World War II Aftermath in Germany: Destruction of Industrial Infrastructure (1944-46)

destruction of German industry
Figure 1.--Here Berlin school children are enjoying themselves on the way to school during 1946, apparently playing 'follow the leader'. That may be their school in the background. Notice the temporary rails on which they are balancing and the rail car behind them. This was called a Trümmerbahn--a rubble course or way. This was a method of moving the huge mounds of rubble out of central Berlin. Both trucks and gasoline would have been in short supply. Some of the rubble was used to build artificial hills around the huge flak towers that proved impervious to demolition. (These are now park green areas.) This photograph was probably taken in a Berlin suburb as the building in the background looks largely undamaged. A German reader tells us, 'the Trümmerbahn was used in many destroyed cities. I know it from Stuttgart where I lived after the War. For us children it was a nice attraction when the train was approaching.'

Germany began World War II as the most heavily industrialized country in Europe. The British to be joinedc by the Americans set out to use air power to destroy the German industrial economy which supported the war effort. Germany's industrial infrastructure was not just severely damaged by the Allied strategic bombing campaign, it was virtually obliterated. The damage in the cities, especially the centers of the major cities where Germany heavy industry was located, was devestating. During the battle of Britain, a German raid of 200 medium bombers was notable (1940-41). For the Allies by 1944, raids with 1,000 heavy bombers was not unusual. And they came again and afain. The centers of most German cities were left vast mounds of rubble. Germany's industry at the time was located in the cities, in part because the workers had to live near the factories. Cars in Germany, and the rest of Europe, were beyond worker's incomes. The bombers primarily targeted industry and specialized targets like the synthetic fuel plants which were not located in the cities. World War II began at a time that that air force commanders had still not worked out how best to employ their assetts. The Germans worked out effective tactical methods--Blitzkrieg. It took longer for bomber commanders to work out the best use of their assetts. And here Germany did not have the industrial capacity to build a substantial strategic bombing force. The British began by attacking German cities--area bombing. This was primarily because that was all they could target at night and because of the Blitz there was not much coincern about German civulkian casualties. The Americans bombing during thecday did try to hit vdpecific targets, but they were usually in the central city and the inaccuracy of World war II bombing meant that in practice therec was not a great deal of difference between British and American bombing. And both Britain and America built a huge bomber force which gave them the capability of hitting virtuslly any target in the Reich with massive raids. Allied commanders eventually grasped the Germam Achieles heel--petroleum, Thus the synthetic plants along with the transportation netweork became priority targets. The introduction of the long-range P-51 escorts not only allowed the Allies to destroy theLuftwaffe, but to escalate the bombing. The fighters on the way home went down to the ground and began hitting smaller targets, especially the transportation network outside the cities. Much of the destruction took place fairly late in the war, after the Luftwaffe was destroyed giving the Allied bombers free range over the Reich. And after the D-Day breakout, General Eisenhower relinquished control of the American and British bomber forces (September 1944). The German war economy proved resiliant throughout most of the war, but finally began to collapse under the weight of the bombing and loss of occupied countries to plunder (November 1944). Escort fighters after sheparding the bombers to their targets would then come down to the ground on the way home and hit a range of targets like air fields or military convoys as well as civilian targets like trains, barges, trucks--virtually anything that moved. Along with the industry, Germany's transportation system was wrecked. Some damage was caused by the fighting as Allied ground forces closed in on the Reich. Except for Berlin, however, this was limited compared to the descrution resulting from the strategic bombing campign. Hitler at the end of the War ordered that the country's infrastructure that survived the bombing was to be destroyed as the Allied forces approached, the same burnt earth strategy persued by the Soviets. Speer and some other NAZI officials tried to prevent the implementation of this order or ignored orders from Berlin. After the NAZI surrender, some NAZI diehards planned a campaign of sabatoge. This did not occur, but in fact there was not a lot left to sabotge. And in the Soviet occupation zone, much of what survived the bombing, was loaded on rail cars and shipped east as war reparations. The Soviet zone was the least industrialized area of Germany and the reparations would contribute to East Germany's inability to compete with West Germany. The Western Allies decided against reparations, although France needed some persuading on this issue. They did not, however, make any major effort toward rebuilding Germany's industrial infrastructure. The Western Allies were not at all sure about Germany's future. Soviet policy helped to decide the question. The United states finally set about the rebuilding of industril Germany as part of the Marshall Plan (1948). Germany's industrial infrastructure would have to be essentially rebuilt from scratch. Most observers looking at the mounds of rubble at the time thought that it would take more than a generation to achieve. The Trummerfrauen were put to work on the problem after the War. They were organized by occupation authorities who required women between the ages of 15 and 50 to report for clean up duty. A law passed by the military government allowed local authorities to employ women in clearing rubble.

