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

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(dramatic orchestral music)

- [Narrator] Ask any citizens of Hamburg

to name those sights or features

which they think most represent their city

to themselves and to the world, and top of their list

will almost certainly be the graceful Rathaus, or city hall,

St. Michael's church on its hill,

the Alster Lake that lies in the city's heart.

Along with the 20th century Chilehaus

and the city's great international port,

they are the very symbols of Hamburg.

They also represent between them, in the city hall,

Hamburg's civic pride.

In St. Michael's, its faith.

In the Alster Lake, its beauty.

And in the port, its commerce and prosperity.

It is still within living memory

that they were all in danger of vanishing

from Hamburg altogether in the horrifying firestorm

in the summer of 1943.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] On my way home,

all the houses around me were on fire,

people rushing to shelters.

I saw some bodies lying in the street,

and people were shouting at me

to come into their air raid shelters.

But I only wanted to get home to my parents.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] When we came out of the shelter,

the dead were lying all around, all burnt.

They had caught fire and some had jumped into the lake.

Horses jumped in as well.

But they were still burning when they came out.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] The phosphorous bums were horrifying.

People near the Alster Lake plunged in,

hoping the water would put out the flames on their clothing,

but it was no use, it was just frightful.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] There was hardly any air in the shelter.

Everybody was gasping for air.

I wished a bomb would just drop on us then and there

to end the suffering.

- The city of Hamburg was no stranger

to destruction by fire.

Almost exactly 100 years before in 1842,

the town center had been almost completely burnt

to the ground, and then rebuilt on a more spacious batten.

The stronghold, or burg, of Hammer,

was founded at the beginning of the ninth century

and gradually established itself as a leading port, despite

the fact that it wasn't even anywhere near the seacoast,

but more than 60 miles inland.

But due to its favorable position

on one of Western Europe's major navigable rivers, the Elbe,

with its wide outlet to the North Sea,

and from there to the oceans of the world,

it had already become one of the world's leading ports

by the start of the century.

Its merchant ships were trading regularly

with North and South America, Africa, the Far East,

and Australia.

Before this, the ocean-going merchant vessels

had anchored away from the inner port area,

their goods being offloaded into barges and wheries.

And from there, they were brought to the quayside

for final unloading.

But as trade grew rapidly in volume,

larger sheds and warehouses had to be constructed

with cranes and other facilities

for direct quayside unloading of their cargoes.

So that already before the war, Hamburg possessed

some of the largest warehouses in the world.

Trade increased even further

when part of the port area of Hamburg

was established as a free port,

with no customs duties imposed

on imported goods being stored and transshipped.

But the port of Hamburg was engaged

not only in the shipping of goods, but of people as well.

The Hapag-Lloyd shipping line was famous all over the world

for its passenger services,

with offices in every major city of the globe.

And this became increasingly so after the First World War,

during the golden age

of the great transatlantic ocean liners

and their luxury cruises.

During the interwar years too,

through the prosperity of Hamburg's port,

the city itself expanded outwards and upwards.

With imaginative new buildings

such as architect Fritz Höger's 10-story office block,

the Chilehaus, shaped like the prow of a great ocean liner.

Hamburg was already Germany's largest city after Berlin,

with a population approaching two million,

and it could also claim

to be continental Europe's largest port

by the time war broke out in 1939.

For the first few months of the war,

life in Hamburg seemed to change very little,

and only very gradually for its citizens.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] I suppose the first time

that we really became aware

of the fact that there was a war on

was when we were issued with food coupons all of a sudden.

The food situation hadn't been at all bad

during the first year of the war,

but they decided to introduce rationing anyway

even if only as a precaution.

After that, the first air attacks on Hamburg took place,

but well before the raids began,

the authorities got us to convert our house cellars

into shelters.

We were all given ARP training

about what to do in the event of a raid.

Not only the men, but the women too,

and how to put out any fires caused by incendiary bombs.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] My name is Ralf Ohlhagen.

I was born in Bleckede, a town on the river Elbe in 1935.

My father worked there, and he was transferred to Hamburg

in the year the war started, 1939.

We went to live in a flat in the Ifflandstraße,

quite close to the Alster Lake in the city center.

I started school a couple of years later.

At that time, we led a fairly quiet life in Hamburg

even though the war was on.

I lived like any normal boy aged about six.

Our life was occasionally interrupted by short air raids,

but nothing very severe at first.

It was generally like that everywhere in Germany

during the first year or so of the war.

