Follow US:

Practice English Speaking&Listening with: World War II: The Blitz on Cologne - Full Documentary

Difficulty: 0

(engines rumbling)

(dramatic music)

- [Narrator] On the morning of Friday

the fifth of March 1945

the American army were preparing

to enter the city of Cologne.

Before them lay a sea of rubble

which had once been Germany's fourth largest city.

They were awestruck.

This once great thriving industrial city

throbbing with energy and power

was now nothing but a heap of twisted iron

and broken bricks.

Blown up bridges, wrecked railways and rolling stock,

gutted churches, shattered towers and shells of factories

now lay where this great city once proudly stood.

At precisely 700 hours the order was given for the corp

to advance and capture the city.

Tank engines roared into life,

their tracks screeching and squealing

over the fallen masonry.


Steadily but slowly the infantry advanced.

There appeared to be little resistance.

The German troops had withdrawn leaving behind

only a small token force to defend the city.


Street by street the American's cleared Cologne of snipers.

(booming) (guns firing)

By early afternoon it was all over

and the first of the fighting patrols were about to share

an experience they would never forget.

These men had seen war battle times before

they had already seen the effects and the devastation

that the war cause to the towns of Karin, Clares and Aachen

but they were not prepared

for what they saw in this city, Cologne.

The sight they beheld was awesome.

The city lay in complete ruins

save only for the spires of the cathedral

which still soared miraculously to the sky.

One war correspondent on witnessing the ruins first hand

wrote a city is a plan on a map

only here there is no plan.

A city means movement and noise and people

not silence and emptiness and stillness,

a kind of cemetery stillness.

A city should be full of life

and when you find instead the complete negation of life

the effect is shattering.

As the first of the GI's crunched their way

over the broken glass and concrete

they were increasingly dismayed at what they saw and smelt.

From below the rubble came the stench of rotting bodies.

Gradually from out of the charred walls from cellars

and cabins dug out of the rubble

the Cologne citizens came out

into the bright March sunshine.

Small groups of ashen faced survivors who had lived

in candle lit cellars for weeks.

Soon more and more groups of people

cautiously emerged from the debris.

(somber music)

Behind the leading patrol of GI's came the 104th division

spreading out across the city,

mopping up the remaining snipers.

Tanks wrestled their way around craters and over rubble

which once was somebody's home.

In some areas the fallen masonry was so deep

that the streets below were hidden.

All that remained was a mass of gutted, roofless shells.

And yet beneath this debris people were still living.

40,000 of the city's inhabitants had makeshift homes

amongst the fallen concrete.

Before the war 800,000 people lived and worked in the city

now only a handful remained.

(somber music)

In the wrecked square in front of the opera house

there was a sign painted in both english and german

it read, give me five years and you will not recognize

Germany again, Adolf Hitler.

How did all this destruction come about?

It had all begun one night four years earlier

on the 10th of May 1941.

Arthur Harris, then commanding number five bomber group,

stood on the roof of the air ministry at King Charles street

in London's White Hall.


He was surveying the success that the Luftwaffe were having

bombing the heart out of London.

Harris carefully observed the effects of the blast bombs,

heavy fragmentation bombs and incendiaries.

He noted meticulously the effects of the mixture of all

three and considered how much more successful the Luftwaffe

could have been if they had concentrated more aircraft

over the target area and had paid greater attention

to the mixture of bombs

there by creating an even greater conflagration.

Little had Göring realized then just how much

he was inadvertently guiding the hand of retaliation

which was to strike back at Germany

so disastrously in the future.

It was this attack on London that prompted Harris's famous

speech to the British nation.

- The Nazi's entered this war under the rather childish

delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else

and nobody was going to bomb them.

At Rotterdam and London, Warsaw and half a hundred other

places they put that rather naive theory into operation.

They served the wind

and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.

Cologne, Lübeck, Rostock, those are only just the beginning.

We cannot send a thousand bombers a time over Germany

every time as yet

but the time will come when we can do so.

Let the Nazi's take good note of the western horizon

there they will see a cloud as yet no bigger than a man's

hand but behind that cloud lies the whole massive power

of the United States of America.

When the storm bursts over Germany they will look back

to the days of Lubeck and Rostock and Cologne

as a man caught in the blasts of a hurricane

will look back to the gentle zephyrs of last summer.

It may take a year, it may take two

but for the Nazi's the writing is on the wall.

