Berlin at the end of the War, 1945

The area extending north beyond the Brandenburg Gate was later controlled by Soviets for almost 40 year. Note the portrait of Stalin in the center.
The area extending north beyond the Brandenburg Gate was later controlled by Soviets for almost 40 year. Note the portrait of Stalin in the center.
Berlin after the War was a post-apocalyptic world. One of the largest and most modern cities of Europe was left a wasteland. There were vast piles of rubble everywhere. Other areas were rows of building walls with collaosed interiors — the skeletons of a destroyed city. The irreplaceable architectural gems of the Schlüter, Knobelsdorf, Schadow and Schinkel were annihilated. Palaces, museums, churches, monuments and cultural sites fell victim to the bombs.

The city was bombed by the RAF Bomber Command between 1940 and 1945, by the USAAF Eighth Air Force between 1943 and 1945, and the French Armee de l’Air between 1944 and 1945 as part of the Allied campaign of strategic bombing of Germany. It was also attacked by aircraft of the Red Air Force, especially in 1945 as Soviet forces closed on the city. British bombers dropped 45,517 tons of bombs; the Americans dropped 23,000 tons. About a third of the city, especially the inner-city, was in ruins: 600,000 apartments had been destroyed, and only 2.8 million of the city’s original population of 4.5 million still lived in the city. stimates of the total number of dead in Berlin from air raids range from 20,000 to 50,000.

When the Soviets (who were the first occupying power) arrived in Berlin, they saw a city devastated by the air raids and street fighting. It was described as a Geisterstadt (“ghost town”). According to Soviet estimations, the clean-up operation would last 12 years. On May 29, all women aged between 15 and 65 were conscripted as Trümmerfrauen (rubble women). In all, 60,000 women worked to rebuild Berlin.

The biggest problem that the Berliners had to face was the threat of starvation. German war-time ration cards were no longer valid. Any remaining rations were either used to feed Russian troops or stolen by hungry Germans. On May 15, the Russians introduced a new five-tier ration-card system: The highest tier was reserved for intellectuals and artists; rubble women and Schwerarbeiter (manual workers) received the second-tier card, which was more valuable to them than the 12 Reichsmark they received for cleaning up a thousand bricks; the lowest card, nicknamed the Friedhofskarte (cemetery ticket) was issued to housewives and the elderly. During this period, the average Berliner was around 6 to 9 kg (13 to 20 lb) underweight.

Excellent aerial view showing devastation and bombed out buildings over wide area.
Excellent aerial view showing devastation and bombed out buildings over wide area.
The damage was largely the result of incendiaries, not high explosives, so there wasn't much to cause craters.
The damage was largely the result of incendiaries, not high explosives, so there wasn’t much to cause craters.
Overall, Berlin was bombed 363 times by British, American and Russian aircraft.
Overall, Berlin was bombed 363 times by British, American and Russian aircraft.
Tanks in the streets of Berlin.
Tanks in the streets of Berlin.
The reconstruction process for Germany began fully in 1948 but the city was not truly rebuilt until the 1980′s.
The reconstruction process for Germany began fully in 1948 but the city was not truly rebuilt until the 1980s.
Statisticians calculated that for every inhabitant of Berlin there were nearly 30 cubic meters of rubble.
Statisticians calculated that for every inhabitant of Berlin there were nearly 30 cubic meters of rubble.
The Reichstag
The Reichstag.
Ruins of the Reichstag in Berlin, 3 June 1945.
Ruins of the Reichstag in Berlin, 3 June 1945.
In the last days the fight happened road to road.
In the last days the fight happened road to road.
The Fall of Nazi Germany.
An iconic picture. The Fall of Nazi Germany.
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21 comments
  • bombing was very inaccurate, like 100 miles off or something/ these building were not targets-just misses. bombing civilians would only make them fight more, either side. this destruction and murder is always the outcome of decision to go to war. when will we ever learn?

    • Just keep in mind that if we had not entered WWII, the Atlantic coast of our country, as well as most of Europe, would be speaking German today and goose-stepping down the street. The Pacific coast would be speaking Japanese today and bowing to the Emperor. WWII was necessary because of megalomaniacs like Hitler and Tojo. Yes, civilians got killed. That’s regrettable, but sometimes necessary. Look at our own Civil War. 600,000 killed, but if the outcome had been different, The USA would not exist today. Sometimes bad things must be done.

      • Why would we have failed to protect our Atlantic and Pacific coast, yet saved the rest of the country? You do realize that Hawaii is a 12 hour flight from our actual west coast, right? How would the Germans and Japanese fought in Europe and also had the supplies and personnel to repeatedly attack so far from home? Believe it or not, the same military we have that fought over there, can defend our border over here, without having to travel. Your opinion is completely wrong, but it did give you a reason to use the term “goose stepping” to make you sound intelligent.

