Photos found of German cities before WWII bombing

Aerial shots newly unearthed in Harz region attic

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Jon Blaze
As published in The Guardian: Pictures of German cities from the air before they were bombed by the allies during the second world war.

A set of negatives has been discovered in an attic in the Harz region, showing German cities from the air before they were bombed by the allies. Commissioned by the Nazis, the photos were taken at an unusual diagonal angle to give a sense of the full sweep of the cities. They were meant to assist in Hitler's wish to rebuild Germany to its former glory after his triumph.
Interesting.

Munich, Marienplatz, with the town hall and the Frauenkirche:

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Lorelei
Those are very interesting. A lot of these places must have been stunning. I'm sure someone will correct me on this, but I've always wondered why, when you see photos of German cities after they were bombed, so many of the churches are still standing. Is it a coincidence, was it just luck, could they withstand the bombing better than other buildings or did the bombers try to avoid them.
William
They were very heavily sandbagged so they would survive anything except a direct hit.
bluedave
Churches were used as waypoints by the bombers to aid in navigation and bomb aiming and as such were left alone.
Ralf
There is a book called "Verlorene Pracht: Geschichten von zerstörten Gebäuden". It has pictures of beautiful/impressive houses and structures that were destroyed during WWII and are lost forever. Very sad actually, especially, for instance, when you take a look at Stuttgart's town hall today.

http://www.amazon.de/Verlorene-Pracht-Gesc...0298&sr=8-1
the_cat
Absolutely bluedave. The allies were under strict orders to not bomb the Frauenkirche for these reasons. The church did actually receive a hit by accident, and, in fact, if you go inside it is possible to see how the back was rebuilt.
BattalionBoy
The bomber pilots that I have met told me that they were so nervous that their mouths completely dried up and the chewing gum stuck to the roof of their mouths, when you are in that situation I doubt very much you would be trying your best to avoid some church especially when they were bombing through clouds or at night. More good fortune I think, much like St Paul’s cathedral in London, otherwise what went wrong at Dresden.
RMA
what went wrong at Dresden
When you're setting out to burn the whole central area of the city to the ground, you don't really need to leave any landmarks, because there's not going to be anything left to go back to.
Small Town Boy
Yeah, it wasn't a bomb that caused the church to collapse, it was the firestorm that raged for several days afterwards. The church was pretty much the last building to fall because, as elsewhere, they are amazingly strong. That's why they last for hundreds and hundreds of years.
sarabyrd
But then the Germans turn around and blast the churches themselves! Look at what happened in Cologne:
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(and most of all, read the date on the article)

Old pictures of cities that you know well are always fascinating, you think: This and that is gone, but actually it hasn't been built yet.

EDIT: I have been to various cities and visited various churches; every single one of them had a niche documenting the damages during WW II. I cannot recall any major church in Nuremberg, Vienna, Munich, Augsburg or Cologne that wasn't damaged.
nickjbutt
I was only talking to a colleague a few days ago about a very similar subject. We all know that the impressive old buildings in Munich are probably not really that old at all. Many of them will have suffered extensive damage, or even total destruction, during the war. What we see now is, presumably, a rebuild using as much of the original stonework as possible, but how did they know what it looked like down to the finest details. Did the rebuild use original drawings (probably unlikely) or was there a real effort in the time leading up to the war to photograph everything from every angle in order to prepare for the worst? I can imagine that anybody suggesting such a move would be outcast as a doom-monger, especially given that the pre-war German regime was not considered to be tolerant of negativity. Perhaps these photos give an insight into how such a fantastic feat was achieved.

Then compare this to many UK cities. Concrete monstrosities, with no soul. Although whether that is a war legacy or the overzealous town planners of the 1960s is an argument that could rage for decades...
Allershausen
I believe something like 80% of Munich was distroyed during WW2 although the Frauenkirche was not greatly damaged. Didn't we have a thread about this recently?
sarabyrd
What we see now is, presumably, a rebuild using as much of the original stonework as possible, but how did they know what it looked like down to the finest details. Did the rebuild use original drawings (probably unlikely) or was there a real effort in the time leading up to the war to photograph everything from every angle in order to prepare for the worst?
I worked in the Preysingpalais in Munich for several years (Residenzstrasse 27, right behind the Feldherrnhalle). The stairwell is mentioned in several guidebooks as an example of Baroque artistry, we got tons of tourists viewing it and admiring it in whispers while its acousitcs are remarkable and it's well worth speaking up there. Anyway, it was completely rebuilt in 1963 following the original plans which had been stored away with other documents from the Staatsbibliothek. The real estate was bought up by a Swiss investor for a song and a half under the proviso that he had to rebuild the Palais as true to the original as possible, especially the facade and doorways had to remain unchanged.
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Take a look at it next time you're wandering towards the Theatinerkirche; you really would think that it had survived the bombings while in reality it was 99% destroyed.

P.S. This is the spot in Residenzstrasse where cyclists and pedestrians tend to collide.
the_cat
The city was heavily photographed by the Nazis for the purpose of re-building prior to the bombings. You have to at least give them credit for that.
eurovol
I want to see the before and after pics!

Walk behind some of the old buildings or along the alleyways and you can see where the foundations were built back onto with whatever was available.
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