighters, also on Magdeburg. Four-engine bombers of the types Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator were used, and as fighter planes especially North American P-51 Mustang and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

  • 22 February 1944: First US attack on Magdeburg. It was intended for the hydrogenation plant of Brabag, the Junkers and the Friedrich-Krupp-Grusonwerke [de]. 16 B-17s attacked the eastern part of the city with 42 tons of explosive and incendiary bombs. Destruction and damage occurred in residential areas of Magdeburg-Friedrichstadt (today Brückfeld [de]), the Pfeiffer Foundations and the anti-aircraft barracks. The Junkerswerke suffered no damage. 41 dead and 194 injured were registered.
  • 28 May 1944: 55 American B-17s with 114 tons of bombs attacked Rothensee from 2.08 p.m. to 2.23 p.m. as the main focus. The Brabag hydrogenation works were hit particularly hard, but also the Giesche zinc smelter [de], a power station and the large gasworks. There were 24 dead and 72 injured. The official funeral service took place in front of lined-up coffins, under the Iron Cross, with a police honour formation, the reading of the names of the dead and a funeral march from Wagner's "Twilight of the Gods" on the Old Market Square. As after other attacks, the Magdeburg newspaper published a list of the names of the dead: Again we lament the fallen from our ranks who were claimed by the terrorist attack on Magdeburg.
  • 20 June 1944: 95 American B-17s (3 casualties) attacked Rothensee from 8.10 am to 9.16 am. 48 dead and 148 wounded had to be registered. The public funeral service took place in the assembly hall of a Magdeburg school.
  • 29 June 1944: 83 American B-24s (2 casualties) dropped 221 tons of bombs on Magdeburg from 9.01 to 10.01 am. There were 92 dead and 291 injured.
  • 5 August 1944: This American attack was the second heaviest loss of the war for the population of Magdeburg. 179 B-17s (3 losses) attacked the city from 12:02 to 12:24. They dropped 432 tons of bombs on the Junkerswerke in the Neue Neustadt [de], on Krupp-Gruson and other factories in Buckau. Residential areas were also heavily hit. 683 (693) dead and 881 injured had to be registered. 13,000 Magdeburgers were left homeless. The funeral service took place "with great participation of the population" on the Old Market Square. The burial took place on the "field of honour" of the Westfriedhof [de], which had already been laid out in October 1939.[8]

"It was obvious that in addition to the objects of the armaments industry, residential areas were now being bombed quite deliberately."[9]

  • 16 August 1944: 154 American B-24s (5 casualties) attacked Rothensee, Buckau and Magdeburg-Neustadt with 414 tons of explosive and incendiary bombs. Heavy destruction occurred throughout Neustadt, for example in Lübecker Straße, Nicolai-Platz, Alexanderstraße and Schmidtstraße. In Buckau, the Krupp-Gruson factories were badly hit. There were 91 dead and 66 injured in Magdeburg on this day.
  • 11 September 1944: 130 American B-24s (4 or more casualties) dropped 300 tons of bombs from 11.15 to 12.10. 120 dead and 212 wounded had to be ascertained.
  • 12 September 1944: 217 American B-17s (7 losses) attacked Rothensee and Magdeburg-Friedrichstadt in particular with 498 tons of bombs. The cathedral received explosive bomb hits in the nave. There were 136 dead and 143 injured in Magdeburg.
  • 28 September 1944: 417 American B-17s (23 casualties) dropped 1,062 tons of bombs on Magdeburg from 11:34 to 12:12. For the main group with 359 aircraft and 918 tons of bombs, Magdeburg is listed as a secondary target in the war diary of the 8th Air Force. The Reichsbahn and especially the city centre were badly hit. The Katharinenkirche [de] was burnt out. At the St.-Johannis-Kirche, three hits destroyed the roof and caused larger parts of the vault to collapse. The Jakobi [de] and the Cathedral of St. Sebastian [de] suffered damage. The Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen ("the most beautiful spot in Magdeburg") was badly affected. Damage was caused to the Prinz-Heinrich-Palais and the Zeughaus-Museum [de]. There was also destruction at the Rathaus [de], the Theater Magdeburg and the Altstadt Hospital. The first gaps were torn in the fronts of the baroque buildings on Breiter Weg. 261 dead and 492 wounded were registered.
  • 7 October 1944: 87 American B-24s (1 loss) attacked Rothensee and Buckau with 310 tons of bombs from 11.40 to 12.25. 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 "Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot" gives the following figures for Magdeburg for the year 1944: 1,966 attacking Allied aircraft, dropping of 5,714 tons of bombs, 1,658 citizens killed and 2,882 injured, and 40,000 Magdeburg citizens who had lost "flats, house and yard".[10]

In the weeks leading up to 16 January 1945, only relatively weak air raids were flown on Magdeburg. The majority of air alarms were triggered because bomber formations were sighted on the Hanover-Braunschweig route heading for Berlin.