But suddenly from April 1940, everything changed.

After a long period of inactivity,

German forces invaded Denmark and Norway

and then west across their borders

through the low countries and France.

(military band music)

As the Allied armies withdrew when France fell,

the Germans occupied the North Sea and channel coasts.

The next stage of the battle was soon to begin.

Scarcely 10 minutes away in flying time,

across that narrow stretch of water

lay the shore cliffs of Dover

and the air fields and ports of southern England.

The German air force was ready to strike,

and the Battle of Britain had begun.

For the summer weeks from the end of June

to the start of September, the Luftwaffe pounded away

at British shipping and air bases

to prepare for the planned invasion.

With the daily attacks on the southeast corner of England,

the Dover area became known as Hell's Corner.

But as summer days passed by,

the German leadership decided on a change of strategy

and abandoned their invasion plans.

Instead, they set out to pound the British economy

into defeat with attacks on factories,

industrial and commercial centers, and on London itself.

And especially the east end Dockland area,

the port of London.

The attacks continued night after night

from September onwards.

Til then, Britain's air force had done very little

in the way of vital attacks on German targets.

They had the disadvantage that targets on German soil

were four and more hours flying time distance

from their bomber bases, and usually beyond the range

of their protecting fighter planes

compared to the short distances

which the German planes needed to fly from their bases

in occupied France.

Nevertheless, they began to launch a series of attacks

across the North Sea, directed against

the north German ports such as Bremen, Lübeck and Hamburg.

Hamburg still traded to some degree with neutral countries

as well as being an important center

for manufacturing u-boats

and other vital German military vessels.

At that stage, the port and city

were well defended against attacks from British bombers.

- [Narrator] Initially, we used to reckon

you were better off going in early

because things weren't warmed up.

On the other hand, I think,

when there are fewer of you,

there was more chance of you

being sort of isolated and picked out.

- [Narrator] On the home front, too,

Hamburg's air raid precautions

were among the best in Germany.

They had had the foresight to construct

giant fortified public bunkers

as well as relying on domestic cellar shelters.

Even some hospitals and their operating theaters

were provided with bunkers.

During the early raids,

all those in reach of public shelters

were able to feel reasonably secure

within the walls of the well-protected bunkers,

and the raids seldom lasted very long

because of the limited flying time the enemy planes

could afford to stay airborne.

(people chattering)

(shots firing)

- The one thing we hadn't solved,

getting out of searchlights.

They used to put a load of searchlights onto you,

and do what they called a comb.

Our problem was to get out of that,

because once you were lit up,

in those days we were flying about five,

four, five, six thousand feet, something like that.

And once you were in there, the gunners on the ground

had a target to shoot and and they used to

for a rather long time.

As well as that, they used to have fighters,

single-seated fighters and whatnot roaming around,

and once they saw somebody caught in a searchlight,

I mean, it was an obvious target.

This happened to us over Hamburg, we got caught,

and we couldn't get out of it.

And eventually we sort of duck dived, right,

the only thing to do is stick our nose down.

So we stuck our nose down, down to get out of those

as quickly as we could.

But of course, they followed us down,

we flew quite low down just on the outskirts of Hamburg.

And by the time we got clear of the lights

we would turn to try and back up again

because it was still a defended area

so we stayed on the ground.

And that was about half an hour of hectic flying.

- [Narrator] Relatively little damage was caused

in many of the REF raids of late 1940.

And indeed, the German authorities were even able

to turn them into useful propaganda for themselves,

as in this news reel.

The commentator says, English bombing attacks

against German cities seem to be directed almost exclusively

against civilian and non-military objectives.

In this Hamburg district, 22 children were killed.

After that action, London assumed that Hamburg,

suffering from such an attack, was reduced to ruin

and its streets and ports pulverized.

The German government invited German

and foreign journalists to visit Hamburg.

From the tower of the church of St. Michael,

they saw a city undestroyed, and whose population

went on quietly about their occupations.

Newsreels like this were turned out of English

and other languages for consumption by the American public

and foreign journalists to claim

how ineffectual the British raids were.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] The air raids gradually became worse and worse.

At first it hadn't been too bad,

we just stayed in our flat, didn't go to a shelter,

and watched what was happening outside from our window.

The REF dropped signal flares to mark their targets,

red and green.

We all called them Christmas trees because of the colors.

(planes whirring)

- [Narrator] During 1941, the bomber aircraft

of the British air forces were becoming more efficient,

carrying larger and heavier loads

and capable of greater flying time

and were beginning to cause as much damage

as the raids on London.

