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Old April 25th, 2010, 02:10 AM   #1
brisavoine
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Allied bombings of Strasbourg in WW2

Today when you visit Strasbourg, it may appear that the city did not suffer any damage during WW2. In fact many people often say that Strasbourg is the only Germanic city outside of Switzerland that still remains intact today, because it wasn't submitted to area bombing by the Allies (area bombing was the policy of indiscriminate bombing of German cities, targeting civilians to destroy German morale).

It's true that Strasbourg was spared indiscriminate area bombing, because the Allies did not consider it an enemy city, but Strasbourg was the target of precision bombing, in particular US precision bombing, to destroy transportation infrastructures and key factories used by the German war machine. And these precision bombings were anything but precise, with many bombs falling way off the intended targets.

In total, from 1940 to its liberation in November 1944, Strasbourg suffered no less than 13 Allied bombing raids. The worst raids were the American raids which took place in August and September 1944. The US bombers largely missed their targets and the bombs devastated the medieval heart of Strasbourg. Here are pictures showing the devastation in the old city center of Strasbourg after those US raids in August and September 1944. Most of the destroyed buildings were rebuilt after the war in their original style.

Place Gutenberg (Gutenberg Square):


Rue des Serruriers (Street of the Locksmiths):


Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains (Street of the Old Grain Market):


Ancienne Douane (Old Customs House):


Rue des Hallebardes (Street of the Halberds):






Rue des Cordiers (Street of the Rope Makers):


The Cathedral of Strasbourg:


US bombs dropped by the 493rd Bomb Group on September 25, 1944 destroyed the choir of the 13th century cathedral:


The cathedral standing among ruins:


Rue du Vieux Marché aux Poissons (Street of the Old Fish Market):


Palais Rohan (Rohan Palace, the palace of the bishops of Strasbourg built in French style in the 18th century):




In November 1944 the city of Strasbourg was finally liberated by the 2nd Armored Division of General Leclerc, which ended the bombing raids.



After the war, most of the destroyed buildings in the old city were rebuilt in their original style.

Palais Rohan in 1944:


Palais Rohan today:


Ancienne Douane in 1944:


The Ancienne Douane was rebuilt in 1956 in a somewhat simplified style:
image hosted on flickr
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Old April 25th, 2010, 02:39 AM   #2
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Strasbourg was part of Nazi Germany when it was bombed, so what's your point?
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Old April 25th, 2010, 04:31 AM   #3
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to show what was destroyed and how it looks today, maybe? Because this is the friggin classic architecture board perhaps? Just guessing.

Anyway, very interesting stuff.
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Old April 25th, 2010, 02:00 PM   #4
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Well, the OP seems to criticise allied bombing at length but nonetheless appears to miss the fact that Strasbourg (now in France) was at this period of history part of Nazi Germany. I think that's a pretty important fact to leave out perhaps? Just guessing.
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Old April 27th, 2010, 04:02 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by 3SPIRES View Post
Well, the OP seems to criticise allied bombing at length but nonetheless appears to miss the fact that Strasbourg (now in France) was at this period of history part of Nazi Germany. I think that's a pretty important fact to leave out perhaps? Just guessing.
By that definition, so was Paris. But that is not the point, nor does it require any quessing.

The historical and architectural references to structures lost and rebuilt (or not) is the point. Why and how they were taken away from the enjoyment of future generations is both interesting and valuable information, imho, and appropriate commentary here.

Specifically regarding Strasburg's revival, the city was a large beneficiary of Marshall Plan funds very early in the process, thereby allowing a fairly quick rebuilding program before the more efficiency-minded modernists' approaches became more popular.
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Old April 27th, 2010, 07:31 PM   #6
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Without discussing the bombings themselves, I don't like the idea followed by many cities (reconstruct as original), particularly in regard of severely damaged, beyond repair, places. I prefer the Rotterdam approach, which rebuilt itself completely different after the War, and I wished, in first place, that we had never to have seen such destruction in Europe (in both sides tbc), and in second place that they reconstructed razed ares with modernist architecture.
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Old April 27th, 2010, 07:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brisavoine View Post
Today when you visit Strasbourg, it may appear that the city did not suffer any damage during WW2. In fact many people often say that Strasbourg is the only Germanic city outside of Switzerland that still remains intact today,
Which isn't true, since Erfurt remained largely intact.
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Old April 27th, 2010, 10:29 PM   #8
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Which isn't true, since Erfurt remained largely intact.
I thought brisavoine meant literally untouched by war, which Erfurt was not. It was hit shortly after Dresden and while suffered less than other German cities, had over 500 buildings totally destroyed and over 8000 heavily damaged. Nonetheless, Erfurt was the lucky one.
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Old April 27th, 2010, 10:32 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Suburbanist View Post
Without discussing the bombings themselves, I don't like the idea followed by many cities (reconstruct as original), particularly in regard of severely damaged, beyond repair, places. I prefer the Rotterdam approach, which rebuilt itself completely different after the War, and I wished, in first place, that we had never to have seen such destruction in Europe (in both sides tbc), and in second place that they reconstructed razed ares with modernist architecture.
With the Rotterdam approach, has the redesign of the city and its architecture yielded a collection of structures that are respected both architecturally and in terms of the citizenry adoring the appearances?
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Old April 28th, 2010, 10:30 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brisavoine View Post
Today when you visit Strasbourg, it may appear that the city did not suffer any damage during WW2. In fact many people often say that Strasbourg is the only Germanic city outside of Switzerland that still remains intact today.../img]
Then many people are very misinformed... What about Regensburg or Passau, Bamberg, Heidelberg, Baden Baden, Konstanz, Görlitz, Erfurt, Schwerin, Flensburg and the thousands of smaller cities and towns?