Attacks in 1945

  • 14 January 1945: 90 American B-17 bombers (2 casualties) attacked Magdeburg as a primary target with 223 tons of bombs from 13.13 to 13.24. The number of dead and injured is not known.
  • 16 January 1945: Daylight raid by the USAAF: 122 American B-24s attacked the Handelshafen Magdeburg [de], the Bragag hydrogenation plant in Rothensee [de] and heavy industrial plants (including the Friedrich Krupp AG Grusonwerk) in Buckau from 11.30 to 11.59 a.m. with 237 tons of bombs. The destruction - accompanied by fires - caused by this attack in the north and south of the city was considerable: in the industrial plants and the adjacent residential areas, especially the "northern front". The fire brigades of Magdeburg and the surrounding area were heavily tied up by this operation, which was to have a very negative effect on the following night. 40 dead were to be registered.

The major RAF attack during the night of 16 January 1945

Aerial photo of the destroyed city centre taken in low-level flight
Rathaus and Johanniskirche 1952
  • 16 January 1945: Night raid: This RAF air raid on Magdeburg was one of numerous planned area bombings against major German cities and was codenamed "Grilse" (English young salmon). The deputy to Arthur Harris, Commander-in-Chief of RAF Bomber Command, was Air Vice-Marshal Robert Saundby, who, as a keen angler, provided all German towns coming into selection with a fish code.[11] The British air raids on civilian area targets (inner city, residential areas and others) were carried out in accordance with the Area Bombing Directive of the British Air Ministry of 14 February 1942.[12] Referring to Magdeburg on 16 January 1945, the mayor of Magdeburg Wilhelm Polte [de] wrote in 1995: "Their target (of the British bombers) was not the barracks and armament factories on the outskirts of the city, but the densely populated centre".[13]

Chronology of the night attack of 16 January 1945.[14]

On 16 January shortly after 19:00, the Royal Air Force bomber group with a total of 371 aircraft of the 6th (Royal Canadian) and 4th Bomber Groups took off from south-east England. After crossing the English Channel by six sub-units with initially different directions and before their entry into Reich territory, a large number of RAF electronic jamming aircraft with "mandrel screens" had partially disabled German radar detection, preventing them from determining the bombers' intended route early. The course of the combined stream of bombers, dozens of kilometres long, initially corresponded to the route towards Berlin. Then, over the Gardelegen/Fallersleben area, it abruptly changed course to the southeast and flew towards Magdeburg. Due to this deceptive manoeuvre, it was unclear until shortly before the air raid began that Magdeburg was its target. When the air-raid sirens warned the population, the first bombs were already detonating. The fleeing people were often unable to reach the bunkers.

The area bombardment was carried out by a force of 347 of the 371 aircraft launched. 10 Handley Page Halifax bombers had been shot down over the Hanover area by German night fighters. The aircraft reaching Magdeburg were seven de Havilland Mosquito, 43 Avro Lancasters and 297 Halifax (Mark 3) bombers. They carried the following bomb loads: 881 large-calibre 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 Sprengbombe [de]s, 25. 638 stick fire bombs [de] and 5,024 liquid incendiary bombs - a total of 1,060 tonnes of bombs, of which 641 tonnes were incendiary bombs and 419 tonnes were Sprengbombs.[15]

At 9.23 p.m., 8 Lancasters flew over the city and dropped tons of tinfoil strips in order to make it impossible for them to locate the bombers by reflecting the radio beams of the flak defence. Three minutes later, so-called Pathfinder planes dropped light bombs (Christmas trees) were dropped over the city to illuminate the target area with daylight magnesium light for the subsequent attack. From 21:28, visual markers marked out the attack sector of the city centre more precisely with red and green flares. Under the guidance of a "master bomber", after another drop of illuminated bombs by ten Lancasters in low-level flight, the first attack wave followed from 21.32 hrs with air mines, which tore open the roofs and walls of the buildings due to their strong explosive power. This created the attack surfaces for the second wave of bar fire bombs and liquid fire bombs, combined with mine bombs and demolition bombs, which followed from 21:39 to 21:58. The ground of the city shook like an earthquake due to the continuous detonation of the explosive devices, which could still be felt up to 70 km away. Due to the numerous sources of fire, large-scale firestorms developed - as planned - with temperatures of over 800 degrees Celsius, which the air war historian Olaf Groehler described as a "fire orc" for Magdeburg.[16] The old city glowed out, leaving thousands of people to suffocate and burn. The asphalt on the streets became liquid and began to burn as well. The firelight of the burning city could still be seen by the returning bomber pilots across the Rhine 370 km away.[17][18]