    • CEP was less than a mile for B-17s flying at 20,000 feet. The problem was that you couldn’t aim clearly a lot of times given the smoke and flak that the Germans put out to protect their industries, so finally “precision bombing” gave way to “area bombing” and incendiary bombing to make up for the inaccuracy.

      Of note, that long empty area in the photos north of the Brandenburg Gate (which is shown in the 1930 picture as having lots of trees) was actually cleared (the trees cut down) by the Nazis as the Battle of Berlin got underway in 1945 so that they could land small planes there for various purposes. The actual level of destruction in Berlin that is attributable to the bombing versus the two or so weeks of house-to-house fighting between the Germans and Soviets at the end is unknown to this day.

    • JoeyRoman, if the U.S. had continued to allow the Axis to keep expanding, eventually the Axis would have obtained favorable positions from which to attack and invade its shores. That’s not to say that an attack would be easy, as two oceans provided a measure of protection from invasion then and continue to do so today. (Then there’s the U.S. Navy.) But if allowed to expand unimpeded, the Axis would have become more powerful than they ever did during the war.

  • With our firebombing of Dresden and Potsdam and many other German cities that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians we committed war crimes against Germany. Just like the Americans did when they nuked Japan. It’s only the fact that we won the war that stopped us allies being put on trial for our numerous war crimes.

    • Indeed, John 316. The US didn’t win the war by itself, but was on the winning side. That was enough for us to give ourselves immunity for the crimes this country committed against the civilians during the war. The fact that we made a deal with Stalin is a crime in itself. All we did was exchange one dictator for another one. We like to look down on the Germans because of the concentration camps, which, we didn’t even know about until the war was almost over. We conveniently forget our own legacy of slavery, and Indian affairs that went on for CENTURIES.

  • “No one is more blind than a person that does not want to see”… there IS evil in some humans that needs to be dealt with (like ISIS at the moment); if a snake wants to bite you, you don’t “discuss” with it, you kill it… and unfortunately, there are humans that are worse than snakes.

  • All of us have the capacity to commit evil and/or good. The only questions are the circumstances under which we grow up. All of us want to be relatively happy and will justify our action at any cost. The only thing which counts is to not believe in anything and keep the good and evil in balance. This of course means the admitance that we are all hypocrites at times. The only dogma which has merrit is the Golden Rule.

  • Karma comes back. Warsaw before II WW had about 1.5 milion citizens. After war about 10 thousands and was far more destroyed than any German city. Germans did the same in occupied countries.

  • World should be watchful so that the likes of Hitler, Suddam etc do not rise. How did Germany fall victim to a bunch of psychopaths?

  • Most who have made comment do not appreciate the situation at the point of the BEF retreat from Dunkirk, the United Kingdom was standing alone in the world against the might of the largest and most modern army in history, that had been training and equipping with the finest equipment. Their fighting air force, the Luftwaffe was gaining skills and experience prior to the outbreak war.
    Their political system allowed the legal rise to power of Hitler and his henchmen, his manipulation of the system allowed him to attain total control of every aspect of life in Germany which he extended gradually to every conquered territory. He annihilated all opposition in Europe and would have easily gone on to dominate the whole of Asia and Africa had the British sued for peace.
    The American public had no wish to involve itself in what it considered a European problem, at the time it was not realised that it was a problem for mankind.
    Had Churchill not refused to even consider an accord with Hitler, something that was being suggested by other members of the Government, we would most certainly as suggested above be speaking German and the return of slavery, suppression and extermination would swiftly have arisen. The spirited resistance of the RAF prevented the Luftwaffe from gaining air superiority this prompted Hitler to put Operation Sealion on the back burner and he sealed his final fate by turning on Russia
    In hindsight those who did not live through the terror of those years glibly talk of ‘The Allies’ being guilty of war crimes. I suggest those people read the many history books detailing every air sea and land battle that took place, the official information, the personal accounts of the combatants and the survivors of the Nazi terror camps then decide who were the guilty ones.
    Americans were lucky to have had F.D.R as their President and the UK were equally lucky to have had Churchill as our Prime Minister. The accord that the two men developed was of critical importance to the world we now live in. The constant badgering by Churchill for aid from the latent industrial might of the US found a sympathetic ear from the wise Roosevelt, a campaign finally made most of the US public see the need to destroy the evil Nazi regime.
    I saw and experience the devastating results on both Berlin and London. I experienced as a young boy the terror of seeing the V weapons dropping on my local area in the South East of England, A V1 fell just 500 yards from myself and school friends many locally suffered much more.
    In later years just after the war I spent two years as a conscript soldier in Berlin and Hamburg. I spent my early working years prior to conscription in London and to my recollection the centre of Berlin and many parts of London were in a similar state of destruction.
    During my apprentice ship which started in 1953 I met many ex soldiers returning to civvie street, in Berlin a few years later I met many ex German soldiers recently returned to their families, neither were keen to talk of the horrors they experienced although there was a common theme repeated by ex German soldiers and that was none of them had anything to do with the atrocities committed.
    The Civilians were terrified of the presence of the Russians surrounding Berlin, I had a 17 year old German girl friend and as I got to know her mother I learned that she was fathered by a Russian soldier who had raped her mother, which explained the faint slant at the corner of her eyes so I guessed he may well have been of Siberian decent. Her mother hated Russians, understandably I suppose.
    Terrible deeds are perpetrated during wars. You cannot make judgements on the knowledge of a few facts or poorly understood stories and certainly not movies, the history of war is grounded in millions of facts, ideas, plans, mistakes, personal decisions and strategies that are governed by thousand of competing options.