And whats lately with so many British and American forumers nonkritical approval of the bombings? Thats rather sad...

Last edited by Tiaren; April 28th, 2010 at 10:47 AM.
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Old April 28th, 2010, 02:07 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Suburbanist View Post
Without discussing the bombings themselves, I don't like the idea followed by many cities (reconstruct as original), particularly in regard of severely damaged, beyond repair, places. I prefer the Rotterdam approach, which rebuilt itself completely different after the War, and I wished, in first place, that we had never to have seen such destruction in Europe (in both sides tbc), and in second place that they reconstructed razed ares with modernist architecture.
The situation of Rotterdam was not comparable considering the magnitude of the bombings. The decision to tear everything down that was left standing and start all over came more from necessity than it was a choice.

Not everyone agreed with that approach either as the whole structure of the old town (canals) was destroyed as well. Besides the city has a rather cold and uninviting city center now which luckily is getting better every year now.
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Old April 28th, 2010, 07:15 PM   #12
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Then many people are very misinformed... What about Regensburg or Passau, Bamberg, Heidelberg, Baden Baden, Konstanz, Görlitz, Erfurt, Schwerin, Flensburg and the thousands of smaller cities and towns?
I meant "the only large Germanic city outside of Switzerland". That's what I meant.

At the 1936 census, Strasbourg and its suburbs (i.e. the Groß-Straßburg created by the German occupiers from 1940 to 1944) had 249,693 inhabitants (in an area of 138 km²).

In comparison Erfurt had only 165,000 inhabitants in 1939. Regensburg had 96,000 inhabitants in 1939. Passau had even less inhabitants than Regensburg. Heidelberg had 86,000 inhabitants, Bamberg had 59,000 inhabitants, Baden-Baden had 33,000 inhabitants, etc. All smaller cities.
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Old April 28th, 2010, 07:28 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suburbanist View Post
Without discussing the bombings themselves, I don't like the idea followed by many cities (reconstruct as original), particularly in regard of severely damaged, beyond repair, places. I prefer the Rotterdam approach, which rebuilt itself completely different after the War, and I wished, in first place, that we had never to have seen such destruction in Europe (in both sides tbc), and in second place that they reconstructed razed ares with modernist architecture.
Usually I'm in favor of modern architecture. I'm against turning the city centers into sacred sanctuaries where no modern buildings are allowed, as is the case in Paris (). But I think a city needs some historical buildings and some old streets too, otherwise it loses its soul, it loses some historical depth. And besides, the old city center of Strasbourg is gorgeous.

Would you rather they didn't rebuild the historical buildings here?


And here?




And here?
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Old April 28th, 2010, 08:08 PM   #14
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Place Gutenberg in 1921:


Place Gutenberg in 1944 (notice the little blue square which indicates the same building in 1921 and 1944):


Place Gutenberg today (notice the little blue and red squares, which indicate the same buildings as in 1944):


From street level (blue square building to the left):
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Old April 28th, 2010, 08:41 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiaren View Post
And whats lately with so many British and American forumers nonkritical approval of the bombings? Thats rather sad...
You have to look at the bombings in context of what was going on in the war at the time. It is easy to criticise Allied bombing in isolation but it would do you good to remember the words of Arthur 'Bomber' Harris "The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind."

I think Japanese forumers set the best example - they lost more of their cities than anyone else but I have yet to see them criticise Allied bombing.
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Old April 28th, 2010, 08:54 PM   #16
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They dropped bombs on undefended cities, on civilian city centres. They developed techniques to kill as many people as possible. They could have chosen not to do so, but they did. And that's that.
No need for hero worship.

Isn't Strassburg also the town with the most Swabian/Alamannic half-timbered buildings?
Was it before the War?

Last edited by Clay Hefner; April 28th, 2010 at 09:20 PM.
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Old April 28th, 2010, 10:15 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by 3SPIRES View Post
You have to look at the bombings in context of what was going on in the war at the time. It is easy to criticise Allied bombing in isolation but it would do you good to remember the words of Arthur 'Bomber' Harris "The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind."