Due to the violent detonations, the electricity, gas and water supply in the city centre suddenly failed. The streets were often impassable for the fire brigades rushing to help from far away. To rescue the buried, wounded and dead, miners from the surrounding area were called in, in addition to the responsible relief workers, the Wehrmacht, prisoners of war and volunteers. "The dead, often women, children and old people, were laid down by the roadsides and in front of the ruins ...They were placed in primitive coffins that had been brought in, often many corpses shrunk together by phosphorus into one."[19]

The entire air raid lasted 39 minutes, of which the actual bombing took 28 minutes. Especially the eight square kilometre area between Hasselbachplatz, main station, Alte Neustadt [de] and the Elbe lay in ruins after the attack and burned for several days. The city centre was 90% destroyed; the destruction of the entire city is estimated at 60%. 2,680 people died, 11,221 were injured[20] and 190,000 were left homeless. The 1946 Statistical Yearbook of the City Council lists 6,000 dead.[21] In 1964, quite different figures were given by the Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst: Magdeburg had to mourn 16,000 dead, 24,648 wounded and 244,560 homeless after this horrible night.[22] The burials took place, using Wehrmacht and prisoners of war, over 8-12 days mainly in the Westfriedhof, but also in the other Magdeburg cemeteries.[23]

The tens of thousands of "bombed out" Magdeburg residents were evacuated via assembly points in the outskirts of the city to the soon overcrowded villages and small towns, and by special trains to other central German regions. In the first days after the attack, 10,000 inhabitants were considered missing. Although "numerous fates were subsequently clarified", their number was still 2,000 at the beginning of April 1945.[24]

"The bombing raid of 16 January 1945 brought almost all life in Magdeburg to a standstill".[25]

  • 17 January 1945: That night, 69 RAF planes dropped another 79 tons of bombs on the city.

Attacks from February to April 1945


"The (14 now following) bombardments were aimed at the residential areas not yet affected, the industry and the transport network".[26]

  • 2 February 1945: 42 RAF aircraft dropped 43 tons of bombs on Magdeburg at night. The number of dead and injured is unknown.
  • 3 February 1945: 362 American B-24s (2 casualties) dropped 842 tons of bomb load on the city from 11.10 to 12.00. The main focus was on Rothensee and Magdeburg railway facilities and the surrounding area. 23 dead and 11 injured were registered.
  • 6 February 1945: 418 American B-24s (2 casualties) attacked Magdeburg as a "secondary target" with 727 tons of bombs. 167 dead and 216 wounded were counted.
  • 9 February 1945: 278 American B-24s (5 casualties) dropped 638 tons of bombs on Magdeburg, especially on transport facilities and their surroundings. 42 dead and 52 injured.
  • 13 February 1945: 70 RAF planes attacked Magdeburg at night (22.08 to 22.15) with 84 tons of bombs. 4 deaths were reported.
  • 14 February 1945: 340 American B-24s (1 loss) dropped 811 tons on Magdeburg from 11.52 to 13.13 as a "secondary target", especially on traffic installations. 77 killed and 134 wounded.
  • 15 February 1945: 353 American B-24s attacked the city as a "primary target" from 11.39 to 11.55 a.m. with 899 tons of bombs. 76 killed and 11 injured.
  • 2 March 1945: 299 American B-24s (2 casualties) dropped 372 tons of bombs on Magdeburg from 10.35 to 10.41 a.m., focal points as primary targets were Buckau and Rothensee. Groehler gives 727 tons[27]. The cathedral was hit: 32 m² hole between the towers and nave damage. The great organ was destroyed. 73 dead and 24 injured had to be registered.
  • 3 March 1945: 219 B-24s (4 casualties) attacked Rothensee from 10.13 to 10.38 with 479 tons of bombs as primary target. The hydrogenation plant was completely destroyed. The number of dead and injured is not known.
  • 13 March 1945: Daylight attack on Magdeburg[28] 63 dead.
  • 14 March 1945: Night attack[29]
  • 2 April 1945: RAF night raid with 48 aircraft and 78 tons of bomb load.
  • 3 April 1945: Night attack[30], 62 dead.
  • 4 April 1945: RAF night raid with 35 aircraft and 54 tons of bombs.
  • 17 April 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[31], in a "rolling air raid" 360 aircraft of the USAAF covered the city with a carpet of bombs (770 tons of bombs) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (12 noon to 5 p.m.). About 3,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged.[32] There were about 150 dead and 650 wounded[33]
  • 18 April: the left-elbian Magdeburg is occupied by the Americans - partly still against resistance -, on 5 May the right-elbian by the Red Army.
  • 19 April: the eastern parts of Magdeburg still in German hands continued to be exposed to fire, including from heavy US artillery. German guns shelled targets on the left bank of the river Elbe from Werder [de] and Rotehornpark [de]. Buildings previously spared from the events of the war were now hit: the Stadtparkrestaurant on the banks of the Elbe, the building of the rowing club "Werder", the Magdeburg Schützenhaus and the Stadthalle [de] built in 1927 were destroyed, and the exhibition tower in the Rotehornpark was damaged.[34] The artillery duels continued for days, from the US side until 30 April. US fighter-bombers constantly flew over the eastern parts of the city, "shooting at anything that moved".