- (speaks in German)

- When this raid came, it must've been in 1941, I think,

it was really frightening because the lights went out.

The cellar timbers started cracking,

one high explosive bomb after the other kept coming

and we thought that one of them would surely hit us.

(bombs exploding)

(fire crackling)

- (speaks in German)

- It was really frightening.

People started to cry and scream.

There was no way out of the house while the raid was on,

and we thought it was soon

going to be our turn to be bombed.

But thank heavens, it didn't happen.

And in fact, all the houses in our neighborhood

escaped destruction throughout the whole of the war.

(yelling in German)

(shots firing)

This period was beginning to see

the last of the smaller-scale raids on specific targets,

even though their accuracy and effectiveness

had greatly increased.

(shots firing)

The war in the air stood at the threshold of a major change.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] In 1943, the first carpet bombing took place.

Hamburg and its surroundings were very heavily attacked.

This bombing began during the end of July in 1943.

It was part of the plan of the British chief

of bomber command.

- Let the Nazis take good note of the western horizon,

where they will see a cloud as yet

no bigger than a man's hand.

We cannot send a thousand bombers a time

over Germany every time as yet,

but the time will come when we can do so.

- [Narrator] Nevertheless, from this time on, the scale

of air raids over German cities

began to increase both in size and number.

Little could anyone suspect when this raid on Hamburg began

that it would go down in history

as the world's first city to suffer a firestorm.

It arose through an unusual combination of factors.

The weather those last days of July 1943

had been very hot and dry.

Everything on the ground burned more easily,

and a large number of individual incendiary fires

gradually began to merge and burn as one giant bonfire.

The rising heat formed violent up currents

and consequently sucked in fresh air at ground level,

reaching speeds of gale and even hurricane force.

The fires burned with such intense heat

that people in shelters began to suffocate.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] The shelter was designed for about 300 people,

but during the night up to 500 people arrived.

We had a hand pump for pumping air in,

but we had to stop doing that later

as everything around us was destroyed and was burning,

and the only thing that came in was smoke,

so we stopped pumping.

It started around midnight and, well,

later we could not breathe properly anymore.

No air could get in and there were so many people.

(fire roaring)

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] After we'd been in our basement shelter

for about half an hour, we smelled something burning.

When the fire brigade arrived,

they told us that our building had been hit

by two incendiaries and that our roof was on fire.

So we left our basement at once

and tore off to my grandparents',

who fortunately had a flat nearby.

We went into their basement shelter

and after about another two hours, this house was hit, too,

and we were all trapped in the basement.

We just couldn't get out.

There was an elderly lady in the basement with us

whose sister was outside the house

and was actually trying to remove the rubble to get inside.

The firemen outside thought that she was mad

and tried to restrain her.

And while they were doing so,

they gradually became aware of us knocking

and screaming inside the basement.

So they set to to make their way into our blocked basement,

and finally they reached us and got us out.

If it hadn't been for the determination

of that lady's sister, we would've all died in that shelter.

(fire roaring)

The raids continued over the following days,

and engulfed the port of Hamburg with its warehouses,

sheds, quays and bridges.

(fire roaring)

Thousands of bombed out people took refuge

after the firestorm at one or other of the city's parks.

With what few possessions they had managed to rescue

and take with them in handcarts, cases, prams.

Many of them left the city, never to return again.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] After our rescue

from my grandparents' basement,

my mother decided to return to our flat.

But when we got there, we found the building burnt out.

The whole of the street was completely bombed out.

Since we didn't have anywhere to live in Hamburg,

my mother decided to move

to our grandparents' house in Lüneburg.

So we set off with hundreds of people out of the city.

With my brother and me,

the only possessions my mother left with

were what she could pack in a tiny suitcase

and we made our way on foot on a long, long road

to Lüneburg 30 miles away.

It took us at least a couple of days or so,

sleeping on the roadside along the route,

til we were picked up by a lorry

and taken the last mile or two

to our grandparents' in Lüneburg.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] The Americans attacked during the day.

Sometimes we had to go to the shelter three times a day

and three times a night, and slept with our clothes on

as there was no time to get dressed.

However, everything was put back in order very quickly.

Everything was well organized.

Things were put back in order

so that people could go back to their flats,

if the flats were still there.

However, in the second attack,

during which we got bombed out, the bombs started to drop

immediately after the air raid warning.