Pre-War Germany

Germany began World War II as the most heavily industrialized country in Europe with the largest industrial output. There was also a potent scientific establishment to support German industry. A list of Nobel Prize awards shows just what aowerhouse pre-War Germany was. The industrial capacity was not as great as America, but Germany was a much smaller country. German industry was concentrated in a limited number of cities. The most important industrial area was the Ruhr in the west. The concentration was in part because of the coal fields in the Ruhr. German industry was located in or near cities. As German workers could not afford cars, the industrial plnts had to be located near where the workers lived. And German workers tend to live in apartments as opposed to extensive hiusing estates which was more common in Britain. All of this tended to make Germany vulnerable to a strategic bombing campign.

The Luftwaffe

Germany at the onset of the War, however, had tge world's most modern and powerful airforce. Abd Marshall Göring assured the Germans that Allied bombers would never penetrate thec Reich's air defenses. As a result, the Luftwaffe began the War by pounding Warsaw and other Polish cities to rubble and wre soon hard at work on London. The idea that German cities would be attacked seemned remote. German victories in the West meant that British bombers had to travel long distances to reach the Reich. And the aircraft that RAF Bomber Command possessed were not a serious threat to Germany. It was not until the Acro Lancaster begn reaching the Reich that serious raifs could begin into Germany (1942), but even then the strength of the Luftwaffe meant tht thry could only raid at night anf the air crews wiould pay a high price.

Civil Defense

After World War I, it was widely assumed that the next war if it ever came would include a strategic bombing campaign. Such a campaign was being planned in World War I, but the War ended before it could be launched. It was also widely believed that such a campaign would include the use of poison gas. It was not wideky understood at the time that incediaries were the most devestating munitions. Thus far more consideration was given to poison gas than fire. Because of the fear, the major European powers engaged in a range of civil defence programs. The most intensive steps were taken in Britain, probably because of the German bombing raids during World war I. The British gave more attention to poson gas and evacuation than bomb shelters before the War. They also built the Chain Home radar network that played such an important role in the Battle of Britain. The Germans also engaged in civil defense planning. This began before the NAZIs seized power, but was instensified as the the War approached. The NAZIS, however, did not fully appreciate the value of radar at the beginning of the War, apparently thinking that the strength of the Luftwaffe would protect German cities. Göring personally assured the German public than the Reich's cities could not be bombed. From the NAZI point of view this was to be the fate of other peoples. NAZI newsreels showed the German people what the Luftwaffe was doing. The most effective way of protecting German cities was to defeat of Britain and France. The Soviets did not have a strategic bomber force and the Atlantic Ocean put the Americans and their B-17 Flying Fortresses out of rnge. The fall of France effectively delayed attacks on German cities. The failure to defeat Britain, however. meant that the attacks were delayed not prevented. The British set about developing a large long-range bomber force. Britain also provided bases for the American 8th Air Force. The delay gave the Germans the time to build not only a formidable air defence lin, but also a first-class Civil Defense system. The Germans also evacuated the children from the cities. About 0.3 million German civilans were killed in the strategic bombing campaign, some estimates are as high as 0.5 million. While apauling in human terms, these losses given the intensity of the Allied bombing campaign are a testimony to the success of the German civil defense effort.

Strategic Bombing Campaign (1940-45)

The British to be joined by the Americans set out to use air power to destroy the German industrial economy which supported the war effort. Germany's industrial infrastructure was not just severely damaged by the Allied strategic bombing campaign, it was virtually obliterated. The damage in the cities, especially the centers of the major cities where Germany heavy industry was located, was devestating. During the battle of Britain, a German raid of 200 medium bombers was notable (1940-41). For the Allies by 1944, raids with 1,000 heavy bombers was not unusual. And they came again and afain. The centers of most German cities were left vast mounds of rubble. Germany's industry at the time was located in the cities, in part because the workers had to live near the factories. Cars in Germany, and the rest of Europe, were beyond worker's incomes. The bombers primarily targeted industry and specialized targets like the synthetic fuel plants which were not located in the cities. World War II began at a time that that air force commanders had still not worked out how best to employ their assetts. The Germans worked out effective tactical methods--Blitzkrieg. It took longer for bomber commanders to work out the best use of their assetts. And here Germany did not have the industrial capacity to build a substantial strategic bombing force. The British began by attacking German cities--area bombing. This was primarily because that was all they could target at night and because of the Blitz there was not much coincern about German civulkian casualties. The Americans bombing during thecday did try to hit vdpecific targets, but they were usually in the central city and the inaccuracy of World war II bombing meant that in practice therec was not a great deal of difference between British and American bombing. And both Britain and America built a huge bomber force which gave them the capability of hitting virtuslly any target in the Reich with massive raids. Allied commanders eventually grasped the Germam Achieles heel--petroleum, Thus the synthetic plants along with the transportation netweork became priority targets. The introduction of the long-range P-51 escorts not only allowed the Allies to destroy theLuftwaffe, but to escalate the bombing. The fighters on the way home went down to the ground and began hitting smaller targets, especially the transportation network outside the cities. Much of the destruction took place fairly late in the war, after the Luftwaffe was destroyed giving the Allied bombers free range over the Reich. And after the D-Day breakout, General Eisenhower relinquished control of the American and British bomber forces (September 1944). The German war economy proved resiliant throughout most of the war, but finally began to collapse under the weight of the bombing and loss of occupied countries to plunder (November 1944). Escort fighters after sheparding the bombers to their targets would then come down to the ground on the way home and hit a range of targets like air fields or military convoys as well as civilian targets like trains, barges, trucks--virtually anything that moved. Along with the industry, Germany's transportation system was wrecked. Some damage was caused by the fighting as Allied ground forces closed in on the Reich. Except for Berlin, however, this was limited compared to the descrution resulting from the strategic bombing campign.

