The bombing of Nuremberg was a series of air raid shadow legends carried out by allied forces of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) that caused heavy damage throughout the city from 1942 through 1945.

Image of the destroyed old city; in the background the Lorenzkirche (1945)
Image of the destroyed old city; in the background the Lorenzkirche (1945)
Damages from air raids after 2 January 1945
Damages from air raids after 2 January 1945

Nuremburger was a favored point of attack for allied bombers in World War II even though it was only later included into the radius of action due to its location in the south of Germany. Because Nuremberg was a strong economic and infrastructural hub and had symbolic importance as the "City of the Nuremberg Rally" it was singled out by the Allies as an important target.

The greatest damages occurred from the attack on 2 January 1945 in which 521 British Bombers dropped 69,000 high-explosive bombs and one million incendiary devices on the city.

The population suffered more than 1,800 deaths and 100,000 people lost their homes in this attack. Nuremberg's old town was almost completely destroyed, and the city as a whole was badly damaged. After Würzburg, Nuremberg was one of Bavaria's cities that suffered the most damage in the war, and was also among the most destroyed cities in Germany as a whole.[1] The eastern half of the city (north of the Pegnitz river) was known as the "steppe" after the destruction and during the clearing of the rubble.

The air raids ceased on 11 April 1945. On 20 April, after the Battle of Nuremberg, the city was occupied by units of the 7th US Army.

Nuremberg as a military target

Ruins of Nuremberg, c. 1945
Ruins of Nuremberg, c. 1945

Nuremberg was an important production location for armaments and the densely populated medieval old town was a well-suited destination for the purposes of the British Area bombing directive. Nuremberg, which during National Socialism was officially given the nickname "City of the Nuremberg Rally", was also a target for attacks with a considerable symbolic effect.

In relation to the total building mass, the inner city had a high proportion of half-timbered houses, i.e. buildings with a high proportion of wood that are highly combustible, and was therefore suitable for an effective attack using a combination of explosive and incendiary bombs. The purpose was to ignite a firestorm to increase the effect of the incendiary bombs. Daytime attacks on industrial and infrastructure targets were mostly carried out by the technically better equipped US Army Air Forces as part of the division of labor of the Allied air fleets in order to achieve a high degree of accuracy, which was technologically only possible to a limited extent. Nighttime area bombardments were mostly flown by the British RAF's Pathfinder Force.[2]

In the urban area, but not in the old town, which was most severely affected by the attack of 2 January 1945, there were numerous military targets:[3] The factories of MAN in the south of the city built diesel engines for submarines and relevant components for Panther tanks. Other important companies were Siemens-Schuckert, TEKADE, Nüral (Nürnberger Aluminiumwerke, now Federal-Mogul), and Diehl. In addition the bombers targeted the Nuremberg motorcycle industry (Zündapp/Neumeyer, Hercules, Triumph, Victoria) and 120 other armament and companies that employed forced labor as well as the facilities of the German Reichsbahn: the marshaling yard in the south of the city and the main railway lines running over Nuremberg.[SL 1]

Timeline of the attacks

Until 1942, there were only minor attacks. From 1942 to 1944 there was a fight for air supremacy over Germany which was won by the Allies in large parts. From autumn 1944, airfields of the Allies had moved close enough that it was possible to deploy low-flying aircraft. The following table is based on the information provided by G. W. Schramm.[4]

Date Aircraft Bomb load(t) Description of the air raid Casualties and damages
7 August Bombs on Fürth/Burgfarrnbach
20/21 December Bombs on Nazi party rally grounds
12/13 October 152 RAF bombers, esp. Wellington and Whitley Only 20 high-explosive and 14 incendiary devices hit target; minor damage to Nuremberg but severe damage to Schwabach 9 casualties; 50 destroyed houses in Schwabach
28/29 August RAF bombers South-west of the city park and the southern city, Alte Kongresshalle/Luitpoldhalle in the Luitpoldarena, die Nuremberg castle 136 casualties; 152 destroyed houses, 220 fires
thereafter 4 air raid warnings
25/26 February 337 four-engined RAF bombers Due to low visibility bombs were dropped on the surrounding Knoblauchsland, northern parts of the city, the Dynamit AG plant in Stadeln/Fürth and the fortified church in Kraftshof 27 casualties; 44 large, 8 medium and 10 minor fires
8/9 March

starting 11:00 p.m.