Magdeburg experienced air raid alerts [de] over 620 times during World War II.[35]

Material losses


The degree of destruction of the city as a whole was 60%, that of the inner city 90%. Of 106,733 dwellings, 40,674 were totally destroyed (38%) and 31,774 severely damaged (30%). 68 % of the housing had been destroyed or severely damaged. The population of Magdeburg had dropped from 335,000 before the war to 90,000 (with non-locals 120,000) in April 1945[36] The people partly lived in emergency shelters. 71% of all public buildings were burnt out or/and smashed. 23 schools were totally destroyed, 17 seriously and 20 slightly damaged. Destroyed were 1,524 shops, 1,119 commercial establishments, 1,026 craft workshops, 224 restaurants, 196 public buildings, 130 factories, 37 banqueting halls and assembly rooms, 34 hospitals and clinics, 34 department stores, 32 farms, 23 schools, 21 cinemas, 15 churches, 15 hotels, three theatres and three museums.[37] The number of hospital beds had declined from 3,825 to 398 (10%).

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

6 million cubic metres of rubble had to be removed.

Property damage amounted to 1.852 billion Reichsmark. Of this, building damage accounted for 404 million, commercial damage 520 million and household damage 928 million.[38]

Losses to cultural buildings


The losses and damages to cultural buildings are well documented - including illustrations - by Renate Kroll in the standard work Schicksale deutscher Baudenkmale im zweiten Weltkrieg, on which the following overview is also based.[39] The photos in the other books on the subject listed below are also very significant.

The following cultural and educational buildings were destroyed in Magdeburg by the Allied air raids: 23 schools, 37 festival halls and auditoriums, over 15 churches, three theatres and three museums.



The losses to the interior decoration of the churches would have been even greater if many movable art objects had not been removed. Eight war-damaged churches (one of them after reconstruction) were blown up and demolished during the GDR period.

