Bombing of Leipzig in World War II
During World War II, Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

 was repeatedly attacked by British as well as American air raids. The most severe attack was launched by the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 in the early hours of December 4, 1943 and claimed more than 1,800 lives. Large parts of the city center were destroyed, while factories experienced temporary shortfalls in production, had to move production facilities or even were decentralized.

At the outbreak of the war, Leipzig had more than 700,000 inhabitants and was therefore the sixth-largest city of the “Greater German Reich” (including Vienna). Leipzig additionally had significance by hosting the leading trade fair
Leipzig Trade Fair
The Leipzig Trade Fair was a major fair for trade across Central Europe for nearly a millennium. After the Second World War, its location happened to lie within the borders of East Germany, whereupon it became one of the most important trade fairs of Comecon and was traditionally a meeting place...

 of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...


The Erla Flugzeugwerke aircraft factories that produced fighter planes at the three locations of Heiterblick, Abtnaundorf and Mockau were important for warfare.

Additionally, Leipzig was an important railroad intersection in Germany at that time.

First attacks

Prior to 1942, Leipzig had been considered relatively safe from potential aerial assaults because of the long flight route from Britain. But after the attack on Kassel
Bombing of Kassel in World War II
The Kassel World War II bombings were a set of Allied strategic bombing attacks which took place from February 1942 to March 1945. The fire of the most severe air raid burned for seven days, at least 10,000 people died, 150,000 inhabitants were bombed-out, and the vast majority of the city center...

 on 22–23 October 1943, it became clear that British bombers were able to reach central Germany.

On 27 March 1943, bombs were dropped by British aircraft setting Gohlis
Gohlis is an area in the north-west of the city of Leipzig, Germany. Only in 1890 was it absorbed into the city. It is known as the place, where Friedrich Schiller worked on the second act of Don Carlos and wrote his first edition of the famous Ode to Joy....

 on fire. In the night of 31 August to 1 September, the British RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

 carried out a minor attacks on the towns of Eutritzsch and Schönefeld causing four casualties.

4 December 1943

During the night of 2 December 1943, the Royal Air Force once again attacked Berlin. Meanwhile the German night fighter
Night fighter
A night fighter is a fighter aircraft adapted for use at night or in other times of bad visibility...

s had prepared for these attacks and were able to shoot down 40 bombers. The following night, Leipzig was the target of an attack. The air route of this attack had been planned in a way to keep the German Air Defense in the dark about the attack's objective for as long as possible. Because the Germans did not expect an assault at this time, the Royal Air Force launched its attack in the early morning hours.

The route the bomber squadrons were following crossed over the continental coastline at the Zuiderzee, continued eastwards to Northern Germany and Berlin and turned southwards over the area of the city of Brandenburg. Between 3:50 a.m and 4:25 a.m., 442 bombers dropped a total amount of almost 1400 tons of explosives and fire bombs. At 3.39 a.m. the air raid warning had been raised, with the all-clear following at 5:39 a.m.
In the city centre, where the buildings were densely crowded, the air raid caused a firestorm
A firestorm is a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system. It is most commonly a natural phenomenon, created during some of the largest bushfires, forest fires, and wildfires...

. Hans Rumpf, the general inspector of fire fighting, happened to be in Leipzig during the attack. He said the firestorm was even more intense than the one in Hamburg during Operation Gomorrah.

Firefighters had to be called from the hinterland, as the firebrigade of Leipzig had had to send half of their own forces to Berlin. These external forces were often not able to fight the flames, because their hoses did not fit the custom-made connections to the hydrants in Leipzig, which had been standardised only to 30%. Moreover, the water supply broke down quickly.

More than 1800 people were killed in the attack. This is a rather small number for such a heavy attack, because many inhabitants did not follow the instruction to stay in the cellars until the all-clear had been given, but escaped duly or fought the arising flames.

Especially in the city centre many historical buildings fell victim to the attack, namely the Old and the New Theatre, the New Trade Exchange, the nave of St. John's Church (Johanniskirche), the Old Balance (Alte Waage), St. Matthew’s Church (Matthäikirche), the Museum of Fine Art
Museum der bildenden Künste
The Museum der bildenden Künste is a museum in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. On 7,000 square meters of display area, 3,500 paintings, 1,000 sculptures and 60,000 graphical works are shown...

 and the Augusteum
Augusteum (Leipzig)
The Augusteum was a building on the Augustusplatz in Leipzig, to the left of the Paulinerkirche. It was the original site of the University of Leipzig.-History:...

, the main building of the University. The roof truss of the Old Town Hall burned out; a concrete ceiling that had been installed at the beginning of the 20th century during a renovation prevented a burning out of the storeys below. As another consequence of the attack the destruction of 1,067 commercial buildings, 472 factory buildings, 56 schools, 29 fair buildings and 9 churches was recorded. 58 out of 92 departments of the University of Leipzig
University of Leipzig
The University of Leipzig , located in Leipzig in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, is one of the oldest universities in the world and the second-oldest university in Germany...

 were hit and partially destroyed.

20th of February 1944

During the so-called Big Week
Big Week
Between February 20–25, 1944, as part of the European strategic bombing campaign, the United States Strategic Air Forces launched Operation Argument, a series of missions against the Third Reich that became known as Big Week. The planners intended to lure the Luftwaffe into a decisive battle by...

, Leipzig was one of the first targets that were attacked by British and American bombers. On 20 February 1944 between 3.15 am and 4.20 am residential areas in the south (Connewitz) as well as residential and industrial areas in the southwest of Leipzig (Schleußig and Großzschocher) were hit. During this night raid more than 700 bombers, which dropped about 2300 t of bombs, were used. In the afternoon of the same day, more than 200 bombers of the 8th US Air Force attacked industrial facilities in the northeast of the city by using about 700 t of bombs altogether. Amongst others, the (second) Gewandhaus
Gewandhaus is a concert hall in Leipzig, Germany. Today's hall is the third to bear this name; like the second, it is noted for its fine acoustics. The first Gewandhaus was built in 1781 by architect Johann Carl Friedrich Dauthe. The second opened on 11 December 1884, and was destroyed in the...

(concert hall) was almost totally destroyed as a result of the attacks[12].

In total, about 970 people died, most of them during the British night raid. During the following day raid some of the bombed factories were damaged severely, e.g. 65% of the “Erla-Werk” in Heiterblick was destroyed. In May 1944 its production had not entirely recovered yet, while the other bombed factories were working at full capacity again[13].


In May 1944 more than 15,000 buildings were hit. Among them, more than 4,000 were destroyed completely, more than 1,000 heavily and over 10,000 slightly damaged. According to a preliminary official report from 30 December 1943, the regions which were mainly hit were the ring around the inner city, the directly adjacted areas to the west, north and east, as well as all the southern suburbs. The adjactent areas to the north and east were slightly affected, whereas no damage occurred in the outer west, southwest and northwest. About 140,000 people were left homeless.

On February 23, 1945, Leipzig had received two major bombings; one by the British, and another by the Americans.
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