Let them look out for themselves.

The cure is in their own hands.

There are a lot of people who say

that bombing can never win a war

well my answer to that is that it has never been tried yet

and we shall see.

Germany clinging more and more desperately

to her widespread conquests

and even seeking foolishly for more,

will make a most interesting initial experiment.

- [Narrator] What the Americans have seen in the morning

on fifth of March 1945 was the final, horrifying result

of that first experiment.

And the subsequent results of the whirlwind

which Harris had predicted.

A catastrophic effect of the area

or carpet bombing on German cites

which had begun with the first 1,000 bomber raid

on Cologne in May 1942.

Now, almost a lifetime has past

since that first terrifying attack on the city.

In the intervening years

the scars on the city had gradually healed

and the devastation has disappeared.

The young of today may ask, what was it like?

What was it like to be flying through the sky

avoided the flak and the fighters

to drop those bombs and cause so much carnage?

What was it like for a citizen to live

crouched in a bomb shattered building

whilst the bombs were exploding around them?

How does a city recover from such a catastrophe?

(somber music)

Whatever the morality of this and hundreds of other raids on

cities throughout the world by both the allies and Germany,

perhaps in the cold reality half a century later,

there has been a vital lesson learned.

War is much too costly and barbels and metals

settling quarrels amongst the nations of the world.

(somber music)

Saturday, May the 30th, 1942.

Across 53 airfields of England's eastern counties

a damp May mist drifted across the tarmac.

Overhead in the sky, dark thunder clouds were forming.

The huge darken bombers of the Royal Air Force

stood silently in their dispersal bays.

One thousand of them.

In the overcrowded messes, 6,000 aircrew waited.

The nervous tension mounting.

They all had heard the rumors

that something big was on for this day.

As the minutes and hours ticked away, nobody knew what.

For the commander in chief Arthur Harris,

a huge decision was to be made.

Either the massive air armada

which had been assembled with attack or disperse.

But to mount the operation in such unfavorable

weather conditions could be courting disaster.

Harris was about to do something

which no other commander in history would've chosen to do.

He was about to risk the whole of his front line strength

and the whole of his reserves in one battle.

It was a bold venture needing audacity and courage.

He had already achieved a remarkable logistic feat

in assembling the massive force.

Many of his aircraft were equipped

with the new and revolutionary navigation

and blind bombing devices

which would ensure maximum concentration of the force

over the target area.

Here now was the opportunity.

One which might not come again.

To deliver a blow to Germany,

the like of which had never been witnessed before.

To destroy completely by fire

one of Germany's biggest

and most powerful industrial centers.

To erase from the map of Europe, in one night,

a major German city.

The weather however, was standing in the way.

Three times the raid had been postponed.

Now on the forth day,

the conditions looked equally unfavorable.


It would not had been so critical

if this was a normal raid or 150 or 200 bombers.

But to put 1,000 bombers in the air

all heading through thick cloud

could invite a catastrophe on an unprecedented scale.

Not only was that was a great risk of collision

over the target area

but a much higher risk was involved

in landing the force after the raid.

The Luftwaffe had learned this lesson

after raiding London in 1940

when they lost 250 of their returning aircraft in crashes.

There had been a forecast

that the bad weather was about to clear

over the Cologne area.

But would the break in the cloud hold long enough

for the 1,000 bombers to get in and out

within the planned 90 minutes.

(dramatic music)

Harris made the decision.

He would take the chance that the weather would hold.

It would be 1,000 bomber plan tonight.

Around the operations rooms of the airfield,

the benches were packed with aircrew

awaiting the briefing.

Now is the time for all of them to know what was planned.

For these men, in fact,

most of them were only boys, young boys.

They knew what this raid could mean for many of them.

Whatever the target, death.

The CV officer began the briefing.

Gentleman, the target for tonight is Cologne.

There was a moment of relief for the aircrew.

They had expected much worse

and much further into Germany.

The officer then went on to tell them,

tonight the raid shall be no ordinary one.

We shall be bombing with 1,000 aircraft.

The officer then explained the importance of the target.

In fact, Cologne was a very important target.

Being a highly industrial city

with light and heavy engineering works.

There were many factories producing guns, tanks and vehicles

which will be used on the Russian front.

The city also had an important railway network and center.

With many junctions being used for the transportation

of troops and weapons.

There were large marshaling yards and warehousing.