Central building of the western side of the cathedral (1953), before restoration
Ulrichskirche (1954), before demolition in 1956
  • Dom St. Mauritius and St. Katharina: was severely damaged by seven hits during air raids in 1944 and 1945: hits in the north tower and central nave, in the second nave bay the vaults of both side aisles were penetrated; further hits in the north transept next to the Paradise Gate and in the western part of the cloister south wing. The gable of the southern aisle was damaged. Artillery hits in the bishop's aisle. In the west front between the towers a 32 m² hole. 300 m² of vaulting, 460 m² of masonry, 2,300 m² of window area and 5,600 m² of roof area destroyed. The post-medieval furnishings and the organ were also completely destroyed.
  • Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen: in the 1945 air raid, the choir, the southern side chapel and the summer refectory with part of the western cloister wing, as well as all roofs destroyed. Complete destruction of the surrounding buildings, thus exposing the tower front, which had previously been integrated into the street alignment of the Regierungsstraße.
  • Lutherkirche in Friedrichstadt: partially destroyed in British night raid on 21 January 1944. Demolished in 1951, then built over.
  • St.-Sebastian-Kirche: during the attack on 16 January 1945, the Welsh bonnets burnt down, the roof was badly damaged and the tracery of the windows destroyed. Restoration.
  • St.-Johannis-Kirche: The church had already been badly hit during the attack on 28 September 1944. In the attack of 16 January 1945, it was destroyed down to the surrounding walls, including the interior furnishings. What remained standing were the pillars of the nave together with the arches they supported and parts of the towers. Reconstruction.
  • St. Jacob's Church (Magdeburg): destroyed and burnt out on 16 January except for the surrounding walls. Ruin blown up in 1959.
  • St.-Katharinen-Kirche: burnt out in the air raid on 28 September 1944[40] However, it is also stated: destroyed on 16 January 1945 except for the surrounding walls and the south arcades, in the process also the pulpit and the baroque altar destroyed.[41] Ruin demolished 1964-1966.
  • St.-Petri-Kirche: destroyed on 16 January 1945 except for the surrounding walls, also destroying the baroque interior. The tower and the porch were only slightly damaged. Reconstruction from 1962.
  • St. Ulrich's Church]: nave burnt out in 1945 with the surrounding walls intact, including the interior furnishings. Towers preserved. Despite being able to be rebuilt, the church was blown up in 1956.
  • Former Sankt-Nikolai-Kirche: had long been profaned, from 1937/38 armoury museum. Damaged in 1944, heavily destroyed on 16 January 1945, only most of the outer walls preserved. Ruins demolished in 1959.
  • Wallonerkirche: Walloon Reformed Church. Completely burnt out on 16 January 1945, including interior fittings. Reconstruction.
  • Heilige-Geist-Kirche: In 1945 the church and Annenkapelle were destroyed except for the surrounding walls, also the historic baptismal font and the organ prospect. Church blown up after reconstruction in 1959.
  • Magdalenenkapelle: badly damaged in air raid, roofing destroyed, chapel vault survived.
  • French Reformed Church (Große Marktstraße): destroyed on 16 January 1945 except for the surrounding walls. Ruin removed in 1959.
  • Martinskirche in the Alte Neustadt: destroyed on 16 January 1945. Ruin demolished.
  • Deutsch-reformierte Kirche in the Alte Neustadt: destroyed on 16 January 1945 except for surrounding walls, ruin demolished.
  • Sankt-Nikolai-Kirche in Neuer Neustadt. Badly damaged in air raid 1944 (?). South tower, roof and barrel vault destroyed, also the windows. Restoration.
  • St.-Briccius-Kirche in Cracau: in the air raid of 16 January 1945 the roofs of the tower and nave and the organ were destroyed.
  • Martin-Gallus-Kirche in Fermersleben [de]: in 1944, the roofs were destroyed and the inventory damaged in a bombing raid. During explosions of ammunition and fuel wagons at the marshalling yard, the church was considerably damaged by pressure waves.
  • Immanuelkirche in Prester [de]: during a bombing raid in 1944, the church considerably damaged, the organ destroyed.
  • St.-Stephans-Kirche in Westerhüsen [de]: hit by bomb on 14 February 1945. Nave largely destroyed. Ruin demolished, tower repaired

