Hauptmarkt, Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany

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Hauptmarkt, Nuremberg, in the 16th century

Introduction

In another post, I have written about Albrecht Duerer’s House in the Old City of Nuremberg. The master was one of the famous sons of Nuremberg.

Today I am going on a different trip to Nuremberg.

Hauptmarkt is the main square in Nuremberg’s old town. Its two landmarks are:

  • Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) – on the right far side
  • Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful fountain) – on the left near the center side
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Frauenkirche, Nuremberg, October 2010, Photo: N. Moropoulos

Frauenkirche was built between 1352 and 1362.

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Schöner Brunnen, Nuremberg, October 2010, Photo: N. Moropoulos

Schöner Brunnen was built from 1385 to 1396.

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Hauptmarkt, Nuremberg

This post presents some of the square’s and its monuments’ photos and the relevant historical context, structured in two sections: The period 1927-1938, and The Second World War.

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Frauenkirche, Nuremberg, 1850

For many reasons, Nuremberg became one of the three favorite Nazi cities in Germany, along with Berlin and Munich.

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Hauptmarkt, Nuremberg, circa 1891

As a result, Nuremberg was bombed extensively during the Second World War.

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Hauptmarkt, Nuremberg, circa 1891

The period 1927-1938

A lot of the photos in this post were taken before, during or after Nazi rule.

This is not an accident. Nuremberg was one of Hitler’s favorite cities, and it is there that the National Party Convention took place, starting in 1927.

The 3rd National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) Congress (“Day of Awakening”) was held on August 19 – 21, 1927 in Nuremberg. (3)

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The first Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg took place in 1927, and it was an impressive event, in spite of the fact that at the time NSDAP was a small and almost insignificant party, albeit a party that had recovered Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.  (2)

In May 1928 elections, the NSDAP only managed 2.6 percent of the vote nationwide. (4)

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Hitler in Hauptmarkt, with Frauenkirche in the background, 1928

“The Party selected Nuremberg for pragmatic reasons: it was in the center of the German Reich and the local Luitpoldhain was well suited as a venue. In addition, the Nazis could rely on the well-organized local branch of the party in Franconia, then led by Gauleiter Julius Streicher. The Nuremberg police were sympathetic to the event.”(3)

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The music band of  SA in front of Frauenkirche, 19-21 August 1927

Hitler’s 1927 speech

Here are some excerpts form Hitler’s speech to the party members and friends in the 1927 Nuremberg meeting.

“When we examine the concept of power more closely, we see that power has three factors: First, in the numerical size of the population itself. This form of power is no longer present in Germany.

62 million people who seem to hold together are no longer a power factor in a world in which groups with 400 million are increasingly active, nations for which their population is their major tool of economic policy.

If numbers themselves are no longer a power factor, the second factor is territory. This, too, is no longer a power factor for us, even seeming laughable when one can fly across our German territory in a mere four hours. That is no longer an amount of territory that provides its own defense, as is the case with Russia. Its size alone is a means of security. If the first two sources of power, population, and territory, are inadequate, there remains always the third, that which rests in the inner strength of a people. A nation can do astounding things when it carries this power in its own internal values. When, however, we examine the German people, we must to our horror see that this last power factor is no longer present.” (1)

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Hitler and Hermann Goering with Frauenkirche in the background, 1928

“…

That leads to what the large parties proclaim, namely to a nation that thinks internationally, follows the path of democracy, rejects struggle, and preaches pacifism. A people that has accepted these three human burdens, that has given up its racial values, preaches internationalism, that limits its great minds, and has replaced them with the majority, that is inability in all areas, rejecting the individual mind and praising human brotherhood, such a people has lost its intrinsic values. Such a people is incapable of policies that could bring a rising population in line with its territory, or better said: adjust the territory to the population.” (1)

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March in front of Frauenkirche, 1934

Hitler’s rise to power in 1933

“When elections were finally held again in July 1932, the Nazis got a whopping 37.4 percent of the vote.

It was a chilly winter day in 1933 when the German dictatorship began. Thermometers showed a temperature of minus 4 degrees Celsius — the skies were clear. At about 10 a.m., Adolf Hitler, head of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), made his way down Wilhelmstrasse in the heart of Berlin.