In the areas of Ehrenfeld, Kalk and Mülheim

east of river there were large chemical plants.

In fact, Cologne was one of the most important German cities

with a population of approximately 800,000 people.

It was important not only for it's factories

and military installations

but also because it was the center of trade

and political activity.

Cologne was also one of the most heavily defended

of all German cities.

When the crews in the briefing rooms

were given details of the intended target

there was apprehension.

The briefing officers qu,

rested on a rectangular gap in the city's center

not far from the cross which marks

the famous Cologne Cathedral.

This was the central aiming point the crews were told

the Neumarkt.

The Neumarkt was right in the middle

of the shopping and residential area of the old city.

They were not just going to bomb

the big Ford Motor Factory and the Chief War Factories

but they were also going to attack

right in the heart of the city.

The few airmen that asked why, did not like the answer.

The intention was to bomb not just industry,

but also civilians.

The age of tele-bombing was about to begin

and the citizens of Cologne were about to experience

a seal from hell.

Now all of the bomber command aircrews

were going through their pre-flight checks.

Ordinary young men from ordinary homes.

For most of them the battle had already started.

The constant battle with fear.

55,000 of these young aircrew were killed

during World War II and their odds of surviving a raid

were less than one in four.

A 25 year old man would be a old man in bomber command.

Despite the odds against them

and despite the fear and the horror

they can try to do what was expected of them.

So, the final preparations were complete.

Dusk had now turned into night.

The crews were mustered

and were climbing into their flying clothing.

They loaded onto the trucks

that took them out to their dispersal points

where their aircraft were waiting.

At each of the bombers the truck would stop.

Rooks of young men got out, their parachutes clutched

and flying helmets dangling.

They scrambled inside their aircraft.

As the clock approached zero hour,

the force was ready to take off.

Not just 1,000 of them, but 1,048 aircraft were ready.

Between them they were laden with over three million

kilograms of bombs.

The countdown was over, the operation would begin.

(dramatic music)

At exactly 22:30 hours,

the first huge bomber took it's place

at the end of the mile long flare path.

It's engines were run up to full boost.

With the signal from the controllers lamp,

the pilot rammed the throttles full open

and the engines roared to full pitch.

The brakes came off and the bomber rolled slowly forward,

gathering speed with each second.

Then it was airborne.

The first of the mighty fleet

taking part in this momentous raid.

All across the airfields of eastern England,

the same scene is repeated one after the other.

Engines thundered and roared into life.

One by one, the Stirlings, Wellingtons, Hampdens

and Whitleys of the fire raising force

raced down the stretches of concrete.

The skies were full of aircraft fully laden

and heavy with bombs they'd lumbered to gain height,

all assembling for the big assault.

As they circled,

never before had the Luftwaffe's night fighter force

been offered such a golden opportunity for targets.

But no fighters came.

Hitler, against the advice from his commanders

and making yet another of his costly, tactful mistakes

of the war had forbidden the fighters to attack

that RAF over British soil.

Considering that 70% of all RAF bombers

shot down by the Luftwaffe had been over their own bases

as they took off and landed,

this order was an absurdity.

Had Hitler not given the order

this raid could've been not only the first 1,000 bomber raid

but also the last.

And possibly the costliest raid ever for the RAF.

As the controllers monitored the force across the channel,

one of the biggest attacks ever in aerial warfare

was underway.

It was disaster that was going to be experienced either

by the citizens of Cologne or by the air crews of the RAF.

Ahead on the horizon lay the Dutch coast

and with it the ground control and deception zones

ready and waiting with fighters and flak.

At 23:14 hours the first contact was made.

The first of the bombers stream had been spotted on radar.

The night fighters were scrambled.

They now knew that the bombers were coming,

the question for the night fighter controller was,

how many?

With Cologne still a long way off,

the front of the bomber stream came under attack

from flak over the Dutch coast.



Search lights were picking out the bombers in the sky

but there was little resistance from the night fighters.

Only anti-aircraft shells.

In England, the plans were still taking off.

But now it was the turn of the heavy bombers.

The ones that carried the heavy bomb loads

that would spread the fires.

By now the first of the bombers were approaching the target.

It was 00:45 hours as two of the bombers

began their run-up towards the aiming point.

Right in the center of the ancient city, the Neumarkt.

(siren wailing)

The air raid alarms had already begun to sound

throughout the city.