Public buildings

  • Altes Rathaus [de] Alter Markt 15: already hit in 1944, then badly damaged on 16 January 1945. South and east wings totally destroyed, north and west wings lost their roofs. The masonry substance of their upper floors was severely damaged. Of the upper rooms, only the middle one on the south side of the north wing retained its two Gothic vaults.
  • Neues Rathaus [de]: burnt out, restored.
  • Alter Packhof [de] (Werftstraße 40): magnificent, castle-like baroque building on the banks of the Elbe. Destroyed in 1945, ruins demolished.
  • Neuer Packhof [de], Werftstraße 39: located on the Elbe next to the Strombrücke. Destroyed in 1945, ruins demolished.
  • Sterntor [de]: baroque gateway. Destroyed or badly damaged on 16 January 1945.
  • Museum für Naturkunde Magdeburg [de] on Domplatz: burnt out during air raid on 21 January 1944. Most of the holdings had been moved out.
  • Kulturhistorisches Museum Magdeburg: Imposing building. During the war, the northwest corner with tower and the southern part of the complex were severely damaged. Simplified reconstruction, also without tower.
  • Former National Theatre (theatre until 1876, then gymnasium), Dreiengeiststraße 28. Destroyed during air raid in 1945, ruins later demolished.
  • Stadttheater Magdeburg: Otto-von Guericke-Straße. Partially destroyed on 16 January 1945 except for the surrounding walls. It was to be rebuilt. But blown up and demolished in 1958.
  • Theater Magdeburg: Built in 1906/07. Destroyed in 1944, rebuilt in ruins by 1951. Became the Maxim Gorki Theatre
  • Wilhelm-Theater [de]: Johannisfahrtstraße 16, destroyed in air raid.
  • Gesellschaftshaus am Klosterbergegarten [de]: damaged in air raid 1945.
  • Gesellschaftshaus im Herrenkrug-Park [de]: damaged in the war, later demolished.
  • Exhibition buildings in Rotehornpark [de] on the Werder-Elbinsel [de]: Stadthalle damaged by artillery fire on 19 April 1945 and burnt out,[42]Sternbrücke [de] destroyed. Exhibition halls totally destroyed. Damaged observation tower and horse gate preserved.
  • Circus Blumenfeld [de]: in Königstraße (today Walter-Rathenau-Straße), badly damaged on 28 September 1944, finally destroyed on 16 January 1945.
  • Magdeburg Hauptbahnhof: badly hit on 16 January 1945. Central reception building completely destroyed and not rebuilt. Eastern reception building (in the style of a Tuscan palazzo) with severe damage. The reconstruction of the station began in 1946, but without the roof structure of the destroyed historic station hall.

Town houses


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

The losses at Domplatz [de], such as the house at Kreuzgangstraße 5 [de], at Alter Markt [de] and at Breiter Weg were particularly painful. The Alter Markt was the centre of the burgher town, with the town hall, Innungshaus der Gewandschneider [de], the house Zum goldenen Greif [de] and the house Zum güldenen Hammer [de]. The "Breiter Weg", the main artery of the city centre, with its Baroque buildings was almost completely destroyed, including the Zu den drei Kleeblättern [de] and Zum güldenen Kreuz [de] houses as well as the Renaissance building Zum Türmchen [de]. The destroyed buildings also included the houses at Regierungsstraße 2 [de] and 3 and the buildings on a number of inner-city streets such as Heiligegeiststraße [de], Pfeifersberg [de] and Weißgerberstraße [de].

The chapter Magdeburg in Schicksale deutscher Baudenkmale im Zweiten Weltkrieg shows with its illustrations particularly impressively the losses also at town houses.[43]— Preceding unsigned comment added by LouisAlain (talkcontribs) 12:06, 23 October 2021 (UTC)Reply

Victims and burial sites

Grove of Honour [de] (detail) to the victims of the bombing of Magdeburg on the War Gravesites of the Westfriedhof
Sculptural ensemble for the bombed dead by Wieland Schmiedel at the War Gravesites of the West Cemetery

Adding up the found and registered deaths of all 38 air raids from 1940 to 1945 gives a figure from 4,500 to over 5,000[44][45] to 6,000.[46]

  • Broken down, the attacks result in.

From 1940 to 1944 a total of 1,689 dead,

For the day raid of 16 January 1945, 40 dead,

For the night raid of 16 January, 2,680 dead.

For the attacks from February to 17 April 1945 737 dead:

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

  • Cemeteries: Most of the dead found were buried in row graves in coffins at the Kriegsgräberstätte Westfriedhof [de], as they were after 16 January 1945. The burial of the 600 unidentifiable, mostly charred bodies from the fire attack on 16 January 1945 also took place there, in a mass grave, but also in coffins. Other dead were buried in other Magdeburg cemeteries - such as the cemetery of the Pfeiffersche Stiftungen.[47]
  • Number of people killed and buried in Bombing raids on Magdeburg.[48] Cemeteries and number of buried. As of 1985. After 1990 there were still reburials from the burial sites of the reserve military hospitals to the Westfriedhof.

West Cemetery 2,680 (of which 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

Neustadt: 357

Friedrichstadt: 12

Pfeiffer Institutions: 20

Total: 3,756

  • Total number of victims: Already in the first days and weeks after 16 January 1945 there was talk of 16,000 deaths.[49] Also in GDR times this number was partly maintained, until the year 1989.[50][51] Freya Paschen, spokeswoman for Magdeburg Museums, commented: There is no historical evidence for this statement. No one could say where the figure came from. With the political change, the Museum of Cultural History had conducted further research and looked for sources. But even after that, the number of victims could not be determined with certainty.[52] This is understandable. In the firestorm/fire hurricane, some of the bodies found had shrunk so much that they could fit doll-sized bodies into buckets or bags and several into a coffin.[53][54] In and after the inferno, there must also have been non-detection of remains in the rubble and residue-free burning of the dead.
  • British and American air forces lost 140 bombers to German flak or fighters in the raids on Magdeburg.[55] This results in about 1,300 crew members shot down, some of whom fell, while the others became German prisoners of war after parachute jumps.



