Happy New Year!!
I hope you all had a relaxing time between the holidays and will head back to work refreshed. I ate way more than I should have, but fortunately for me, the weather remains relatively warm…30s and 40s. That means I can ride my bike to work and burn off some of the extra calories I packed on.
If we had been around Nuremberg, Germany on January 2, 1945, New Year’s celebrations would not have been in order. It was on this evening that more than 500 British Lancasters flew overhead and plastered the medieval city back to, well, the Middle Ages.
The attack itself wasn’t a huge surprise to the city’s population had experienced bombing before. During the Second World War, Nuremberg was the headquarters of one of Germany’s military districts, which alone made it an allied target of some value. Furthermore, there was some military production going on there, particularly aircraft and tank engines.
But Nuremberg was also something of a spiritual center of National Socialism. The Nuremberg rallies of the 20s and 30s were a pretty big deal, and numerous other Nazi Party gatherings had been held there over the years. Like Adolf Hitler’s desire to crush Leningrad (named after the first Bolshevist leader) and Stalingrad (named after the current leader), it’s at least plausible that Allied planners might consider making Nuremberg a target for more than just strictly military reasons.
Nuremberg, already damaged by previous attacks, was devastated. The pathfinders were very accurate in marking their targets with the aid of a full moon, and the Lancasters (though not speedy, could carry a significant bombload) did their job with fiery efficiency. Nuremberg’s center was almost completely destroyed. Thousands of buildings were reduced to smoldering rubble, including age-old churches, homes, museums, and the like. More than 100,000 townspeople were left homeless, and another 1,800 were left lifeless.
This was the age of area bombing, so discrimination between military and civilian targets was pretty badly blurred. And for many other German cities, like Hamburg before and Dresden just a month later, this is how their wars would end.