In fact, they had started at 23:45,

but Cologne's sleepy citizens were slow to stir themselves.

There had already been over 100 raids

since the beginning of the war

and the people of the city were inclined to wait

before rushing to the shelters.

On this night, the sky was clear.

There was a bright moon

but there was no sound of the approaching bombers.

But one hour later, the horror of the night unfeld itself.

Below, while families asleep in their beds,

completely unaware of how dramatically many of their lives

would be transformed by the time this night was over.

The first button was pressed, bomb's gone.

Sticks of incendiaries showered the Neumarkt

followed by small 30 pound bombs.

This was the start of funeral fire

that the other bombers would spread throughout the city.

Cologne's defenses suddenly sprang into action.

The bombers came under heavy attack.

Shells burst around them below the bombers,

but still they came.

The bomber converged on the city, one every six seconds.

They came in from north to south, south to north

east to west and west to east.

It was an air traffic nightmare

as they crisscrossed each other

paying no attention to the briefing

which had called for all the bombers

to approach the target from one direction.

Every crew member was on the look out.

Not so much for enemy fighters, but to warn their pilot

when another bomber got too close.

Below, the city was badly shaken.

Incendiaries crashed downward,

splashing brilliant white as they hit the ground

and then turning red as the timber caught fire.

As the citizens rushed to the safety of the shelters

the fire engines could be heard racing through the streets,

their siren's wailing.

(speaks in foreign language)

- [Interpreter] This particular Sunday I went to Purnapas,

this is a residential area nearby

about half an hour from Cologne.

I stayed with my relatives overnight.

I remember being awoken during the night.

The sirens had stared to howl

and we could hear the approaching bombers.

We all went to the basement

and I remember I was very frightened

as I was separated from my parents.

We stayed there for about three hours

and all we could hear was the terrifying sound of the bombs.

They were exploding all around us.

- [Narrator] As house after house, building after building

began to burn and fall, the children began to howl.

The air was thick with black smoke and clouds of dust.

Cologne's nightmare had begun.

One pilot on the raid recalled,

I had never been on an easier target.

We just floated in, making no attempt at navigation.

We picked our target carefully, dropped our bombs

and had time to look down at bomber command's handiwork.

It was an awesome sight.

We could see the river clearly,

running through the mass of fires.

Every street was etching in fire,

stretched right across the city.

The light from them was so bright

that I could see the other bombers coming into bomb.

It was appalling, really sickening sight,

we should definitely stop.

I felt so sorry for all the women and children down there.

While some of the bombers flew in and out of the target

completely unscathed,

others in the same wave were ferociously engaged

by flak and fighters.

All over the city, thousands of men, women

and in some cases children were rising to the occasion

with the steadfastness of nerves.


Kasmann was 14 at the time of raid.

(speaking in foreign language)

- [Interpreter] On the 31st of May 1941

in the Valeska Straße,

a warehouse full of building material was on fire

and we all knew there was also petrol

stored in this building.

I was with a friend who was a solider on leave.

We had been great friends before the war.

We both attempted to put the fire out

with sand bags and water.

But the flames were too great.

So we rushed over to the headquarters of the fire brigade

and tried to borrow a hose to connect the hydrant

near to the warehouse.

They didn't have anything so we just went into the

Balthasarstraße and found a cart with wheels.

One of those things which used to be

on top of the fire engines for the hose.

We weren't allowed to just take the hose

without a fireman accompanying us and luckily one did.

The three of us rushed back to the warehouse with the hose

and connected it to the water supply.

Then the three of us dragged the hose up the stairs

and tried to extinguish the flames.

We didn't put the fire out completely

but we did manage to save the part of the building

where the petrol was stored.

A lot was destroyed but thankfully the petrol barrels

did not explode which would have been disastrous.

- [Narrator] Fireman from neighboring towns were now

coming into the city to help deal with the spreading fires.

Reaching the burning buildings

was becoming increasing difficult.

The roads were pitted with craters

and strewn with the dead and dabering.

After the Franz Clout Rubberworks received a direct hit

and then the Railway works of Cologne neaps,

fire sprang up all around the area.

Rats in their 1,000s ran out of the gutted warehouses.

It was an unforgettable sight.

The glare was like daylight.

The waterlines were broken,

severely hampering the fire services.

Special lines were laid from the Rhine

and pumping equipment was brought in

but soon the extra lines were crushed

below the falling buildings.