After the war, the city centre and the other affected neighbourhoods were deconstructed (see "Trümmerfrau"). Due to lack of money as a result of war reparations by the Sowjetische Aktiengesellschaft [de], but also with the ideological. The Magdeburg Cathedral, the Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen and the Rathaus Magdeburg were among the buildings that were restored, but only a few of the damaged buildings were saved. Today, only a few of the Baroque buildings of Breiter Weg, the Gründerzeit and Jugendstil buildings characterise the city centre, supplemented by a few buildings of the "National Tradition" of the post-war period, which are also modelled on the Soviet architecture of the Stalin era. The urban structure that had grown over centuries was largely abandoned, so that dense metropolitan development was replaced by wide open spaces lined with buildings in the style of Stalinist architecture. Several churches, some of which were still relatively well preserved and had shaped the cityscape for centuries, were demolished because they stood in the way of the ideological concept of a socialist city. Since reunification, many large and small building projects have greatly changed the cityscape. For example, the central axis of the city, Breite Weg (one of the longest shopping miles in Europe before World War II), has been closed again since 1990 with many new buildings.

In the 1946 architectural competition for the reconstruction of the city, a memorial to the "Victims of the Air War" was also proposed. This was never realised.

Commemorating anniversaries


Every year on and around 16 January, numerous commemorative events take place in Magdeburg to remember the destruction of the city. At the memorial for the victims of the air raid of "16 January 1945" (actually all raids) at the Westfriedhof, contemporary witnesses talk about their experiences, and representatives of Magdeburg lay wreaths of flowers. The Magdeburg Philharmonic Orchestra traditionally performs Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in the opera house of the Theater Magdeburg together with the Magdeburg Opera Choir and the Singakademie. An annual organ concert is held at the Unser Lieben Frauen monastery. Following these events, the bells of all the city's churches ring for about ten minutes at 21:28, the time the bombing began on 16 January 1945.[56]

Every year since 1999, neo-Nazis have commemorated the bombing of the city. With 1200 participants, the "funeral marches" in 2012 reached their largest turnout so far. Civil society protests are directed against these marches. Since 2009, the city has organised a "Mile of Democracy" as a counter-programme,[57] which in 2015 saw the largest turnout to date with around 15,000 visitors.

