Memorial plaque for the 'Hamburg Firestorm’
Hamburg was one of the heaviest damaged by bombs city in World War II. The Allied bombing raids carried out between 25 July and 3 August 1943 had the most devastating consequences. For several nights in a row, the British Royal Air Force bombed Hamburg’s densely populated inner-city districts with the aim of generally demoralising the German population. During the day, the US Air Force attacked submarine yards and armaments factories.
The Allied raids known as ‘Operation Gomorrah’ reduced much of the city to rubble and ash. More than 35,000 people died in the fires, including thousands of foreign forced labourers and more than 5,000 children. One million people fled the city, and more than 120,000 were wounded, many of them severely. The eastern part of Hamburg was particularly hard hit. The neighbourhoods of Hammerbrook, Rothenburgsort, Horn and Hamm were completely destroyed in the ‘firestorm’, and these city quarters were declared a restricted zone.
Prisoners from the Neuengamme concentration camp were forced to recover bodies, clear rubble and defuse unexploded bombs. From early August 1943 these prisoners were housed first on Brackdamm (2. SS Construction Brigade, with 900 prisoners), and later in the satellite camps on Spaldingstrasse (2,000 prisoners) and Bullenhuser Damm (up to 1,000 prisoners).