The 44-year-old Hitler was on his way to the Reichskanzlei, seat of the Weimar Republic’s government, where both he and his cabinet were to meet with President Paul von Hindenburg. A feeling of relief was in the air. For months, the German state had been limping from one failed government to the next, with three general elections having been held within 10 months. Hopes were high that the next government would provide some desperately needed stability. The swearing-in ceremony was set for 11 a.m.

Hindenburg, 85 years old at the time, spoke for just a few minutes, expressing his pleasure that all had finally managed to come together to form a coalition. Then he turned the floor over to Hitler, and nodded in appreciation as the new chancellor promised to uphold the constitution and govern for the good of the nation. It was Monday, Jan. 30, 1933 — exactly 75 years ago — and Hitler had finally reached his goal.” (4)

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Hitler saluting a parade, Frauenkinche in the background, 1934

“The 6th Party Congress was held in Nuremberg, September 5–10, 1934, which was attended by about 700,000 Nazi Party supporters. Initially it did not have a theme. Later it was labeled the “Rally of Unity and Strength” (Reichsparteitag der Einheit und Stärke), “Rally of Power” (Reichsparteitag der Macht), or “Rally of Will” (Reichsparteitag des Willens). The Leni Riefenstahl film Triumph des Willens was made at this rally.” (3)

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Schöner Brunnen, Nuremberg 1938

The Nuremberg Race Laws

“At the annual party rally held in Nuremberg in 1935, the Nazis announced new laws which institutionalized many of the racial theories prevalent in Nazi ideology. The laws excluded German Jews from Reich citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of “German or related blood.” Ancillary ordinances to the laws disenfranchised Jews and deprived them of most political rights.

The Nuremberg Laws, as they became known, did not define a “Jew” as someone with particular religious beliefs. Instead, anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents was defined as a Jew, regardless of whether that individual identified himself or herself as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religious community. Many Germans who had not practiced Judaism for years found themselves caught in the grip of Nazi terror. Even people with Jewish grandparents who had converted to Christianity were defined as Jews.” (5)

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Schöner Brunnen, Nuremberg, Nazi postcard

‘A long-term policy in this war is only possible if one considers it from the standpoint of the Jewish question.’  Joseph Goebbels.

The Second World War

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Schöner Brunnen in a cement corset, surrounded by ruins. 1945

During the war, Nuremberg has been one of the key targets of the Royal Air Force (RAF) raids. In the following sections I quote extensively from the RAF Bomber Command Archives.

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Frauenkirche surrounded by ruins. 1945

10/11 August 1943

653 aircraft – 318 Lancasters, 216 Halifaxes, 119 Stirlings to Nuremberg.

The Pathfinders attempted to ground-mark the city and, although their markers were mostly obscured by cloud, a useful attack developed in the central and southern parts of Nuremberg. The Lorenzkirche, the largest of the city’s old churches, was badly damaged and about 50 of the houses in the preserved Altstadt were destroyed. There was a large ‘fire area’ in the Wöhrd district. 16 aircraft – 7 Halifaxes, 6 Lancasters, 3 Stirlings – lost, 2.5 per cent of the force. (7)

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Hauptmarkt, Nuremberg, 1945.

27/28 August 1943

674 aircraft – 349 Lancasters, 221 Halifaxes, 104 Stirlings – to Nuremburg.

33 aircraft – 11 of each type on the raid – lost, 4.9 per cent of the force.

The marking for this raid was based mainly on H2S.

