Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Effects of War on a City

One of the things that you tend to notice after a trip to Kassel....is that it's a fairly well laid-out city....mostly with buildings built since 1945.

A curious guy would ask questions.

So, there is a story here.

By 1939, Kassel had roughly 240,000 people in the city or urban area.....which made it a fairly significant city and industrial area.

Their chief market?  It's a curious deal.  They had Fieseler, which produced various fighter-bombers, and by 1941....were even producing the V-1 unmanned 'rockets'.  They also had Henschel and Sons, which were the dominate railway engineer producer of Germany, and by 1942....were producing the Tiger tank (the primary tank for the German Army).

On top of these huge industrial sites....they also had a major railway depot, and had a major military headquarters for the region.

All of this led to the Allies to evaluate the industrial capability, the railways, the military capability, and the manpower who built the tanks and aircraft.

On 22-23 October of 1943.....bombing commenced.  Fires raged on for several days after the bombing....mostly because of the extent and inability of the city to react to everything.  Ten thousand residents were killed, and roughly two-thirds of the town's residents were bombed out or burned out of their homes.  There was just not that much left of the city after this episode.

Over five-hundred bombers from the UK were part of this bombing run, and over 1,800 tons of bombs dropped.

What you can generally say is that the capability of Fieseler to continue making fighter-bombers at the pace they had been at....ended.  No one cites numbers, but you can look at images of the city and realize that trying to put together repairs and put the factory back to 100-percent just wasn't going to happen.

Added to this destruction?  Tiger tanks just weren't produced at the same level as they had prior to October of 1943.  So when the Allies came to the Normandy invasion in June of 1944....eight months later....the level of tanks that Germany should have had.....weren't existing.  They were in lesser numbers and you had to be strategic in the placement and use of the remaining tanks.

When the Americans rolled into Kassel in April of 1945.....it was to conduct one of the last battles in Germany.  For roughly four days....the remains of the German Army put up a fight.  By 2 April, the battle had turned into a house by house effort, and caused more destruction on top of what the bombing had done twenty months prior.  The battle would end on 4 April with the Germans agreeing that there just wasn't any real capability left that they could throw into the fight.

If you were standing there on 5 April....looking over the city, it was a mess.  Block after block, total destruction.

So, in the early 1950s.....it was decided that the German government would sponsor a garden show in Kassel.  To make this work and really put enthusiasm into this effort.....tons of state capital was poured into fixing up the city, on top of the efforts of the past decade.

Somewhere in my walk-around from this past weekend, they had various pictures.....1945 pictures versus 1955 pictures.  Night, and day.....total opposites.

In some ways, it should a vast amount of determination of those who stayed in Kassel and helped to rebuild the city.  The garden show and the state capital pumped in for the episode.....helped to speed up recovery.

Today, I'd say that the city is one of the more interesting medium sized cities of Germany, and the city park system is a five-star operation.

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