The enormous war damage of the years 1939-45 far outweighs the losses that Germany had suffered up to then during its millennial history. In accordance with the development of war actions, the destructions took place in different periods. The airstrikes began slowly in the spring of 1940 and subsequently escalated with a crescendo of violence and intensity. The main targets in the first two years were the large cities of the western Rhine regions and the North Sea coast. Only from 1943 did the cities of southern Germany also suffer from the attacks of the Anglo-American bomber squadrons. Finally the terrible carpet of bombs spread almost uniformly over the whole country west of the Oder, with consequences made more serious when the warring war reached German territory. Only the eastern regions, located in the Soviet war zone, were spared large-scale air strikes. However, they then had to suffer more in the winter of 1944-45 when the war of movement also crossed the eastern German border.
Characteristic for this war was the destruction of entire cities, such as Würzburg and Dresden, whose ancient center was completely destroyed following a single senseless air attack. Other cities were hit repeatedly such as Nuremberg, Munich, Augsburg, Berlin, Cologne, Aachen. Trier, Koblenz, Mainz, Darmstadt, Worms, Heilbronn, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Pforzheim, Freiburg i also belong to the most seriously damaged cities in the western regions. Br., Freudenstadt; in Westphalia, Bielefeld, Paderborn, Siegen, Bochum, Dortmund, Münster, Hildesheim; on the North Sea coast, Hamburg, Bremen, Emden; on that of the Baltic, Lübeck, Rostock, Wismar, Anklam, Stettin, Königsberg; in Saxony, Dresden, Leipzig, Schneeberg. Little is known about the fate of the cities of Silesia; but Breslau is heavily damaged, as is Neisse. In the famous Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Franconia, a district of bourgeois dwellings and the town hall were destroyed; but the real center of the city was saved. In Soest (Westphalia), on the other hand, not inferior to Rothenburg for the wealth of monuments, almost all the Romanesque and Gothic buildings are severely damaged. Potsdam was also largely destroyed.
If the loss of these architectural complexes amounts to several hundreds, thousands of individual buildings have been destroyed, among which we recall some of the most important.
The most serious loss, among the large residences, is perhaps that of Monaco, whose interior was demolished by explosions and fires. The interior of the Archbishopric of Würzburg, Balthasar Neumann’s masterpiece, was also destroyed by fire; only the frescoes by GB Tiepolo were saved. The Schlüter castle in Berlin and those in Dresden, Charlottenburg, Bonn, Brühl, Mannheim, Bruchsal, Aschaffenburg, Neustrelitz, Koblenz and Mainz collapsed. In Nuremberg the old Hohenzollern castle is turned into a ruin. Although much of the furniture in these castles was saved before the catastrophe, the decorations, closely linked to the architecture, have disappeared.
According to lawschoolsinusa, the situation is not different with regard to the churches. Many of them will be restored in the best possible way even for the need of worship, but their furnishings have been, in most cases, irretrievably lost, such as, for example, the very rich series of paintings, sculptures and altars of the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries in the churches of Würzburg, Mainz, Paderborn, Dresden and other cities. Particularly serious is the loss of the Romanesque churches on the Rhine, in Cologne, Koblenz, Bonn, Aachen (where only the palatine chapel, only slightly damaged, was saved by a singular case), Münster. The Gothic churches of Lübeck, Berlin, Nuremberg, Gdansk and other cities of the Baltic and Wroclaw (cathedral) also suffered serious damage. The cathedral of Cologne has lost its vaults. The Dresden Frauenkirche was completely destroyed by fire, while at least the main parts of the court church remain. The Würzburg cathedral, whose roof had been redone, collapsed again. The outer walls of the Munich Frauenkirche have been preserved. Only a part of the cathedral of St. Hedwig has been saved in Berlin.
Municipal buildings also suffered painful losses. The Gothic municipal buildings of Aachen, Münster, Ulm, Schwäbisch-Hall, the baroque one in Nuremberg, the imposing Elias Holl municipal building of the late Renaissance in Augsburg are reduced more or less to a heap of ruins. Rothenburg town hall.
Also valuable ancient bridges were blown up by the fleeing German armies, such as the so-called Drusus bridge, from the Romanesque era, near Bingen, the Gothic bridges of Würzburg, Regensburg, Rothenburg or. T., Kreuznach, Koblenz and so on.
Particularly painful is the loss of numerous museums, although their contents have almost always been saved. But the buildings are, in most cases, destroyed or useless. Thus, for example, the grandiose complex of museums in Berlin, conceived by Bode, is to a large extent upset; in Munich the two art galleries will probably no longer be used; in Nuremberg the Germanic National Museum is in ruins, as well as the museums of Cologne, Frankfurt, Essen, Bremen, Karlsruhe, Cassel, Würzburg, Stuttgart, Erfurt, Mainz, and other cities. But the most serious loss, probably to be considered definitive, is that of the very precious artistic collections of Berlin and Dresden, which were taken away by the Russians. From Dresden alone 1700 paintings have disappeared, from the eastern area in all 2800. Only the works of
The damage caused by looting in Silesia was also very serious, where many artistic treasures had been transported from the western regions to save them from air attacks. They have all been lost; and radically plundered were the castles of the Silesian nobility and many even demolished by the Russians in order to erase any memory of the feudal era. In the western regions too, many castles and palaces rich in works of art of all kinds have been devastated and set on fire.