Saturday, November 30, 2013

Moral Bombing

On November 27, 69 years ago, Freiburg was bombed. The air raid lasted from 7:58 to 8:18 p.m. Within twenty minutes 14,525 bombs were dropped, 2800 citizens were killed, and nearly 90% of all buildings in Freiburg were destroyed or damaged. Air Vice-Marshall Robert Saundby named the air raid on Freiburg Operation Tigerfish.

Last Wednesday, the day of the remembrance, the Badische Zeitung devoted one page to the cataclysm that nearly annihilated Freiburg. The most famous aerial photo taken in early spring of 1945 is the one below showing the "intact" looking Münster church in the midst of the expanse of ruins of the surrounding houses.

©Stadtarchiv Freiburg
As early as 1942 the poet Reinhold Schneider had written a sonnet: Du wirst nicht fallen, mein geliebter Turm ... (You will not fall my beloved steeple ...) and indeed those Freiburgers who had survived the November 1944 air raid considered their Münster standing up among the ruins as a miracle. The fact is that the Münster was not directly hit. The blasts of the bombs detonating around untiled the roof but were not strong enough to topple the building. The reason is that in the Middle Ages all cathedrals were constructed based on previous experience. No calculation determined the necessary support for arches and roofs. Modern Computer Aided Design (CAD) techniques have revealed that medieval church constructions were usually built with safety margins of more than seven so that these buildings are extremely stable.

In the BZ article I read for the first time the English term: moral bombing. Up to now I knew about strategic, carpet, area bombings, and had even heard the phrase: We should bomb them back to the Stone Age but I never had come across the cynical combination of moral and bombing.

... pourvu que ça fasse des victimes boches
During the First World War the press wrote about anonymous killing in referring to the imprecise bombing of cities like Freiburg. A captured French pilot said that he had no precise target pourvu que ça fasse des victimes boches (except that there were German victims). In the Second World War in addition to bombing military and industrial installations also residential areas were targets to undermine the morale of the German populace through bombing German cities and their civilian inhabitants. Nowadays military people boast about their surgical strikes by simply sweeping aside the death of innocent people who happen to be there at the wrong time as collateral damage. A new form of moral bombing?

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