Mutilated bodies lay everywhere.

In every street, in every shelter,

there were horrific scenes alongside heroic efforts

of gallentry amongst the people.

Everyone in Cologne was finding a new and bitter meaning

in the propaganda minister, Dr. Goebbels words,

we're all in the front line now.

(speaking in foreign language)

Ninety minutes later, it was over.

The faint rumble of the bombers stream

could still be heard in the distance.

The dazed population of Cologne came out from the shelters

to gaze with horror on the scene of desolation.

Throughout the city,

the people picked their way through the debris

to find their homes.

(bombs exploding)

The last of the heavy bombers

were now well on their way home.

Behind them, the sky was burning a bright orange.

With this massive armada

now returning to the airfields of England,

the airfield controllers faced a formidable problem.

The skies were still clear of cloud

but not all of the aircraft

could get back to their own bases.

Battle damage, shortage of fuel and navigational errors

caused pilots to seek permission to land

at the nearest airfield sighted.

The long night at the 53 bomber command airfield

was coming to an end.

The dawn light was coming up.

One by one the bombers returned.

As each one landed the count was taken.

Did they all come back?

Who was missing?

As the crews landed their aircraft

they were a different body of men than had taken off.

They were not longer the fresh young men

that had set out on the mission earlier that night.

These men were now physically tired and mentally exhausted.

Their posturs slumped as they made their way

across the tarmac to the debriefing rooms.

One by one they gave their account of the nights raid

to the debriefing officer.

Finally, they went to their quarters and beds.

Some to sleep and some to the nightmare

of what they had just witnessed they had been part of.

Operation Millennium was now a one line entry

in their log books.

Later that day would make a two column entry

in the national newspapers.

After that, it would be forgotten.

Buried under the news of the sea battle

raging in the Atlantic.

But for the citizens of Cologne.

(speaking in foreign language)

- [Interpreter] Well, we had survived the night

and I went home to my parents the next morning.

I was very worried that something might have happened

to my mother and father.

When I turned the corner of my street

I could see my parents carrying buckets of water.

They were trying to keep the roof of our house wet

as our neighbors house was on fire.

They then helped the neighbors

to put the fire out in their house.

The damage was dreadful.

I remember this was Trinity Sunday.

I just thought to myself that was everything was all right

because at least we were alive, we had survived.

- [Narrator] As the morning light came up

and the city smoldered, the damage was surveyed.

13,000 homes had been destroyed,

over 45,000 people were now homeless,

15,000 commercial buildings were obliterated

and 630 more badly damaged.

There was extensive damage to the water, electricity, gas

and telephone systems.

And 469 people were dead, another 5,027 were injured.

Within hours, Himmler had issued a directive,

that any person leaving the city had to sign a declaration

of silence about the raid.

Anybody breaking this order would be executed.

He was taking no chances on the breakdown of moral

throughout the nation.

(speaking in foreign language)

- [Interpreter] It was the attack which was described

as the terror attack to the Wehrmacht Report.

It was the attack that was described as the 1,000

bomber raid by the British.

This was the attack which hit Cologne's soul.

I would like to say, very badly.

- [Narrator] Before the morning was over

the sound was heard, yet again,

of bombers approaching the city.

This time, however, it was three lonely Mosquitoes,

but they didn't drop bombs on the city.

Only leaflets.

The message was,

the RAF's offensive in it's new form has begun.

It was certain that on this morning the Royal Air Force

had left no doubts in the minds of the citizens of Cologne

as to the horrors that were still to come.

But war has a peculiar effect on people

and just as the Luftwaffe had not broken the spirit

of the British when they had bombed London,

the moral of the people of Cologne

had actually strengthened.

One woman recalled, never before that night

had I known such terror, but I know one thing now,

I shall never be afraid again.

The aerial bombing of Cologne continued up until

January 1945 when the all clear siren sounded over the city

for the last time.

Few people realized that the last real air raid was over.

There was nothing to mark the end of the terror

that had begun with the 1,000 bomber raid in 1942.

Nothing to celebrate.

But as one peaceful night gave way to another,

there came a dawning of hope.

Hope that at last, those terrifying whistles

of bombs dropping and the nerve shattering thuds

as they hit the city were now only memories.

Many of Cologne's citizens today still have memories

of those endless raids which devastated a complete city.

(speaking in foreign language)

- [Interpreter] Another very bad attack

happened during the night before Peter and Paul

on the 29th of June 1943.