335 four-engined RAF bombers 358 t high-explosive, 412 t incendiary bombs Southern old town: Mauthalle; Nuremberg Castle, Siemens-Trafowerk,

marshaling yard

343 casualties; 171 large, 339 minor and 1746 minor fires; time-bombs
10/11 August

653 four-engined RAF bombersF: Lancaster, Stirling, Halifax 878 t high-explosive, 878 t incendiary bombs North, southern old town, Wöhrd; St. Sebald, St. Lorenz; u. a. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, the last remaining hop hall on the Kornmarkt. Fürth, Fischbach and Feucht 585 casualties; 1732 destroyed, 1156 severely damaged 2386 moderately damaged buildings
27/28 August 674 four-engined RAF bombers Darkness, strong flak and night fighters disturbed the target approach, many bombs fell on southern suburbs. In Nuremberg: Maxfeld, Nordostbahnhof, southern old town, Laufamholz; the companies Neumeyer and MAN 56 casualties; 458 destroyed, 361 moderately damaged buildings and 1704 with minor damages
25 February

12:47 p.m.
172 USAAF Liberator Target was Fürther Flugzeugwerk Bachmann von Blumenthal & Co. 138 casualties, 122 injured
31 March 795 RAF bombers: 572 Lancaster, 214 Halifax, 9 Mosquitos 910 t high-explosive, 1176 t incendiary bombs "The Nuremberg Raid": The attackers suffered heavy losses: 95 bombers were shot down. In Nuremberg the attack was classified as "moderately severe", further damage in the eastern neighboring towns (Röthenbach an der Pegnitz, Behringersdorf, Lauf an der Pegnitz). In Nuremberg: 74 casualties and 122 injured; 130 destroyed, 879 moderately damaged buildings and 2505 with minor damages
10 April

10:48 a.m.
233 B-17G and 241 USAAF escort fighter planes Fürth, Nürnberger armament companies: MAN, TEKADE 82 casualties, 366 injured; 211 destroyed, 214 severely damaged, 1365 moderately damaged buildings and 1800 with minor damages
13 air raid warnings
3 October

11:15 a.m.
454 USAAF B-17 Targeted were the MAN facilities but low visibility due to clouds. Instead hit by the bombs: Weinstadel, Viatishaus, 62 Patrician houses 353 casualties, 1033 injured; 518 destroyed, 738 severely damaged, 1097 moderately damaged buildings and 4109 with minor damages
19/20 October 263 RAF Lancaster and 7 Mosquitos Southern city and old town. Gustav-Adolf church, MAN, Siemens, marshaling yard 237 casualties, 10,383 shelterless
62 air raid warnings
25/26 November RAF Mosquitos Small interference attack, one train and multiple houses hit over 60 casualties
until 24 December RAF Mosquitos Small interference attacks; dubbed "Mosquitos on siren tours" in Britain
2 Januar, evening 514 RAF Lancaster and 7 Mosquitos 1825 t high-explosive, 479 t incendiary bombs Complete destruction of the Nuremberg old town with irrecoverable damage to the historic building structure. Attacks on MAN, TEKADE, Nüral, Nürnberger Schraubenfabrik 1835 casualties,[5] over 3000 injured, 100,000 shelterless; 4553 destroyed, 2047 severely damaged, 2993 moderately damaged buildings and 7000 with minor damages; 1 conflagration and 2 block fire, 1194 major, 851 medium and 1070 small fires
January and February RAF Mosquitos Small interference attacks
20 February

12:30 p.m.
831 USAAF B-17 and 360 B-24 Already on the approach, the B-24 had to turn around because of thunderstorms. Because of cloud cover over the target the bombs were thrown blind and distributed over the whole city; accumulations at railway facilities and in the southern part of town. see below
21 February

10:40 a.m.
1205 USAAF bombers Targeted were the main station and marshaling yards, but Gostenhof and St. Johannis were also hit. 1356 casualties and 70,000 shelterless
February/March 2 interference attacks
16 March

