Bombing of Kassel in World War II

Bombing of Kassel in World War II

The city of Kassel in Germany was severely bombed during World War II and more than 10,000 civilians died during these raids. Kassel is in the northern part of the federal state of Hessen, between Frankfurt (190 km south), and Hannover (160 km north).

In the early 1940s it was the capital of the Prussian Province of Kurhessen, seat of a Regional Supreme Court (Oberlandesgericht), and headquarters of the authorities responsible for highway and railway construction for Central Germany.


Kassel was home to the Henschel locomotive, engine and vehicle plants, the Fieseler aircraft plant, and several other important industries. The Henschel railway works were considered the biggest in continental Europe. The city was the important transportation and communications centre for Central Germany, with north/south traffic (Hanover-Frankfurt), and east/west traffic, (Ruhr-Thuringia, Saxony), intersecting there.

Kassel was considered a strategic target for Arthur Harris´ RAF Bomber Command. Both the RAF and the USAAF flew several light raids on the city's industrial areas during 1942 and early 1943.

First raid

The first heavy raid was on the night of 27/28 August 1942 by 306 aircraft of RAF Bomber Command. There was widespread damage, particularly in the south-western parts of the city. 144 buildings were destroyed and 317 seriously damaged including three of the factories of the Henschel aircraft company. 28 soldiers were killed and 64 injured. 15 civilians were killed and 187 injured. 10.1% of the RAF aircraft were lost mainly to German night fighters. [ [ RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary August 1942] ]

econd raid

Kassel became the target for another major air raid on the night of 2/3 October 1943. Fortunately for the city the pathfinders responsible for marking the target were not able to find the center of the city, so most of the bombing fell into the eastern suburbs of Ihringshausen and Bettenhausen, causing considerable damage. An ammunition store was also hit but, in general, the attack by the 547 bomber force was a failure. [ RAF RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary October 1943] ]

Third raid

Bomber Command returned on the night of 22/23 October 1943 with a force of 569 bombers, with zero hour being set at 8:45 pm. The main-force attack was covered by a feint attack by 36 aircraft on Frankfurt which began five minutes before the main raid. German air defence were not fooled and the RAF lost 43 aircraft, 7.6 per cent of the force.

The pathfinders clearly marked the target area (Martinsplatz in central Kassel) so well that within five minutes the whole ancient town was illuminated. Within the next 80 minutes the waves of bombers dropped at least 1,800 tons of high explosives and incendiaries.Fact|date=February 2007 The high explosive bombs demolished or extensively damaged buildings, but the incendiaries did the worst damage. Ton for ton, they had been found to be four to five times as destructive as high explosive [ [ The United States strategic bombing survey: The Civilians] ] .

The medieval heart of Kassel consisted almost completely of wooden houses. The bombing was so intense that incendiary bombs fell with a density of up to two per square meter. Each building in the city center was hit by at least two liquid white phosphorus incendiary bombs [] and several of the 460,000 magnesium fire-sticks rained on the city.

After 15 minutes of attack the whole inner city was ablaze in a firestorm like the one at Hamburg, creating temperatures of 1500°C and above. It was consuming nearly all oxygen and sucking fresh air into the fire. People desperately trying to escape the fire zone were caught by the 100 mph wind, stripped of their clothes, and sucked back into the fire. Most residents who fled into the cellars died from asphyxiation.

Only a few minutes after the attack began, the main telephone exchange was hit and disabled, so fire brigades could not be directed to the places where they were needed. The firestorm was well underway before police could provide communications for the fire brigades, but even then destruction of the city's water pipes made it impossible to extinguish the inferno.

Kassel, which had a pre-raid population of 236,000 (1939), burned for seven days. It is believed that at least 10,000 people died and 150,000 inhabitants were bombed-out that night, and the city center was 95% destroyed. It took weeks to collect all the corpses from the streets and out of the ruined cellars.

Many more raids were flown on Kassel before the end of the war, but no one was anywhere near as devastating as the raid of 22 October 1943. When the Americans captured the city in March 1945, only 50,000 people were still residing there.

After the war

After the War, Kassel was one of the last major cities in West Germany to be rebuilt. It has never regained either its pre-war population or its importance. Due to the inner-German border, which only ran 30 km east of the city, most of its former hinterland then lay behind the Iron Curtain. Many of the city's industries moved away, the former Regional Supreme Court moved to Frankfurt, as did the railway authorities.

To stop the decline, the Federal Government decided in 1955 to make Kassel the seat of two federal courts, the Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht), and the Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht).

After reunification, Kassel became the "boomtown" of central Germany for a few years, with population rising to 207,500. But in recent years Kassel has again fallen back, since the nearby Erfurt in Thuringia is much more attractive to investors.

Time line for the air raids

RAF Bomber Command bombed Kassel on : [ [ RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary] ]
* The night of 17/18 February 1942 10 Wellingtons and 3 Stirlings to Emden, Hamburg, Kassel and Aachen. Dammage not known. No aircraft lost.
* The night of 27/28 August 1942. A heavy raid by 306 aircraft. There was widespread damage, particularly in the south-western parts of the city. 144 buildings were destroyed and 317 seriously damaged. 28 soldiers were killed and 64 injured. 15 civilians were killed and 187 injured. 10.1% of the RAF aircraft were lost mainly to night fighters.
* The night of 3/4 October 1943. A heavy raid by 547 aircraft. Cloud cover meant that H2S radar was used for targeting, the main weight of the attack missed the town centre and fell on the western suburbs and outlying towns and villages. 24 aircraft 4.4% of the force
* The night of 22/23 October 1943. A heavy raid by 569 aircraft. Cloud cover meant that H2S radar was used for targeting. This time it was accurate and the result was the most devastating attack on a German city since the firestorm raid on Hamburg in July and the results at Kassel would not be exceeded again until well into 1944. 18 Lancasters - were lost, 7.6% of the force.
* The night of 18/19 March 1944. A light diversionary raid by 11 Mosquitos
* Night of 30/31 March 1944. Diversionary raids to Aachen, Cologne and Kassel by 34 Mosquitos.
* The night of 27/28 September 1944. A light diversionary raid by 46 Mosquitos.
* The night of 3/4 October 1944. A light raid by 43 Mosquitos.
* The night of 15/16 October 1944. A diversionary raid by 2 Mosquitos.
* The night of 9/10 November 1944. A small raid by 3 Mosquitos.
* The night of 27/28 December 1944. 7 Mosquitos were on Oboe (navigation) trials and some flew over Kassel.
* The night of 6/7 January 1945. A light diversionary raid by 20 Mosquitos.
* The night of 18/19 January 1945. A light raid by 12 Mosquitos.
* The night of 21/22 January 1945. A meduium raid by 76 Mosquitos. One Mosquito lost.
* The night of 2/3 March 1945. A training raid by 67 Mosquitos. No Mosquitos lost.
* The night of 8/9 March 1945. The last heavy raid by the RAF on Kassel. It consisted of 176 aircraft. One aircraft was lost.
* The night of 18/19 March 1945. A light raid by 24 Mosquitos.
* The night of 20/21 March 1945. A light diversionary raid by 16 Mosquitos.


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