Darmstadt’s Night of Fire

Darmstadt had its Nine-Eleven, so to speak, on 11 September 1944, when 234 British bombers dropped over 280,000 fire bombs in less than half an hour, killing well over ten thousand people and making seventy thousand homeless.

Much of the city was destroyed, including the central area and the Old Town.

In 2004, on the sixtieth anniversary of the bombing, the city council set up posters with photos of the burning city. In a speech on that occasion, the Mayor Peter Benz spoke about cause and effect in German history, saying said that the horror of the fire night of September 1944 had its origin on January 30, 1933, when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany. The mayor said that Darmstadt had “paid a high price for the crimes and the war of aggression” of the Nazis.

Rebuilding the ruined city after the war was a huge and lengthy task. By an unfortunate quirk of history, the post-war reconstruction period coincided with an unprecedented phase of rabid motorization, so city-planning in those decades meant planning for cars, not people. (This is true of most German cities, not only Darmstadt.)

To this day, Darmstadt is disfigured by an overblown street system that generates unnecessary motor traffic and encourages speeding. Fortunately the city has also managed to establish a functioning tram and bus system, and there is even a serviceable network of local and regional bicycle lanes.

My photos in this post are from 2005. I revised the text in 2024.

See more posts on Darmstadt, Germany.
See also: Destruction of Pforzheim, Germany.

4 thoughts on “Darmstadt’s Night of Fire”

  1. I wonder if on July 4, 2026, they will look back and come to the same conclusions about 2024. I may have briefly visited Darmstadt in 1997.

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