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Destruction

Despite the Flak towers, and the residual Luftwaffe, Berlin was blasted.  British bombers dropped 45,517 tons of bombs then the Americans dropped a further 23,000 tons. 

The head of British Bomber Command, Air Vice Marshall 'Bomber' Harris was convinced, despite evidence to the contrary in London, that the morale of civilians was destroyed when their city was attacked and as a result they would put pressure on their government to capitulate. 

While Churchill may have had doubts he supported Harris saying: “We need to make the enemy burn and bleed in every way.”  In addition he knew that it was good for British morale to bomb German cities in retaliation for London, in what became known as 'feel good raids'.  See the above link to  'Bomber' Harris

Eventually it was realised that the strategy of bombing civilians, if done to excess, hardens their resolve to fight back.  We have a modern example in the Gaza Strip.  But this was not before raids on Germany killed over 600,000 German civilians and seriously damaged 6 million homes and a halt was finally called to the slaughter. Then came Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The final wave of destruction in Berlin came ahead of the invading Russian army when, during street to street fighting, the Russians used artillery and tanks to destroy entire buildings that harboured a Hitler Youth offering token resistance.

 

Berlin in 1945 - Mainly in the British Sector - Märkisches Museum

 

One obvious moral of the story is that, contrary to Hitler's contention, attack is not the best means of defence.  Sitting around a table is.  In particular, don't attack someone who might have the means to fight back; or big friends. 

It's arguable that this bombing constituted a war crime.  But putting that aside, by concentrating bombing on civilian targets a large number of economically strategic targets like transport and electricity infrastructure remained either undamaged or in a state that could be quickly repaired.  Those of you familiar with Joseph Heller's Catch 22 will recognise a theme.

For example, about 50 km north-east of Berlin is the strategic Schiffshebewerk (ship lift) on the Oder-Havel canal system. This canal was and is used to move heavy machinery and materials between Germany and Poland, at that time for the assault on the Baltic States and then on the Soviet Union. 

Compared with the thousands of tons of bombs committed to killing civilians in nearby Berlin, the bombing raids were token and obviously inadequate to destroy it, because unlike many hospitals and schools in Berlin there it still stands, unscathed.  

 

Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow lowering a barge-load of heavy parts - an obvious strategic target but largely unharmed.
It was built contemporaneously with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Empire State building
and uses the same technology - hot riveted, rolled steel trusses.
Steel rolling technology owes its development to rail rolling near Newcastle-on-Tyne see the McKie Family
The new one being built nearby uses the technology of the late 20th century - ferroconcrete.

 

If you think failing to disrupt strategic transport to Poland was of little moment consider that between 1940 and the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945 the Nazis would attempt to solve 'the Jewish problem' (whatever that was) and put to death over a million Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in Poland. 

To the north of Berlin, not far from the Schiffshebewerk, is the Sachsenhausen concentration camp that is almost as chilling as Auschwitz, particularly as it was subsequently used by the Russians as NKVD special camp Nr. 7.  So the abuses here carried on during post-war Stalinist purges.

 

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
There is a longer discussion of concentration camps on this website - follow this link
WARNING this content is distressing.

 

As I've said repeatedly on this website none of us born after 1940 would have been conceived had any of these players done anything different.  Obviously that extends to our children and grandchildren and to those yet to be born.   What's done is done and it had to be so for the now to be now.  But we should take heed and learn from the horrors as well as the achievements of the past.

In particular, it would be nice if we could put religious and political zealotry behind us.  Follow this link to The Meaning of Life - my message to my children and now grandchildren on the subject of religious fundamentalism. 

 

 

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