See also



  1. Gem. Astrid Pawassar: Bildatlas Leipzig, Halle, Magdeburg. Volume 233 des HB Bildatlas. 2007, p. 96 f. größter Munitionsproduzent des Deutschen Reichs
  2. Zu Beginn des Zweiten Weltkrieges arbeiteten rund 14.000 Magdeburger Einwohner in den Polte-Werken, gem. Martin Nathusius: Die Magdeburger Linie ., siehe LitVerz. (p. 109)
  3. Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Ausstellung, Magdeburg 1995. p. 50 ff.
  4. Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Exhibition, Magdeburg 1995
  5. Then the Sky Turned Blood Red. Exhibition 1995. p. 201
  6. Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Exhibitions 1995 in Magdeburg. pp. 58–59
  7. Dann färbte sich blutrot. Exhibition, Magdeburg 1995. p. 59
  8. Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Ausstellung, Magdeburg 1995. p. 78
  9. Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. p. 26
  10. Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Exhibition 1995. p. 65
  11. Fish code names, (British original, PDF; 292 kB), [German translation] (PDF; 214 kB), At (Bunkermuseum Emden [de]), retrieved 25 September 2021
  12. Jörg Friedrich, 2002, title Der Brand, p. 83 Ullstein Verlag, Munich.
  13. Wilhelm Polte: Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Ausstellung in Magdeburg 1995. pp. 4–5 (forword of the OB)
  15. Olaf Groehler [de]: Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland. 1990. p. 396
  16. Olaf Groehler: 40 Years Ago. Flieger-Revue 2/85 (1985). p. 50 f.
  17. Manfred Wille [de]: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. p. 28 ff
  18. Olaf Groehler: Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland. 1990. p. 396
  19. Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. p. 113.
  20. Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg im Feuersturm. 1985. p. 70
  21. Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. p. 36
  22. Federal Archives Image 183-C0107-0006-001. Magdeburg Stadtplan.jpg
  23. Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg im Feuersturm. 1985. p. 69
  24. Olaf Groehler: 40 Years Ago. Flieger-Revue 2/85 (1985), p. 50 f
  25. Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. 1995. p. 95.
  26. Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Exhibition 1995. p. 207
  27. Olaf Groehler: Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland. 1990. p. 396
  28. Maren Ballerstedt: Es regnet Feuer. 2003. p. 50
  29. Maren Ballerstedt: It's raining fire. 2003. p. 50
  30. Maren Ballerstedt: It's raining fire. 2003. p. 50
  31. Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. p. 38
  32. Then the Sky Turned Blood Red. Exhibition 1995. pp. 133–134
  33. Maren Ballerstedt and Konstanze Buchholz: Es regnet Feuer. 2003. p. 50
  34. Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Exhibition, Magdeburg 1995. pp. 137–138
  35. Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. p. 45
  36. Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. pp. 45–47
  38. Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. pp. 45–47
  39. Renate Kroll: Magdeburg. In Fates of German architectural monuments in the Second World War. Editor Götz Eckardt. Henschelverlag, Berlin 1978. vol. 1. pp. 247–270
  40. Then the sky turned blood-red. Exhibition 1995. p. 64
  41. Renate Kroll: Magdeburg. in Schicksale deutscher Baudenkmale im zweiten Weltkrieg. 1978. vol. 2. p. 253
  42. Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Exhibition Magdeburg 1995. p. 138
  43. Renate Kroll: Magdeburg. In Schicksale deutscher Baudenkmale im zweiten Weltkrieg. 1978. Vol. 1. pp. 260–269
  44. Maren Ballerstedt and Konstanze Buchholz: Es regnet Feuer! The Magdeburg night of terror on 16 January 1945. Wartberg-Verlag 2003. p. 50
  45. Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg im Feuersturm. 1985. p. 70
  46. Statistical Yearbook of the City of Magdeburg of 1946. Quoted from Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990, p. 36
  47. Hans-Joachim Krenzke: Magdeburger Friedhöfe und Begräbnisstätten. Magdeburg 1998
  48. Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg im Feuersturm. 1985. Documentations p. 69
  49. Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. p. 36
  50. File: Bundesarchiv Bild 183-C0107-0006-001. Magdeburg, Stadtplan.jpg
  53. Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg im Feuersturm. 1985. p. 27, p. 47
  54. Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. 1990. p. 70
  55. Olaf Groehler: Bomber War Against Germany. 1990. p. 396 f
  56. Glockenläuten zum 70. Jahrestag des Luftangriffes auf Magdeburg (2015) at YouTube.
  57. Meile der Demokratie (Internet-Site)

Further reading

  • Maren Ballerstedt und Konstanze Buchholz: Es regnet Feuer! Die Magdeburger Schreckensnacht am 16. Januar 1945, Wartberg Verlag, Gudensberg-Gleichen 2003. ISBN 3-8313-1367-9
  • Rudi Hartwig and Manfred Wille: Magdeburg im Feuersturm. Ein Dokumentarbericht. Zur Geschichte der Zerstörung der Stadt durch anglo-amerikanische Bombenangriffe im zweiten Weltkrieg. Publisher Rat der Stadt Magdeburg. Magdeburg 1985
  • Manfred Wille: Der Himmel brennt über Magdeburg. Die Zerstörung der Stadt im zweiten Weltkrieg. Publisher: Rat der Stadt Magdeburg. Magdeburg 1990
  • Dann färbte sich der Himmel blutrot. Die Zerstörung Magdeburgs am 16. Januar 1945. Ausstellung im Kulturhistorischen Museum Magdeburg, 1995. Katalog, editor Matthias Puhle [de]. Magdeburg 1995. ISBN 3-930030-12-8
  • Olaf Groehler: Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1990. ISBN 3-05-000612-9
  • Renate Kroll: Magdeburg. In Schicksale deutscher Baudenkmale im zweiten Weltkrieg. Publisher: Götz Eckardt. Henschelverlag, Berlin 1978. Vol. 1. pp. 247–270
  • Martin Nathusius: Die "Magdeburger Linie" der Familie Nathusius, Illustrierte Stammfolge. IRL Imprimeries Reunies Lausanne, Saint-Sulpice (Switzerland) 1985.

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