08:53 p.m.
301 RAF Lancaster und 40 Mosquitos Severe damages in the southern part of the city: Steinbühl and Galgenhof, St. Peter, Gostenhof; Muggenhof, Thon, Schnepfenreuth and Poppenreuth 517 casualties
19 March Störangriffe
5 April 254 USAAF B-17 Targeted were the main station and marshaling yards, but mostly hit were southern residential areas see below
5 April 72 USAAF B-17 Fürth and Unterschlauersbach air base 197 casualties
8 April 89 USAAF B-24 Targeted was the Bachmann von Blumenthal & Co. air plane factory in Fürth
5–10 April Low-flying aircraft Rail transports, anti-aircraft positions around Zollhaus, railroad repair plant in Gostenhof
11 April, afternoon 143 RAF bombers Marshaling yards and surrounding residential areas 74 casualties


US B-17 via Nuremberg Feb 1945
US B-17 via Nuremberg Feb 1945

Nuremberg's old town was largely destroyed. The southern parts of the city, St. Johannis and other neighborhoods were also hard hit. After Cologne, Dortmund and Kassel, Nuremberg had the largest amount of rubble per inhabitant among the major German cities.[6] The population of Nuremberg had fallen to 195,000 by the end of the war, half of dwelling had been destroyed, the rest often damaged.


Nuremberg in ruins, summer of 1945
Nuremberg in ruins, summer of 1945

In 1947, ideas for reconstruction were collected in an urban planning competition. The "Kuratorium für den Wiederaufbau Nürnbergs" (Board of Trustees for the Reconstruction of Nuremberg) advised the city administration on questions of reconstruction. A simplified reconstruction was agreed upon.[SL 2]

It was at this time that the organisation 'The Old Town Friends Nuremberg (German: Altstadtfreunde Nürnberg e. V.) was set up to advocate a faithful, accurate reconstruction of the old town. The association supports the preservation and restoration of the existing historical old town houses and other architectural monuments in Nuremberg that are worth preserving.[7]

By 1955 most of the reconstruction work had been completed or at least begun. From 1956 to 1960 the Nuremberg Town Hall (Wolffscher Bau, Rathaussaalbau) was rebuilt. Until 1957 the St. Sebaldus church was repaired. The largest restoration project was the city walls of Nuremberg with its 4 km long double wall and the moat.[8]

The Katharinenkloster Nuremberg, today called Katherinenruine, which was completely destroyed during the air raids in 1945, was not rebuilt but secured as a ruin in 1970/71. Since then it has served as a memorial to the war and as a venue for events.[9]

Bombs found after World War II

Even after the end of the Second World War, unexploded bombs were (and still are) found in Nuremberg. They are often discovered by chance during construction work, and are rarely searched for in a targeted manner. The explosive ordnance clearance service (Kampfmittelräumdienst) is responsible for defusing and securing the aircraft bombs. Large-scale evacuations may be necessary during these operations.

See also


City lexicon

  1. ^ Georg Wolfgang Schramm, Udo Winkel, Rüstungsindustrie (in German), pp. 915
  2. ^ Willy Prölß, Clemens Wachter, Wiederaufbau (in German), pp. 1178f.


  1. ^ Friedrich, Jörg, Titel: Der Brand, 2002, 11. Auflage. Ullstein Verlag, München. pp. 113
  2. ^ Friedrich, Jörg, Titel: Der Brand, 2002, 11. Auflage. Ullstein Verlag, München. pp. 113
  3. ^ Friedrich, Jörg, Titel: Der Brand, 2002, 11. Auflage. Ullstein Verlag, München. pp. 113
  4. ^ G. W. Schramm: Die Zerstörung, in 3 x Nürnberg, Verlag A. Hofmann, Nürnberg 1990, pp. 66.
  5. ^ "Nürnberger erinnert sich an Bombenangriff vom 2. Januar 1945".
  6. ^ G. W. Schramm: Die Zerstörung, in 3 x Nürnberg, Verlag A. Hofmann, Nürnberg 1990, p. 85.
  7. ^ Schweiz, Fränkische (9 December 2010). "Dr. Hellmut Kunstmann. Fränkische Schweiz - Verein e.V". Archived from the original on 30 December 2007.
  8. ^ O. P. Görl: Der Wiederaufbau, in 3 x Nürnberg, Verlag A. Hofmann, Nürnberg 1990, pp. 97.
  9. ^ "Nürnberg: Die Katharinenruine ist die wohl erhabenste und stimmungsvollste Open-Air-Bühne im Herzen der Stadt". (in German). Retrieved 2019-03-27.