    • Ken. That was absolutely fantastic to read and I thank you for posting. I am from Central England but work in Berlin often and so am always interested to learn. Thank you.

  • If Germany waited 5 yrs before it started a war the whole world would be Aryan. Germany designed the stealth bomber plans were found of its design and they think the actual plane was destroyed in bombings (or prob found) they were so far ahead. they had nuke tech rockets jet planes. all on drawing board and prototypes. they just didnt have patients.

  • Human beings are for a pretty short period of time present on the surface of the tinny planet earth. The history records but much much longer. It is not even a perfect living creature of all times. 10k years after our in the time-gap temporary living is going to reveal that we were pretty primitive, aggressive, inexorable greedy beings fighting for survival. The fact is we as so called humans aren’t able to manage the entire universe entirely. Destructions & reconstructions are in process all the time. The evolution of species. We may say some of us have deteriorated (because of material greed..) already==> did not proceeded accordingly to our modest wishes or ideas. ..only 5-8km of breathing air available for living. Not much when using nuclear weapon considering that the consequences will benefit your own children. Recently the UN declares with the majority of votes that production of NU weapon is ILLEGAL. But none of the states (US,UK,India, Israel,Russia..) involved or possessing this kind of weapon were present. They boycotted the particular resolution. So ==> WHERE is the REASON??!! …—… …—… And what can you do as a single unimportant individual. …—…

  • It is amazing that most people still think they owe the liberation of Europe to the American army. Sure, it helped, but the real war was won by the Soviet army fighting most of the German army on the eastern front, causing over 20 million deaths on the Russian side. That is nowhere near the sacrifice of Western allies.

  • I am not moved by any of these pictures considering what these barbarians did to Warsaw and to the Polish people in general. 6 million Polish citizens dead at the hands of a nation stupid enough to follow that Austrian son of a jackal. You get no sympathy from me, you deserved it all.

  • That was the consequence of a choice Germans made a few years earlier, when they decided to enslave ‘subhumans’ and commit genocide.

    Convinced to be superior to all other peoples, Germans considered themselves invincible and invulnerable. No German thought for a second that the war they chose to wage could have negative consequences for themselves.

    When the bombs rained on german cities, Germans were convinced they were winning.

  • Germany was extremely close to complete hegemony in Europe. If Mussolini hadn’t attacked Greece and diverted Hitler’s attention from the Russian question, the four weeks spent helping out the Italians would have been four weeks less of winter weather in Russia. The diversion to Greece was deemed a crucial mistake by many of the German Generals involved. If that hadn’t happened, the Russian oilfields in the Caucasus would have been at Hitler’s disposal and the Soviet defensive would have probably collapsed. Then Britain would have been facing Germany with only the help of the distant United States (which was preoccupied with the Pacific War). With the USSR out of the war, Rommel would have been better supplied in North Africa and Britain would have been eliminated from the Mediterranean. Then Germany could focus on the already beleaguered England and the United States with all of Europe’s resources at it’s disposal. I don’t think people realize how close Germany was to total victory. Germany blunted it’s military might against the Russian winter, and everything else followed from that. But as to the destruction that happens in the war, it was tragic and necessary. The outcome of the war was not certain, and had to be determined by whatever means necessary to force capitulation. Keep that in mind when you discuss the destruction of Germany and of all the cities destroyed during the war.

Rare Historical Photos

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