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City in ruins: Photo shows Bonn after air raid in 1944

City in ruins : Photo shows Bonn after air raid in 1944

A photo in the city museum shows the devastating consequences of the air raid on 18 October 1944 in Bonn. The test of a new type of navigation system reduced the city to rubble.

100 photos and objects document the 20th century in Bonn in the current exhibition of the Stadtmuseum "50 Objects - 50 Photos". The view of the destroyed university building, taken in October 1944 over the burnt trees on the Hofgartenwiese, is the devastating test result of a new navigation system. More than 400 people were killed, about 1000 were injured and 20,000 became homeless. Among the 700 buildings destroyed in Bonn were the university, the municipal theatre, the town hall and the Beethovenhalle as well as several school buildings and churches.

Yet this attack was not even part of the Allied strategy of "moral bombing", a bombing of cities to break the morale of the population, explains Horst-Pierre Bothien, curator of the exhibition. The air raid was used to test a new navigation system that would make it possible to hit a target without visual contact, even during the day, to protect pilots and aircraft from air defence attacks. It was part of the victims' sad fate that bad weather had been predicted for the test day in October; the desired conditions to try out the new technology. Bonn also fulfilled another condition for the system test, namely the integrity of the target area in order to be able to determine the accuracy of the navigation electronics and thus the efficiency of the destruction.

Thus, on Wednesday 18 October 1944, 128 "Lancaster" bombers took off from England. "From the British point of view, the attack was a failure. Breakdown followed breakdown", said Bothien. The navigation systems of some command aircraft even failed. Each aircraft dropped a bomb load of about five tons, turning Bonn into a burning inferno.

In loose order, we present here exhibits from the exhibition "50 Objects - 50 Photos - A Journey through Time in the 20th Century", which can be seen in the Stadtmuseum until 18 October. The book "Bonn in the 20th century" by curator Horst-Pierre Bothien has been published in the Stadtmuseum's publication series. Morisel Verlag, 144 pages, 19,90 Euro.

(Original text: Stefan Hermes / Translation: Mareike Graepel)