It was very bad and again we heard the bombers flying

over our heads.

I remember listening to drone and praying that the bombers

would spare Cologne.

Well, they didn't

and the inner city got badly hit once again.

The next morning, the air was full of smoke and dust.

It was like a thick fog all around

and I had to go to work.

When I went to the town center, I made a bit of a detour

just to see what damage had been done.

I wish I hadn't.

In Landsberger Straße,

I saw some people putting burnt corpses

into a bathtub which was on the street.

It was a horrible sight and one I shall never forget.

I could also see horses

that had been mutilated by bombs.

It really was a dreadful sight.

After that attack, it was our turn.

The augnasfatil were we lived got attacked.

This happened during the night before the 10th of July 1943.

We'd already been warned by the previous attack

so we went to a wine cellar in Krefelder Straße.

The wine cellar was below another cellar

and it made a safe bunker to stay in.

We stayed there overnight and the cellar was so deep

that we couldn't hear the attack.

When we went out the next morning

we saw that all of the houses in our street were on fire.

There were flames everywhere.

My mother was always very well organized

and I remember how she kept wet cloths in her bag.

We used these cloths to cover our mouths

to keep out the choking smoke.

We were running through the streets like this

and there was complete pandemonium everywhere.

It was horrible, dreadful.

I don't think that I've ever been so frightened

in all my life.

- [Narrator] Günter Kasmann remembers

rescuing his own mother.

(speaking in foreign language)

- [Interpreter] At the time my parents lived in the

Regerr Straße, number 69

and it happened that three large bombs hit the LA

which we used to call it, the Reger Straße

The third one hit our block, number 69 to 71.

Shortly before it happened, my mother and a few others said,

let's go to the hall of the basement.

It will be safer there than staying here in the basement,

which was normally used for filing,

as part of the building was used as an office.

It was very lucky.

This was the attack in which the allied forces

used dynamite bombs for the first time.

These bombs were much stronger.

They hit the basement with a direct hit.

It was very lucky that my mother and the others

had taken the initiative together.

The house was hit and the basement that we had been in

just before was completely destroyed.

It was virtually just the little space in the hallway

where they were all standing which remained untouched.

They tried to get out but everything was blocked.

They did however have air.

I was outside with the rescuers trying to get them out.

And they were calling for help.

They were calling and calling.

And I remember that my mother never screamed or cried.

In fact, you could only tell by her eyes

that she was ever upset.

She told me that she had started to pray.

She had done this before when situations got bad.

She started to pray very loudly.

Maybe it is hard to imagine this nowadays, but people,

not matter what religion they were,

people and by saying people, I also mean the 150% Nazis

who had to go the shelters as well.

Even they all knew this prayer.

Everybody just joined in.

We heard the praying and knew they were alive.

We managed to get them all out safely.

- [Interpreter] You have just mentioned

that the people started to pray

even if they had nothing to do with the church.

I've seen this as well.

When we were in the air raid shelters

during the heavy attack on the 20th of April 1944,

there was a friend of our family who shouted out,

dear mother of God, please help us.

My father and mother and myself hugged each other very

tightly and I remember thinking our lives would come to

an end this night.

Thankfully, it didn't and every morning after such an attack

my mother would always comfort us and tell us,

it does not matter how much we lose.

Everything can be replaced again.

The most important thing is, we are alive.

- [Narrator] Another irony of was is that

in such adverse conditions

people never lose their sense of humor.

- [Interpreter] During the attack on the 29th of June 1943

when I walked into the town and saw the dead bodies,

I went to a friends house

and saw that it was bombed out as well.

Completely destroyed.

I feared for my friends and her family.

Then I saw that here was a little note

pinned on the front door which read,

everything lost apart from the key to the front door.

I thought this was quite funny,

but I knew by this note that they were alive

and I wasn't worried about them anymore.

- [Narrator] Today, the modern European city of Cologne

has recovered.

The spires of the cathedral which miraculously

survived the bombardment tower above the skyline

in the heart of the city.

Post war, Cologne underwent a major reconstruction program.

Wolfram Hagspeil works as a city planner.

He is responsible for the city's 19th

and 20th century architecture.

(speaking in a foreign language)

- [Interpreter] Many people will be surprised

that after the war the reconstruction of Cologne

was completed relatively quickly.