47 of the Pathfinder H2S aircraft were ordered to check their equipment by dropping a 1,000-lb bomb on Heilbronn while flying to Nuremberg. 28 Pathfinder aircraft were able to carry out this order. Nuremberg was found to be free of cloud but it was very dark. The initial Pathfinder markers were accurate but a creepback quickly developed which could not be stopped because so many Pathfinder aircraft had difficulties with their H2S sets. The Master Bomber could do little to persuade the Main Force to move their bombing forward; only a quarter of the crews could hear his broadcasts. (7)

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Nuremberg in ruins, with Frauenkirche in the background. 1945

“H2S was the first airborne, ground scanning radar system. It was developed in Britain during World War II for the Royal Air Force and was used in various RAF bomber aircraft from 1943. It was designed to identify targets on the ground for night and all-weather bombing, allowing attack outside the range of the various radio navigation aids like Gee or Oboe which were limited to about 500 km.” (Wikipedia)

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Schöner Brunnen, Nuremberg, 1946

30/31 March 1944

This would normally have been the moon stand-down period for the Main Force, but a raid to the distant target of Nuremberg was planned on the basis of an early forecast that there would be protective high cloud on the outward route, when the moon would be up, but that the target area would be clear for ground-marked bombing. A Meteorological Flight Mosquito carried out a reconnaissance and reported that the protective cloud was unlikely to be present and that there could be cloud over the target, but the raid was not cancelled.

795 aircraft were dispatched – 572 Lancasters, 214 Halifaxes and 9 Mosquitos. The German controller ignored all the diversions and assembled his fighters at 2 radio beacons which happened to be astride the route to Nuremberg. The first fighters appeared just before the bombers reached the Belgian border and a fierce battle in the moonlight lasted for the next hour. 82 bombers were lost on the outward route and near the target. The action was much reduced on the return flight, when most of the German fighters had to land, but 95 bombers were lost in all – 64 Lancasters and 31 Halifaxes, 11.9 per cent of the force dispatched. It was the biggest Bomber Command loss of the war.

Most of the returning crews reported that they had bombed Nuremberg but subsequent research showed that approximately 120 aircraft had bombed Schweinfurt, 50 miles north-west of Nuremberg. This mistake was a result of badly forecast winds causing navigational difficulties. 2 Pathfinder aircraft dropped markers at Schweinfurt. Much of the bombing in the Schweinfurt area fell outside the town and only 2 people were killed in that area. The main raid at Nuremberg was a failure. The city was covered by thick cloud and a fierce cross-wind which developed on the final approach to the target caused many of the Pathfinder aircraft to mark too far to the east. A 10-mile-long creepback also developed into the countryside north of Nuremberg. Both Pathfinders and Main Force aircraft were under heavy fighter attack throughout the raid. Little damage was caused in Nuremberg. (8)

“This was the night when more than 100 Allied bombers — all on the same mission — were lost. Come dawn, more than 700 men were missing, as many as 545 of them dead. More than 160 would end up as prisoners of war. In one night alone, the RAF had lost more men than in the entire Battle of Britain.

He (Commander Harris) wanted a huge force — well over 700 bombers — to drop 2,600 tonnes of explosives on Nuremberg.

The historic city had plenty of major industrial targets, including tank and engine factories, but it was also of huge symbolic importance to the Nazis. Hitler had staged his rallies there and regarded it as the ‘most German’ of German cities. And it had not been touched for months.”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2592084/Still-insult-sacrifice-Exactly-70-years-ago-RAF-suffered-worst-night-losing-106-bombers-545-men-raid-Nuremberg-So-going-unmarked.html#ixzz47kggP72Z
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Hauptmarkt, Nuremberg, 1948

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. (6)

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Frauenkirche, Nuremberg, October 2010. Photo: N. Moropoulos

Epilogue

Today the wounds of the war have healed.

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Schöner Brunnen, Nuremberg, October 2010, Photo: N. Moropoulos

It is only the tourists who raid the beautiful city. Let us hope it will remain this way.

Sources

1. Alfred Rosenberg and Wilhelm Weiß, Reichsparteitag der NSDAP Nürnberg 19./21. August 1927 (Munich: Verlag Frz. Eher, 1927), pp. 38-45.

2. German Propaganda Archive, Calvin College.

3. Wikipedia, Nuremberg Rally.

4. Jan. 30, 1933: The Story behind Hitler’s Rise to Power. Spiegel

5. The Holocaust, A Learning Site for Students. USHMM.

6. Royal Air Force Bomber Command. Campaign Diary 1945. January 1945

7. Royal Air Force Bomber Command. Campaign Diary 1943. August 1943

8. Royal Air Force Bomber Command. Campaign Diary 1944. March 1944