(planes whirring)

- [Narrator] After America had entered the war,

her aircraft and crews very soon added

their enormous bombing capacity to the conflict,

carrying out most of their raids

during the day following nighttime raids of the REF

on a round-the-clock basis.

(bombs whistling)

The Americans and British were bombing towns and cities

all over Germany now.

It was around this time that Germany

began flying bomb attacks on Britain,

and London in particular.

And later, the Allied bombers were seeking to bomb

the V2 sites in North Germany at Peenemünde.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] My name is Günter Hossfeld.

I was born in 1938, and we lived here in Harburg,

a suburb on the south side of Hamburg.

In 1944, Harburg was attacked by American bombers.

It was a heavy raid.

When my mother and I finally came out

of the neighborhood shelter,

we could see that all the houses along the street

had escaped any serious damage

except for the house that we lived in,

which was completely destroyed.

That's the house behind me, since rebuilt.

The American bombers were probably aiming

for our oil refineries, but because the visibility got worse

that day, they couldn't see the target,

so they just dropped their bombs in the general area.

We were very lucky to survive that attack on our shelter,

just across the street from our house.

I can remember there was just a pile of rubble

in place of our house, and the ladies

who had been in the shelter with us began to cry

when they saw that our house had been totally destroyed.

I suppose I was still too young

to be really upset by that sight,

and more important to me was a toy

I found on top of the rubble, which I've still got.

The destruction of our house had stirred up a lot of dust,

which still hadn't settled when we came out of the shelter,

and there was this dust cloud that seemed to hover

above the pile of rubble which had been our house.

From central Germany to Hamburg,

the synthetic oil plants had become primary targets

by the middle of 1944,

to deny oil to the German armed forces.

(fire crackling)

On the 20th of June, 1944, a special raid was launched

against the Hamburg refineries by American bombers.

The seven hour flight took them along the coast

past Heligoland to their target destination,

the oil storage and refining plants along the Elbe River.

Sustained bombings had reduced Germany's oil production

so far by over 60 percent, and the Hamburg raid

was designed to put that source of fuel

out of action once and for all.

Though this and other such raids were largely successful,

these storage and refinery areas were very heavily defended.

The American bombers met with great resistance

and suffered their share of losses during raids.

(shots firing)

Also high on the list of priority targets

during the last months of the war

was Germany's communications system.

Under Operation Clarion, strikes against the railways

overwhelmed the repair capabilities of the railway system

and contributed to the general disruption of transport.

Bombers continued to strike at marshaling yards.

(bombs exploding)

As well as the railways, strikes

were carried out successfully on other aspects

of communications including roads, canals and bridges.

Along with the aerial onslaught, the Allied ground forces

had been making strong advances

during the early part of 1945.

The American ninth army and other units

were thrusting forward into Germany

across the maze of canals and streams,

often flooded at that time of the year,

parallel to the advances of their British

and Canadian allies further north.

The British troops had met

with unexpectedly stiff resistance in taking Brehmen.

The situation regarding any resistance from Hamburg

was still unclear, not only to the British troops

but to the citizens of Hamburg as well.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] We didn't know whether Hamburg

would be defended or not.

One time the answer was yes, and then it was no again.

And Karl Kaufmann, the mayor,

said that Hamburg had suffered quite a lot already

and that there was hardly anything left.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] The British arrived

at the beginning of May 1945.

The war was more or less over.

At that time, we were pretty scared because we'd heard

that the Russians had already advanced to the Elbe,

and we didn't know whether they would get to Hamburg first.

We prayed that it wouldn't be the Russians

because their troops had a frightening reputation

for looting and raping.

However, one night we heard that the British

were on their way and we were all very relieved.

Before that, we'd been given orders to hold out

and even attack, but as the British army drew near,

our mayor Kaufmann said over the radio

that we shouldn't do anything but just wait and see.

And then next day we saw a single first tank arrive.

It stopped on the corner of our street.

For us, the war was over.

- [Narrator] In the first days of May,

the entry into Hamburg finally took place peacefully,

to the relief of the troops and the people of the city.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] Thank goodness the city wasn't defended.

The British came in and just took over peacefully.

Every half hour we listened to news bulletins

and we were told what we could and couldn't do.

There was a nightly curfew from 10 o'clock,

and we weren't allowed out on the streets after then,

though we younger ones often went out anyway.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] We were very relieved to see that the city

was to be occupied by English troops.

They marched down our street, the Harlestraße,

and we put out white flags and waved them.

At first the people weren't allowed out

freely on the streets.