The reason for that is that before 1945

with the advent of the Hitler era,

the town planning had already been very extensive.

It had already been planned to knock down

a large part of the city.

Virtually, 25% of it.

In fact, quite a lot of buildings had already been

knocked down in Cologne and large areas had been cleared,

ready for redevelopment.

There was planning team, a so called planning society.

When war broke out the society continued the redevelopment

program, the Galforum.

When the city was destroyed, it was the planning society

that planned the reconstruction of Cologne.

Many things you find in the reconstruction plans

and in the finally reconstructive Cologne,

are things which had already been planned

in the third rife.

Those plans included the massive road system.

A new railway station and rail network

was also planned during the Hitler period.

The Severinsbrücke was built in the 1950s,

again, from much earlier plans.

But a great many of the cities buildings

have been restored to their original historic form.

One feature which has been retained is that of creating

residential areas around the city's many churches.

(speaking in foreign language)

- [Interpreter] A peculiarity of today's Cologne

are the quarters which have a church in the middle of them.

This was developed in the post war period

and it became much more dominate

than it had been before the war.

These areas are dominated by their individual churches.

Many of the families which used to live in these areas

before the war still live there now.

People from Cologne are especially proud of their dome

and of their Roman churches

which were rebuilt after the war.

These churches are very important for Cologne

because people related them

because there were none of the castles or palaces

that other German cities have.

Churches have always been

the most common buildings in Cologne

ever since the middle ages.

If you look at the paintings from that time

it appears as though Cologne consisted entirely of churches.

In the middle ages there were as many churches

as there are days in the year.

It was therefore important after the war

to maintain this picture of the holy Cologne.

Especially after the Nazi era

when people desperately wanted to forget what had happened.

- [Narrator] The inner city is no longer a residential area.

These have been moved out to the suburbs.

The center has now been turned into a shopping area.

(speaking in a foreign language)

- [Interpreter] There is another separation within the town

which is very important and which is reflected

in the larger municipal building.

The city will split up into cultural areas,

residential areas and a recreational area with park lands.

The cultural area includes the dominate area of the opera

which was built in the inner city

and has a large area around it

which was designed by Wilhelm Riphahn

The cultural area also includes the Wallraf-Richartz Museum.

And all other museums.

It is surprising that the industrial buildings in Cologne

had hardly been damaged.

The Ford works, for example,

were hardly touched by the bombing.

Other buildings and Colognes industries

were left virtually unscathed.

On the other hand,

the town itself was completely destroyed.

At the time this was mainly the residential areas.

The reason for that is that the bombing strategy

did not target industrial, only residential areas.

It is easy to reconstruct how the bombers flew into Cologne

and to see how it was bombed.

The Aachener Straße served as an orientation

a landmark towards the center of the town

and this is what the bombers hit.

These quarters were bombed very hard

and were almost completely destroyed.

The Linden Tower, for example,

which used to be a very posh area,

was totally debolished by the bombs.

Surprising again, part of the new area of Cologne

was hardly hit.

This was the area between the rail tracks

and the Rudolfplatz

which has now become the Belgium quarter.

On the other hand, so many bombs hit the center of town

that a staggering 97% of it was destroyed.

There is a Tran and Helle joke.

Tran and Helle are the the two central figures,

Cologne comedy, which I would like to tell.

Tran meets Helle a short time after the war and he asks,

where do you live?

Helle answers, "Oh, I have a house just two houses down

from the dome."

Well, back then just after the war,

two houses down from the dome

meant three or four kilometers away

because everything else in between

was flattened during the war.

(somber music)

- [Narrator] Many of Cologne's residents

that lived through the horrors brought by war

are still tormented by the nightmares.

But they are not alone.

Even today, a lifetime later, those that suffered

or inflicted the carnage, whether on Cologne or London

or any other corner of the globe all share a common bond.

Living with the ghosts of the past even today

still wondering what it was all about.

One RAF pilot recalled.

When I think back to that terrible night we bombed Cologne,

it makes me feel sick to think of the destruction

and suffering I caused.

Another on visiting Cologne at the end of the war stated,

the devastation, the cold and the despair on people's faces

helped me grasp but for the first time

what saturation bombing meant for the victims.

Piloting a bomber was a cold impersonal occupation.

We were concerned with switches and maps and avoiding flak.

Not with life and death.

But now, I understand the other side of the problem.

The Description of World War II: The Blitz on Cologne - Full Documentary