Allied bomb destruction of Nürnberg

German boy surveys bomb damage in Nürnberg

In December 1944, Germany had lost the decisive Battle of the Bulge and the Allies were preparing for victory, as World War II was coming to an end. American soldiers had landed on the beaches at Normandy in June 1944, and were advancing toward Germany from the west. The Soviet army had taken Poland in July 1944, and German troops were in retreat on the Eastern front. The war in Europe was very clearly over - except for the wanton destruction of historic German cities, which began with the bombing of Nürnberg.

Nürnberg was famous for producing toys and gingerbread cookies, not war materials; it was the ideological center of Nazi Germany and Hitler's favorite city. Nürnberg was regarded as the "most German" of all the cities in Germany, which made it a target for vindictive Allied bombing.

On the night of January 2, 1945, 514 British Lancaster bombers and 7 other British planes destroyed or damaged most of the old city, including the medieval walls, the historic castle and two centuries-old Gothic churches. At that point in the war, it was the most devastating air-raid attack on a civilian population and only the Allied bombing of Dresden, six weeks later, caused more damage and civilian deaths in Germany. On March 15, 1945, American bombs hit a church in the small historic town of Gardelegen and on March 31, 1945, the medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber which had no military importance at all was bombed by American planes. When Germany was divided after the war, the eastern half was ruled by the Soviet Communists who would not allow the Germans to rebuild their churches.

Medieval city of Nürnberg after British bombing - January 1945

Photo Credit: Charles J. Sheridan

The following description of the bombing of Nürnberg is from the "Campaign Dairy 1945" on the web site of the British Royal Air Force Bomber Command:

2/3 January 1945

Nuremberg: 514 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups. 4 Lancasters were lost and 2 crashed in France. Nuremberg, scene of so many disappointments for Bomber Command, finally succumbed to this attack. The Pathfinders produced good ground-marking in conditions of clear visibility and with the help of a rising full moon. The centre of the city, particularly the eastern half, was destroyed. The castle, the Rathaus, almost all the churches and about 2,000 preserved medieval houses went up in flames. The area of destruction also extended into the more modern north-eastern and southern city areas.The industrial area in the south, containing the important MAN and Siemens factories, and the railway areas were also severely damaged. 415 separate industrial buildings were destroyed. It was a near-perfect example of area bombing.

View of the bomb damage of Nürnberg from the castle hill

Photo Credit: Charles J. Sheridan

When Hitler planned his attack on the Communist Soviet Union in June 1941, the code name for the invasion was Operation Barbarossa. Frederick Barbarossa was the second monarch to occupy the Kaiserburg (Emperor's castle) high upon a sandstone crag above the walled medieval city of Nürnberg. The 13th century castle suffered major damage in the Allied bombing, as shown in the photo below.

View of Nürnberg Castle after bomb damage - 1945

Photo Credit: Charles J. Sheridan

The two views of the Kaiserburg shown below were taken from the southwest side, using approximately the same tripod holes. The black and white picture was taken by an American photographer, who was covering the Nürnberg war crimes trial in 1945, and the second picture, which is in color, was taken in May 1997, long after the bomb-damaged castle had been restored. The second picture shows a construction crane for work that was still being done.

Bomb damage to castle in Nürnberg

Same view of castle after reconstruction

Bombed Churches


Hans Sachs

Zeppelin Field

Palace of Justice

City of Nürnberg


E-Mail Us

This page was last updated on May 9, 2009