The English troops were cautious

in case anyone would still shoot at them

though none of the troops were shot during the occupation,

to my knowledge.

The situation faced by the British occupying power

and the people of Hamburg was truly formidable.

(simplistic solemn music)

Over 50 percent of the homes

and a tenth of the entire built up area was in ruins.

The port itself was littered with the wreckage

of warehouses and ships, along with its neighboring area.

The whole communications system of the city was devastated,

roads and rail bridges, viaducts, trains, goods yards,

stations, not only within the city,

but in its links with the outside world.

But restoration of communications was urgent.

This was needed as much by the occupation forces

as by the city itself, especially in the port area.

The Blohm and Voss submarine yards

and the entire factory area

bordering the harbor were devastated.

Across the Elbe, the Harburg industrial area

was equally damaged.

The port was littered with the wreckage

of cranes and bridges and some three thousand ships.

And clearance seemed an all but impossible task.

Yet by the end of May, Allied supreme headquarters announced

that the port was cleared enough

to be opened to Allied shipping within days.

There were enormous human problems for the people, too.

Thousands of them simply sat around in a daze.

Other searched for food, shelter,

missing friends and relatives.

Street notice boards were covered with inquiries

about separated husbands, wives, children.

(reading in German)

Though many were stunned for days by what had hit them,

life in the city soon began to stir again

in the efforts of people to cater

for their ordinary everyday needs of food and shelter

and looking after children.

From a state of shock to immobility,

everyone was soon on the move again.

The streets of Hamburg seemed to be filled

with countless people, walking,

cycling, in carts, everywhere.

One of the very first priorities

was to organize the resuming

of a central services again as quickly as possible.

Services that needed the involvement

of the citizens themselves

through carefully selected responsible representatives

as well as the military authority.

The clearance of rubble, the restoring of power lines

and public utilities.

And then there was the enormous problem of housing.

14 million cubic meters of gutted houses and rubble.

According to some authorities,

the highest in European history.

Housing had been given less a priority status

behind the port, industry and public buildings.

Now the problem had become pressingly urgent.

Thousands of people were trying to make a home

within the rubble.

Some living in cellars,

or upstairs in top story rooms without walls.

Some were supplied with ex-army Nissen type huts,

those whose needs were greatest.

Many living without light, fuel, soap,

living alongside open drains,

the neighborhood pumps their only source of clean water.

Another top priority for the occupying power

was to organize the output and distribution of coal.

One of the nearest major coal fields was the Ruhr region.

They set up Operation Coal Scuttle,

taking no less than 30,000 ex-miners

from the former German armed forces.

But the biggest problem was to move the coal

from the pithead to the power plants

due to scarce transport facilities.

For the people themselves, there is no coal to spare.

They can go into the woods to cut trees and brushwood.

Meanwhile, the railways are organized

to carry the loads when needed,

and what can't go by rail goes by autobahn.

As the months go by, people scan the newspaper ads daily

for any news of missing relatives.

In Hamburg, there's a British-run postal search service

indexing inquiries, coming in at the rate of 50,000 per day.

Anyone contacting relatives and wanting to travel by train

must get a permit.

Others traveling to outside the city by cycle,

horse-drawn truck or on foot, must wait in queues

to cross the guarded bridges out of town

behind the military traffic, which has priority.

The occupation rail office personnel

vet all non-military journeys by rail

since space on the train is absolutely at a premium.

(loudspeaker blares)

It seems that the world and his wife

were having to make some train journey or other

during the first months after the war.

Part of the reason for overcrowded trains

was the desperate shortage of other public transport

between the city and its neighboring towns and villages

as well as within the city itself.

Hamburg's main station at this time

was one of the constantly busiest places in town.

There was also the fact that Hamburg had become packed

with refugees fleeing from the advance of the Russian army

and who now wanted to return to those hometowns in the east,

which fell within the borders

of the British occupation zone.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] Transport in the city

had come to a complete halt.

There were hardly any cars, and anyway,

there wasn't any petrol if you had one.

There were only a few bikes left at first,

and no public transport, everyone had to walk.

My father was in hospital at the time in Blankenese suburb,

about nine miles away from our house.

Each time we visited him it took us half a day to get there

and the same to get home.

We didn't get back til nightfall,

and we saw my father for only half an hour.

Meanwhile, the nightly curfew

brought problems for the homeless.

The former air raid shelters

officially became their home each night after 10 PM.

