The port that nourished Hamburg also made it a prime target for the Allies. In retaliation for earlier Luftwaffe raids, British and US raids wiped ten square kilometres of Hamburg off the map and obliterated eighty percent of the harbour during a week of relentless sorties at the end of July 1943. Over seven thousand tonnes of high explosives and incendiaries rained onto the city, killing nearly 40,000 people; by way of comparison, the famous Luftwaffe raid on Coventry killed 538.

As the flames sucked in oxygen, typhoon winds blasted western residential districts and the Germans had to create a new word to describe the apocalypse – “Feuersturm” (firestorm). Winds of nearly 1000°C set asphalt streets ablaze, trees were uprooted, cars flung into superheated air. “Every human resistance was quite useless,” Hamburg’s police chief reported later. “People jumped into the canals and waterways and remained swimming or standing up to their necks for hours … Children were torn away from their parents’ hands by the force of the hurricane and whirled into the fire.” Third Reich architect Albert Speer later revealed that Hitler and Hermann Göring had been shocked at the devastation. Even Air Chief Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris conceded that the attacks on the Reich’s second city were “incomparably more terrible” than anything previously launched at Germany. Operation Gomorrah was well named.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Germany features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The best places to go in spring

The best places to go in spring

Springtime is beautiful, with its big blue skies and flowers in bloom, so there may be no better time to travel. If you're thinking about getting away, here are…

14 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
Get on board: the 5 best European river cruises

Get on board: the 5 best European river cruises

Among a certain segment of travellers, cruising is sometimes maligned: the dismal buffet and watered-down cocktails. Those kitschy lounge acts. The contrived sh…

29 Mar 2016 • AnneLise Sorensen insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month