I think Japanese forumers set the best example - they lost more of their cities than anyone else but I have yet to see them criticise Allied bombing.
The bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and tokyo are criticized all the time. Regarding the bombings of Germany, the issue is a matter of scope. Dresden lost more civilians in 2 days than England in all the war from aerial bombings, for example.
The point of the thread, in part, is to mourn the loss of buildings indiscriminately destroyed during the war. It is fairly silly to consider their destruction a worthy cause when we are all bemoaning their fate.
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Old April 28th, 2010, 10:28 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by 3SPIRES View Post
I think Japanese forumers set the best example - they lost more of their cities than anyone else but I have yet to see them criticise Allied bombing.
That's probably because you don't speak Japanese and you never visit the Japanese forums. American conventional bombings of Japan are harshly criticized by the Japanese for their inhumanity. Even in the US they are criticized. And the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are of course still some very contentious issues. A common view in Japan is that the Americans would never have dared to wreak as much destruction in Europe as they wreaked in Japan.
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Old April 29th, 2010, 11:03 PM   #19
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I meant "the only large Germanic city outside of Switzerland". That's what I meant.
Then you (French) have to take good care of it for us (Germans).
One question:
How much of Strasbourgs German/Germanic heritage is preserved? Like names of streets, quarters, houses or cuisine, local music, traditions in general...
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Old April 30th, 2010, 02:58 PM   #20
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One question:
How much of Strasbourgs German/Germanic heritage is preserved? Like names of streets, quarters, houses or cuisine, local music, traditions in general...
It's odd you're asking. You live pretty close to Strasbourg. You've never been there?

About the Germanic heritage, I'd say due to the trauma of WW2 (Nazi occupation, young Alsatians conscripted by force into the Wehrmacht and sent to the Eastern front, forced Germanization campaigns such as the obligation to change the French given names into German given names based on a list published by the Nazi authorities, and so on), there was a rejection of anything Germanic after 1945.

Nazi occupation (1940-1944):


Conscription by force into the Wehrmacht:


Alsatian Résistance against the Germans:


Liberation in 1944 (this poster printed by some local non-Nazi Alsatian authorities was destined to the US Army, so the US soldiers don't confuse the Alsatians with the Germans):


Many Alsatians villages lay in ruins (here near Colmar in March 1945):


Rejection of Germanic culture in 1945 due to the trauma of the German occupation (this poster was printed in 1945 in reaction to the Nazi poster printed in 1940 that I posted above; in Alsatian dialect "Schwowe" means "the Germans", i.e. the guys living across the Rhine, from an Alsatian perspective):


In the years following the war, this rejection of anything Germanic meant people felt uncomfortable about their Germanic heritage and their local culture. They wanted to look as French as people in the rest of France, and many people spoke only French to their children, thus not transmitting the Alsatian dialect, and disregarded the traditional local culture. It is only in the 1970s that the tide turned, people started to assert their distinctive Alsatian culture again and were not ashamed of their Germanic heritage anymore. Also, the reconciliation of France and Germany after 1962 meant that speaking German was now considered an asset and not something to be rejected.

So the situation today is the result of this complicated past. About the names of the streets, in Strasbourg the street names in the old city center are written in French and in Alsatian below the French names (but not in German, because German names would sound too much like the German occupation during WW2). I believe they added the Alsatian names only after 1970 (those names were the very ancient names of the streets, but probably after WW2 only the French names appeared on the street signs, and I believe it is only after 1970, when people felt comfortable enough about their Germanic heritage that they must have added the signs with the ancient Alsatian names). Those Alsatian names appear only in the old city center where the streets had ancient Alsatian names. Outside the old city center, the street names are in French only.

Here you have some examples:
image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


About the quarters, it's a mix of French and German names which reflect the complicated history of the city (some quarters have French names "la Petite France", "l'Esplanade", while other quarters have German names "Neudorf", "Meinau", although this last quarter is most often called "la Meinau", i.e. German name with a French article).

About the houses, I'm not familiar enough with the city to respond completely, but I know some house names (a typical German tradition which doesn't really exist in the French-speaking world) have been translated in French, although I've seen some other house names that were kept in German or in Alsatian on ancient façades.

About the cuisine, it's still very Alsatian, with unmistakable Germanic roots. The most famous local dish is the choucroute (known as Sauerkraut in German, "choucroute" being the French pronunciation of Sauerkraut). They use lots of pork meat and sausages, potatoes, fermented cabbage, beer, and Riesling white wine of course! So very Germanic overall. Note that Alsatian cuisine is quite famous in the rest of France too.

About local music and traditions, in Western European big cities the local music and traditions have essentially disappeared, and Strasbourg is no exception. Concerning the language, some forumers from Strasbourg wrote that you can almost never hear Alsatian in Strasbourg nowadays. People speak French (Alsatian can still be heard in the villages, but not in Strasbourg). Of course many people have also learnt German at school as a foreign language, and they usually speak it much better than in the rest of France because the schools in Alsace put more emphasis on German that in the rest of France due to Alsace's proximity to Germany, so you should normally find many people in Strasbourg able to talk with you in German.
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