The siren, which used to warn them of impending air raids,

now signaled it was time to get off the streets,

at least this time not to escape from bombs.

No matter was too small for the attention

of the occupying power.

There was, for instance, the subject

of renaming some city streets.

Such former names as Adolf-Hitler-Platz,

Horst-Wessel-Allee, were now clearly out of the question.

It was time, too, to start handing back

some matters of law and order to the people,

with non-military public courts,

and a new German police force

whose powers were regulated according to common law,

respecting the rights of every citizen

and understanding that they were the protectors of a public,

not their master.

Then there was the matter of public health.

The people were getting 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day

according to the type of work, about half of normal rations.

But there was a survey team in the fields

staffed by the Red Cross, checking the effects

of those rations on the population.

The tests were performed regularly

and reports sent to the control commission

for them to judge whether the food was sufficient

to allow the people to keep at work.

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] For a long time,

there was a real shortage of food.

Even bread was scarce, in the towns anyway.

There was a basic ration, but it wasn't enough,

and a black market soon started up.

Anything people still had left, personal possessions,

they sold them on the black market to get food, cigarettes.

Getting food was all we ever seemed to think about.

And of course, there were the children.

A large proportion of the citizens of Hamburg

were children of school age.

For the younger ones who came through unscarred,

the ruins in the city were a giant adventure playground.

But for the city administrators and the parents,

education was the main problem.

There was a severe shortage of teachers and classrooms.

In midsummer of 1945, all schools

were temporarily closed by order

so that a proper program of education could be set up

as well as the reconstruction and provision

of adequate new classrooms.

Finally on a welcome day in early August,

the schools of Hamburg were reopened,

at a time of year when most children elsewhere in the world

were breaking up for the summer holidays.

But that didn't bother the children or parents,

for since the end of the war,

life had been one long holiday from the classroom.

But perhaps the biggest problem for Hamburg

and other German cities was the destruction

of their industrial capacity.

Their factories had been left

mostly a mass of twisted metal.

How then to restore them to the needs of peacetime

and to those who are to work in them?

(simple solemn music)

Well, one thing there wasn't a shortage of was labor.

The end of the war in Europe brought with it

a great mass of able bodied men with nothing to do,

ex-members of the German armed forces.

But they couldn't all be demobilized at once,

and constitute a new army, an army of the unemployed,

even though a vast amount of reconstruction

would eventually have to be done.

Examined first by a skilled selected German interrogator,

the longest serving men first,

were put through a screening process

filling in their demobilization papers.

Then, past history and character were checked

by German-speaking British intelligence officers.

The majority of men got through this process

and were demobbed.

Finally, there were German judges to be sworn in.

- [Judge] Now gentlemen, you'll raise your right hands

and take the oath with me.

I swear by almighty God,

(group responds in German)

that I will at all times,

(group responds in German)

- (speaks in German)

- [Narrator] Clearing the rubble away

was one of the most remarkable things.

Everyone really set to it with a will.

The main streets were very quickly cleared,

and any undamaged material, any bricks and building stone,

were salvaged and cleaned up to be used again.

The less damaged sites were soon cleared

and buildings started going up again, shops and houses.

The harbor was one of the priorities for reconstruction.

All the damaged ships were very soon removed

and the waterways opened up again.

The river Elbe was quickly cleared of wreckage

and the Alster Lakes were soon clean once more.

One could enjoy going for a walk again in the parks,

ice skating out of doors in winter.

It was a new world out there.

The road to recovery was long and hard,

but the Alster lies at the heart of a vastly recovered home

of almost two million people.

Its symbols were fortunately mostly spared,

Hamburg city hall,

St. Michael's, now visible within a new frame

of the 20th century.

But St. Nicholas in contrast, severely damaged and still

unrepared, once one of Germany's finest Neo-Gothic churches.

And in fact, designed by a British architect,

Sir George Gilbert Scott, 100 years ago,

and now a war memorial.

(peaceful minimalistic music)

And there are the bright newcomers to the scene,

such as the over 800 foot high television tower,

probably a new symbol-to-be for the Hamburg of the future.

And of course, the port,

at the foot of Hamburg's hill above the Elbe.

In spite of its total wartime destruction,

the port today is still one of continental Europe's busiest.

Some 15,000 ships each year

carrying over 50 million tons of cargo of all kinds,

from over 100 countries across the world,

sailing in to unload at one of its 40 miles of quays.

The port, which helped above all else

to make the free and Hanseatic city-state of Hamburg.

(triumphant horn music)

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