German reaction to the bombing of Munich

A view of Munich some time later in the war, the raid of October 1942 was the first of 71 attacks on the city.

Aristocrat and intellectual Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen despised the Nazi regime and despaired for Germany. He witnessed the first bombing of Munich from afar and recorded some of the stories that were circulating immediately afterwards:

30th October 1942

I watched the first bombing of Munich from a hotel room in Alt-Otting, where I have come to examine the material on Tilly located here; a hideous red glare, transforming the autumn night and its full moon.

I heard in the distance the muffled booms, and it was calculated that since the bombs were dropping eighty kilometres away, it had taken three minutes for the sound to carry – three minutes during which the victims at the scene had been gasping and gagging and dying.

Finally, the whole of the sky to the west was a gigantic sheet of fire. In the days that followed, people spoke of fantastic losses, largely due to suffocation. People were still being dug out five days later, wedged in among fallen beams and rubble, where they had been unable to move. And then there were the dead, whose faces still bore the marks of their last agonies.

Since many high-ranking Nazis have private and luxuriously appointed residences in Sollin, which the English evidently know, that unlucky suburb was bombed three times in succession.

Werner Bergengruen, who lives there, lost all his manuscripts, his collections, the whole of his possessions when his house went. He was seen the next day in a state of shock and despair, perched on the pile of ruins that had been his house, offering passers-by the few things that had survived the holocaust: a Latin primer, a small bronze, a couple of Chinese objets d’art.

Alongside was a hand-lettered placard announcing that this was a special sale by a German writer of the remains of his possessions. The police tried to drive him off, but he defended himself so energetically, and crowd standing about was so sympathetic, that the gendarmes had to retreat.

Herr Hitler happened to be in Munich the night of the air-raid, and before the alarm had been sounded for the misera plebs, he was already safely tucked away in a private shelter complete with rugs on the floors, baths and, reportedly, even a movie projection-room.

Thus, while hundreds and hundreds of people buried under rubble struggled horribly to breathe, he might well have been watching a movie ….

Naturally, he announced after it was over that everything would be rebuilt, far better than before.

Presumably, after some young Canadian turns the Frauenkirche into a pile of rubble, he will assign Herr Speer to help us reconcile ourselves to the loss of this and other cathedrals. I would assume that he is secretly delighted over the loss of our Gothic masterpieces, since he has always wanted to become one of the immortals of architecture …

See Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen: Diary of a Man in Despair

Much of this of course was rumour and speculation, but it illustrates an attitude to the Nazi regime that few Germans dared reveal, even in a private diary. Reck-Malleczewen views became too widely known, however, and ultimately proved fatal to him.

The Allies had bombed Munich on the night of 19th/20th October. Far from deliberately targeting suburbs where Nazis might live, the RAF was disappointed that they had not concentrated all the bombs on the centre of Munich. Only about 40% of the bomber force had managed to find the target markers laid in the centre of town by the Pathfinders.

5 thoughts on “German reaction to the bombing of Munich”

  1. H’s promise that …”everything will be rebuilt, far better than before ” sounds similar to political promises heard lately by our modern day demagogue.

  2. This information is incorrect. The first air raid on Munich took place on 19/20 Sept. 1942. Not October. It was a night raid carried out by the RAF and included several of the new 4 engined Lancaster bomber, along with Halifaxes and Wellingtons. It involved various squadrons including my uncles 61 Sq. his plane (as pilot) Lancaster bomber W4166. I have the G raid tracks for that plane and it like the other 75 bombers in the raid stream came on Munich from the south having crossed France via Epernay, then skirted the Swiss border along Lake Constance before turning north. Unfortunately his aircraft received flak damage and crashed into the mountain on the west bank above Cochem killing all 7 of the crew. This is all well documented in the Bomber Command Diaries for Sept. 19/20 1942
    D Owen
    Sydney, Australia

  3. On a tour of Munich’s Nazi past a few years ago, we were shown that in the late 1930s the authorities took great pains to document that city’s architecture and preserve as many plans and blueprints as possible.
    Evidently they knew they’d be starting a war and that Munich, Hitler’s beloved city, would be bombed. They intended to rebuild exactly as it was after their victory.
    And indeed, many buildings were restored based on the documents the Nazis had generated.

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