The night before Palm Sunday, 1942, war finally caught up with Lübeck as the Allies unleashed the first major bombing campaign on a German town. A U-boat training school and docks for Swedish iron ore provided a fig leaf of legitimacy, but in reality the raid was in retaliation for the Luftwaffe Blitz on British urban centres. The target was the Altstadt itself, its timbered buildings a trial run for a newly developed incendiary bomb. Nearly a fifth of the town, including showpieces like the Marienkirche, was destroyed in two days of raids, and Lübeck might have gone the way of Dresden had a German Jewish exile working as a liaison officer not tipped off his Swiss cousin about plans to raze the Altstadt entirely to sap public morale in 1944. That cousin was Carl-Jacob Burkhart, president of the Red Cross. Thanks to his efforts Lübeck was nominated as an official entry harbour for gifts to Allied POWs, and Bomber Command looked elsewhere for targets. Burkhart was later made an honorary citizen of Lübeck.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Germany features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

A beginner's guide to the best German beers

A beginner's guide to the best German beers

Think Germany and you think beer. It’s a country whose beer culture is so ingrained and recognised that Oktoberfest (16 September–3 October 2017) is celeb…

14 Sep 2017 • Daniel Neilson insert_drive_file Article
How Syrians are keeping their culture alive in Berlin

How Syrians are keeping their culture alive in Berlin

Syria has been shattered by conflict since March 2011; more than 5 million people have been forced to flee the country and rebuild their lives elsewhere. Jessi…

05 Sep 2017 • Jessica Bateman local_activity Special feature
Going underground in Hamburg: 6 ways to see the city's alternative side

Going underground in Hamburg: 6 ways to see the city's alternative side

Hamburg is perpetually on the brink of falling out with itself. On the one hand, it’s a city of convention and millionaires – Hamburg has the highest concen…

18 Jul 2017 • Neil McQuillian insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook