In a recent comment, one of the readers of my blog mentioned something about the destruction of Berlin in World War II.
Berlin has been rebuilt with modern buildings, like the Sony Center, and there is very little left of the old Berlin, except for a few piles of rubble that have been covered over with grass, as you can see in my photo below.
At the beginning of August 1945, three months after the German surrender, which ended World War II, American President Harry Truman was on his way to Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin, for a conference with Allied leaders Churchill and Stalin, when he took a victory lap around Berlin in an Army Jeep to see the devastation wrought by the Allied bombing.
There was not much left of Berlin to see. The capital city of Germany had been bombed 24 times between November 18, 1943 and March 1944, and sporadic hits continued until the city was captured by the Russian army in April, 1945. By that time, the city had been reduced to 98 million cubic yards of rubble.
Each of the bomb attacks involved over 1,000 planes and the dropping of up to 2,000 tons of bombs. Half of the city’s bridges were destroyed and the underground railway tunnels were flooded. There was no gas, electricity or water in the central portion of the city.
The pre-war population of 4.3 million had been reduced to 2.8 million, as people were forced to flee the city; some 1.5 million people became homeless when their homes were bombed.
One out of 7 of the buildings destroyed in Germany by the Allied bombing were in Berlin. Out of a total of 245,000 buildings in Berlin, 50,000 had been completely destroyed and 23,000 had been severely damaged; 80,000 residents of the city had been killed. Even the trees in the Tiergarten, a large park in the center of the city, had been killed in the Battle of Berlin.
There were so many historic buildings destroyed that Berliners jokingly referred to the American and British air raids as Baedecker Bombing. Baedecker travel guide books were used by tourists to locate famous and historic buildings.
A mere 5 years earlier, after the conquest of France in 6 weeks time, Hitler had visited Paris and taken an early morning tour of the deserted streets to see the famous buildings of the capital city, which were all still intact. Hitler’s earliest ambition had been to be an architect, and he made sure that the beautiful buildings of Paris were not destroyed.
Before World War II started, Hitler had big plans to completely rebuild Berlin into a world class city with classic buildings which he and his chief architect, Albert Speer, were working together to design. At least part of his dream has now been realized.
The rubble has been cleared away and Berlin has been completely rebuilt with stunning new modern architecture, although Hitler would hardly approve of the new Berlin, since he hated anything modern, calling it “entartete Kunst” (degenerate art).