Hitler's Nero Order/Nerobefehl (March 19, 1945)

Hitler at the end of the War with the Wetern Allies preparing to cross the Rhine and the Red Army nearing Berlin retreated to the suyrealistic world of the Füuhrerbunker in Berlin which had been designed by Speer. is advisers tried to convince himto break out to the south, but he decided to end the War in Berlin. Here he was joined by his mistress Eva Braun and Propaganbda Minister Goebels along with hus family. Here they clutched at fading dreams that the secret weapons like jet aircraft and V-2 balistic misdoles would reverse the tide of the war and mass killing thst he had set in motion. He gestured wildly over maps and cursed his generals incoherently, ordering non-existent armies to conter attack the Allies and Soviets. The German armies that did exist were largely inmobilized and attempting to surrender to the Western llies to avoid Soviet prison camps. In this atmospher and with the end nearing, Hitler ordered that the country's industrial and municipal infrastructure that had survived the Allied bombing be destroyed. The Nero Order/Nerobefehl was issued from the Berlin Führer Bunker (March 19, 1945). This was the same burnt earth strategy persued by the Soviets, although the German version seems almost entirely an urban effort. Hitler's dispariaged the 'cowardly failure' of the German people who had proved too weak gor his great ebnterprise. They thus did not deserve to survive the War. The Nero Orders were pointless, the War was lost. If carried out they would have only brought death and more suffering to the German civilian populstion. Everything was to be sestroyed: bridges, coal mines, crops, livestock, power plants, water plants. He told his remaining henchmen, "We can no longer concern ourselves with the population." [Taylor, p. 219.] Speer later reported thst no one objected. Speer and some other NAZI officials tried to prevent the implementation of this order or ignored orders from Berlin. After the NAZI surrender, some NAZI diehards planned a campaign of sabatoge. This did not occur, but in fact there was not a lot left to sabotge.

Soviet Reparations

In the Soviet occupation zone, much of what survived the bombing, was loaded on rail cars and shipped east as war reparations. The Soviet zone was the least industrialized area of Germany and the reparations would contribute to East Germany's inability to compete with West Germany. The Western Allies decided against reparations, although France needed some persuading on this issue.

Western Policy

Allied policy toward Germany was by no means settled at the time tge NAZIs surrendered (May 7, 1945). There id no evidence that President Roosevelt had made up his mind on the issue. And he was by the time of his death aan od diminished capabilities. Vice-President Truman had until the Presidenbt's death not been an importabt part of the adminidtration, rarely meeting with the President. He also had not formulasted a plan for Germany's future. The Allies did not make any major effort toward rebuilding Germany's industrial infrastructure. Denazification was given much more priority. The Western Allies were not at all sure about Germany's futureeven afyter 2 years of occupatiuon. Soviet policy would in the end helped to decide the question. Soviet aggressive post-War policies convinced the Allies that they needed the Germans in the looming Cold War competition. The United states finally set about the rebuilding of industrial Germany as part of the Marshall Plan (1948). Germany's industrial infrastructure would have to be essentially rebuilt from scratch.

Trümmerfrauen

Most observers looking at the mounds of rubble at the time thought that it would take more than a generation to achieve. The Trummerfrauen were put to work on the problem after the War. They were organized by occupation authorities who required women between the ages of 15 and 50 to report for clean up duty. A law passed by the military government allowed local authorities to employ women in clearing rubble.

Rapid Revoery

When recovery came it came with apeed that startelked the world, espcially the Soviets and East Germans who assumed that the marvels of Socialism and central plsnning would make East German a showcase of the superority of Communism. The recovery of West Germany can be attributed to two major forces. First was the phenomenal strength of the German people. Too often industrialization is viewed in terms of the physical plant. The rapid rebirth of industrial German show that fundamentally industry is basec onm the educatioin and drive of the people concerned. Second was the decesion of German officials like Ludwig Erhard and American occupation authorities to harness the incredible strength of free market socialism (1948). This began with the West German currency reform. And the enterprise was supported by the United States through the Marshall Plan. Part of the Marshall Plan vision was Ruropean unification. The result was the German Economic Miracle.

Sources

Taylor, Blaine. Hitler's Engineers: Fritz Todt and Albert Speer - Master Builders of the Third Reich. By






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Created: 5:28 AM 8/31/2011
Last updated: 1:34 AM 11/10/2011