By Tom Dare
After the RAF turned 100 this weekend, a fascinating video showing the state of Germany following the devastation of the Second World War has resurfaced today, giving a rare insight into the full effects of the allied bombing campaign on Nazi Germany.
Footage from the video, taken in June 1945 just one month after the end of the war in Europe, shows Berlin as a pile of rubble as an American plane flies overhead, with the hollow shells of buildings all that the eye can see.
Further clips from the video show downtown Berlin in the aftermath of the war, with a clip of police marching underneath a partially damaged Brandenburg Gate. Another shot shows people working together in the rubble of the buildings in the city, while a further one shows a woman carrying on as normal despite having a huge hole in the side of her apartment.
Just as London was left devastated by the Blitz in the early years of the war, as the tide began to turn in favour of the allies Germany was subjected to a relentless bombing campaign. Throughout the course of the war over 410,000 civilians were killed by allied bombing, with many of the country’s biggest cities targeted by the bombers.
Hamburg was hit particularly hard, with an estimated 45,000 people killed throughout the war, while about 35,000 were killed in Berlin and a further 20,000 died in a series of concentrated attacks on Dresden. As the allies began to gain the upper hand in the latter years of the war, it is estimated that approximately 13, 536 civilians were killed per month between July 1944 and January 1945, with the allies dropping around 1.9 million tonnes on Germany over the course of the war.
By March 1944, it was estimated that approximately 1.5 million Berliners had been left homeless by the bombing raids, while a whopping 250,000 people were reported to have lost their homes during a single night of air raids over Hanover between October 8 and October 9 1943. And it wasn’t just the big cities that found themselves the targets of these air raids. Countless medium and smaller cities were also hit by the RAF and the USAAF, among them Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Essen, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven, Emden, Duisburg, Saarbrucken, Düsseldorf, Schweinfurt, Jena, Darmstadt, Krefeld, Leipzig, Brunswick, Munich, Magdeburg, Aschersleben, Halberstadt, Chemnitz, Halle, Plauen, Dessau, Potsdam, Erfurt, Cailsheim, Freudenstadt and Hildesheim. It was reported that both Nordhausen and Pfortzheim lost around 20 per cent of their entire populations in one night during night time raids in May 1945.
In the aftermath of the war many accused those at the top of the allied hierarchy of purposely targeting civilian area to strike fear into the Germans, though this was refuted by the majority of those involved. Charles Portal, the Chief of Air Staff for most of the war, once said:
“There is a curious and widespread fallacy that our bombing of the German cities was really intended to kill and frighten Germans and that we camouflaged this intention by the pretence that we would destroy industry.
“Any such idea is completely and utterly false.
“The loss of life, which amounted to some 600,000 killed, was purely incidental.”